coley kennedy chats about life, career, and music

His smooth and cool voice is nothing short of euphonic and emotionally evoking. His life is equally entertaining and inspirational.

An interview with Jackson native Coley Kennedy revealed a stunning life story about passion, following dreams, and letting nature take its course. Kennedy grew up in Jackson, graduating from Lumen Christi High School, then lived in each Nashville and Chicago for a while before moving back to Jackson in 2013.

Kennedy is a singer/songwriter and photographer. He has music records with the bands Welcome to Ashley, The Buddies, and Black Vincent (whose name is a nod to the Vincent motorcycle). His signature sound is soulful and smooth, and features raw, meaningful lyrics. As a self-proclaimed “rock-n-roll guy,” Kennedy’s music is primarily dubbed Alternative/Indie.

1950’s Rockabilly played an influential role in Kennedy’s early singer and songerwriter career. The Stones, The Clash, Echo and The Bunnymen, Morrissey, Sinatra, and Psychedelic Furs are just a sampling of the bands that shaped his style today. As a kid, he would listen to his dad’s records and write the lyrics down so he could sing along. He eventually learned to play the mandolin well enough that his friends could then polish up whatever songs he came up with and turn them into recordable songs.

His style is original and unique, embracing grit and emotion that other music tends to downplay. “Today’s music is largely dumbed down and manufactured,” says Kennedy. The authentic sounds he embraces in his music are independent of much of what you will hear on the radio today.

Settled comfortably into his adult life, Kennedy is fully living his dream as he photographs under the moniker Stay Gold Photo. He takes part in photography exhibitions and would eventually like to create a book with his fine art photography.

Kennedy has always loved the art of photography, but never thought of it as a career. Taking pictures and experimenting with black and white film has been a long-time passion. He attended Watkins Art Institute in Nashville in 1992, where he studied photography. He learned about slides, film, and the inner workings of beautiful photography. However, he wasn’t in the mindset to put his dreams into play in reality. “I didn’t have the ego,” he says.

Spring, summer, and fall tends to bring ample senior portrait photography, along with weddings and family sessions. “I’ve learned that through the winter, rather than get down about the fact that I’m not as busy as other times of the year, it’s a good time for me to relax and do things that motivate me artistically.”

His current muse is horses – Mustang horses. “It’s really neat. There’s just something about shooting in the snow, especially these horses,” he says. If he gathers enough photos that he especially likes, he is hoping to exhibit them as an equine photography series in the spring.

But his music career is far from a thing of the past. The Buddies, which Kennedy is a part of along with a group of friends from Nashville, recorded a couple songs last year – one a Halloween tune, the other a Christmas theme. Despite the distance between him and his group, The Buddies collaborated using the microphones on their cell phones and a program called Garage Band. Listening to the songs, most people would probably never know the group wasn’t together in a studio recording the songs as normal.

These fun songs lit a fire under Kennedy again, inspiring him and the rest of The Buddies gang to record in person again. The group plans to get together in February, in Nashville, to record at least five new tracks for an EP. “One of the great things about recording with them is that something just happens when we get together in the studio, we can get a lot done quickly,” he says.

Kennedy resides in Jackson County with his wife Jenn, daughter Hattie, and son Jude. The creative bug is evident in his kids as well, as “music, art, and riding things are popular activities” in the Kennedy’s world. Hattie loves art, dance, and horses; Jude is into rock n’ roll and motorcycles. Both kids have recently taken up playing guitar. “Jude is obsessed with The Strokes. I gave him a pair of headphones so he can watch videos of his favorites – The Killers, The Strokes, The Clash. He sings along with them,” says Kennedy.

From left to right – Hattie, Jude, Coley, and Jenn Kennedy. Photo taken by Coley as a “self-porchtrait” during quarantine.

The pandemic didn’t stop the Kennedy’s from enjoying music endeavors together. The video below, featuring Hattie and Jude, was shot by Coley as a fun family project. The song is called “Let’s Get Happy” and is appropriate for today’s times. “A beautiful acoustic version of this song has also been recorded by Nashville’s The Smoking Flowers, featuring backing vocals by John McCauley of Deer Tick (one of my favorite modern bands),” says Kennedy.