In 1978 a 16-year old Bap Kennedy turned up at a Belfast club with a hastily formed punk band called “Sellout” to support local legends “Uncle Waldo” - a rock covers band who could actually play their instruments. Fast forward 30 years and Bap has just put the finishing touches to his 4th solo album ......due for release in 2009. Now back in his native land after a 20 year exile in London and America, the new album is Bap’s first to have been written and recorded in Northern Ireland.
A seasoned music veteran, Bap continues to produce great work. (9 albums including 5 with Energy Orchard, world tours, soundtracks and music production)
Bap’s initial flush of fame began in 1990 with the release of “Energy Orchard” by his group of the same name. Energy Orchard were a legendary live band, all from Belfast and highly regarded on the tough London gig scene. A young Brian Kennedy was the original singer, departing for a solo career before the fledgling band began to perform live. As the reputation of the band - now featuring big brother Bap on lead vocals - gathered momentum, they signed to M.C.A. records - mainly thanks to friend and bad behaviour enthusiast Steve Earle - and began to tour extensively in Europe and America, including support slots with Van Morrison – a major musical influence on Kennedy and the band.
The second album “Stop the Machine” followed in 1992. It was recorded in Los Angeles with legendary producer Glyn Johns (Beatles, Led Zeppelin) By 1993 the band had left M.C.A. and signed to Transatlantic records. Two more albums “Shinola” and “Pain killer” kept the band on the road until 1996, when everyone felt it was time for a change.
“Orchardville” (1996) was a farewell live album from Energy Orchard for the fans, recorded at a raucous St Patricks night gig at the Mean Fiddler, one of London’s best known venues and a favourite of the hard living EO boys.
Energy Orchard had been a wild and crazy ride – a dream come true for the band - but for Bap there were new ideas to explore, and he was determined to make music as long as he could breathe.
Bap had been lead singer and main songwriter in Energy Orchard, and although he spent most of his time in the pub, he mysteriously always seemed to have new songs ready to record. It was in the pub/office that Bap received a long distance phone call from old friend Steve Earle, recently released from prison. He had heard that Bap was now a free agent and a plan to record a country blues album in Nashville was conceived.
And so off to Nashville where Bap’s first solo record - the critically acclaimed "Domestic Blues" – was produced by Steve Earle. With a stellar cast of Nashville musicians on board (Jerry Douglas & Peter Rowan) plus vocal contributions from Nanci Griffiths – the album was a roaring success.
Domestic Blues made number eight on the Billboard Americana chart and Kennedy emerged as a serious contender. Four songs from the record appeared in award winning movies “You Can Count On Me” and “Southie “ - and on American network television soundtracks. More touring of the U.S.A. cemented the acclaim.
Following in the footsteps of Earle, Bap set up his own record label (Lonely Street Discs) in London in 1998, to release "Domestic Blues" and the follow up album "Lonely Street"
"Moonlight Kiss" - one of the stand-out tracks from the Lonely Street album - featured in the John Cusack / Kate Beckinsale Miramax movie “Serendipity” (The bass player on that record was none other than Herbie Flowers - the man responsible for the famous bass line on “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed)
When not touring or recording his own material, Bap was involved in development and production work for other London based record labels. The most notable was The King – a quirky Elvis tribute record conceived and produced by Bap and picked up By E.M.I. The Album (GraveLands!) was a favourite of the late John Peel, and celebrity fans included The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Other productions included up and coming American singer-songwriter Jana Light, whose debut album Bap produced in Nashville. Musicians on that record included Bruce Springsteen’s bass player, Gary Tallent.
Bap’s next album “The Big Picture” (4 out of 5 MOJO ) was recorded with the help of Van Morrison –a long standing friend and mentor. Van also co-wrote one of the songs on the album (Milky Way) with Bap - a very rare thing indeed and a measure of Bap’s standing in the song-writing community. Shane Macgowan appears on another of the songs (On the Mighty Ocean Alcohol) and following the release of The Big Picture, Shane played several secret gigs with Bap and his band at the notorious Boogaloo bar, a celeb hangout in north London. Other musical guests included Pete Doherty and David Soul of Starsky and Hutch fame.
A tour of the US and Europe followed, as special guest of Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) who is now a convert to the Bap back catalogue. The tour included five nights at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
Bap has also been involved in the Belfast / Nashville twin cities song writing festivals and has contributed to song writing workshops over the festival period. In March 2009 he will form part of a Belfast contingent of singer-songwriters who will perform in Nashville and Austin.
Bap is married to Brenda Kennedy, a writer and artist who has recently completed her first CD (Banish the Blue Days) produced of course by Bap.
His music can be heard on the radio in the U.K., Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Italy, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, China, Greece, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Canada, America, Mexico and Ireland.