Joe Kenny is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter hailing from Co. Armagh in Ireland.
A live performer for over 20 years, Joe has played to audiences in venues throughout Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
Armed with a child-like love of music by any name whether it be Folk or chart music, an ear for a lyric that speaks and a scintillating set of songs, Joe wows his audiences with a unique guitar style and an uncompromising delivery that is sure to enthral whilst reintroducing some well-loved songs to your ears whether you like it or not.
“When you sing a song, mean those words or at least, be good at sounding like you do. From a young age, I remember being awe-struck at how an artist or singer could tell a story, create an experience, a moment of magic with sound and words. That fascination has never really left me even if I have grown older and probably far too cynical.”
In the beginning
“I think I always played music in some form or another really. One of my earliest memories is getting in trouble at school because I wouldn’t stop drumming on the desk with my fingers. I remember thinking, sure doesn’t everyone do that? Of course, it didn’t occur to me how unbelievably annoying that can be. Even now I’m still driving my nearest and dearest nuts with that.
When I was about 12 I remember really badly wanted to play the drums and low-and-behold, at Christmas, I became the proud owner of a much loved Premier drum kit. I thought I was the dog’s… then alright. Giving a kid two sticks and five surfaces to beat – well what could be better? You should ask my family and are then neighbours how that went!
At 13 I got hold of my first acoustic guitar. I still have it now I think, the strings sat that far from the fret board that I probably did, indeed, play it till my fingers bled, as Brian Adams suggests.
Of course, I didn’t really understand music theory or anything like that and wasted no time in tuning all the strings to the same note so I could just run my finger up and down the frets and play along to whatever song I was in to at the time.
It was a music teacher, you know who you are, who taught me to tune the guitar and gave me tactile diagrams so I could learn some actual chords. I remember the feeling when I first realised that I could make the same sound as the bands or artist on the radio. That thrill has never really left me, and I still get it now when I come up with a bit of music I like.”
Upside-down and inside out
“I’d been playing guitar for a year or so when someone finally actually said to me, Joe, you do realise that you’re playing the guitar all wrong! You’re meant to put your left hand under the neck, not over it? Well, this was a complete revelation to me. Ya see, I thought everyone played the guitar like me. I’d never seen anyone actually play. I’d just picked it up and started off the way I thought it should be done. I suppose I approached it like you would a piano or keyboard. Well, I thought, it’s too late to change now, so I carried on and still play that over-hand way now over 25 years on. I’ve met plenty of people who have spent time explaining the short comings of this technique and how it will be my undoing but to be honest, I’m too stubborn to change now, I’ve never seen it as an issue.
I’ve always been amazed how different musicians can learn the exact same piece of music or song and yet the sound they make can be totally different and with their own definite style and technique. I believe that a lot of this is born out of, what at first might be “the wrong way of doing things” as well as sheer talent or ability of course.
I’ve spent most of my adult life playing in bars and clubs but I was lucky enough to co-own a recording studio when I lived in Leeds. It was probably the most creative time of my life so far and when I think of the music we played and the crazy sounds, beats and recording techniques we experimented with then, I just want to go back there and lose myself in it all again! I’ve always found writing music came effortlessly but struggled more with lyrics. This is something I still like to work on now. I think it’s important that, as a musician, you always have something more to learn, to reach for. We never know it all but that’s a good thing.
I can’t wait for the next song I write or for the next gig I play. Music has become something of a release to me now. Dramatic or self-indulgent I know. I have to do it and if I couldn’t for whatever reason, I don’t know what else could or would take its place.”
It’s not only about the music
“Over the last few years I’ve started to dip my creative toe in the world of writing and, more specifically, blogging.
I’ve uploaded a few of these to this website. A lot of what I write is opinion pieces on my take on living life as a blind person. Yes, it’s about disability but I hope I bring a bit of colour to what sometimes can be a complete yawn subject for those who don’t have a connection to it. I write with the phrase in mind, I might be blind but that’s not all I am and not being able to see doesn’t define me but rather is a source of motivation to draw on and please, for the love of god don’t call me inspirational for walking past you in the street or working to provide for my family.
At the risk of getting on my soapbox on the wrong part of the website, people who live with a disability face discrimination or inequality everyday in Ireland and the UK. Yes, we have a lot to be thankful for but there’s still work to do and just because some of life is ok or not too bad, doesn’t mean we should put up and shut up. some of it isn’t and most of us walk round not even thinking about it!
Right think that’s far too much for now. Thanks for reading and please have a look around the website, listen to some tunes and, if the feeling takes you, get in touch on email, Facebook or Twitter.”