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Local Talent: Howard James Kenny

Howard James Kenny takes acoustic music to a new level. An accomplished guitarist and singer, he uses looping to create a progressive sound that stands out, whether he’s recording or performing live. Lately, things have been quiet for him musically, but that might be about to change after taking part in last autumn’s Worcester Music Festival.

Does it take you a long time to write songs?
I forget the exact timeline, but all the songs on my album, Shelter Songs, were written in quite a small period of time in 2010. I detuned my guitar to a pretty strange tuning to see what opportunities it would open up from a chordal perspective, as I was getting bored of standard and open tunings, and then the basic song structure for Good Fortune and My Wrongs were written pretty quickly and organically as a result. Soon after, I went up to the barn I practise in and started experimenting with the loop function on my delay pedal and got lost layering up guitar and vocal parts using the various different effects pedals I’ve got. When it came to recording, I didn’t change much, other than adding the odd bit of piano and percussion here and there to keep it interesting. 

How did it all begin for you? 
I suppose I’ve always been relatively musical. I tried trumpet when I was about 12, but I couldn’t get on with it. I ended up with a guitar, as they were advised it would be a better start for me, but I soon got to learn the drums too. I spent some time at the Birmingham Conservatoire which was a real learning curve for an acoustic guitarist, but it was incredibly beneficial and since then I’ve formed and joined a number of bands which have helped me learn about songwriting. 

Is there anybody in particular who has helped you along the way?
Countless people. Most notably, my parents with all their support. On top of that, Haydn Britland at Northern Music Company. He’s worked with everyone from Opeth to Oceansize to Paradise Lost. He was given my album by a sound guy that did my sound at 2000 Trees and apparently missed his train stop whilst listening to my album (which I think is a compliment of sorts!). Thanks to him, I wound up touring Europe with Maybeshewill and the UK with Dave McPherson (InMe) and then The Pineapple Thief.

Looking back over 2017, how was the year for you? 
I haven’t done solo work for quite a few years really. It was only when the excellent Jenny Hallam asked me if I’d support her that I picked it up again, so there’s not been a lot of activity in the past year. Playing outside the Guildhall for Worcester Music Festival was really enjoyable. I’ve never seen the people of the High Street so quiet.

Looking ahead, do you have any plans or hopes this year?
Finally get around to writing the difficult second album.

You can find Howard James Kenny on Facebook and Youtube or visit howardjameskenny.bandcamp.com