Songs in the Key of Life

 

Maura Boudreau Kennedy '88 is writing a song. When she finishes talking on the phone, she's going upstairs to lay down her vocal tracks. Her husband, guitarist Pete Kennedy, is already working up in the studio . They're taking a few days at home in Reston, Virginia, a break from a solid few months on the road.

It's another normal day in the life of a pop chanteuse, a life that Kennedy can hardly believe is hers. "I'm living out my dream," she says. "I've been making my living as a musician since 1991. Pete and I are really, really lucky to be doing music together."

Maura and Pete (center in photo) and their band, the Kennedys, recently released their fourth album, Evolver, on Zoe Records. Their previous three, on Rounder and Green Linnet, were folky; on Evolver, the duo rev up their guitars. Not bad for a girl who used to sleep through sight-singing class.

Kennedy studied voice at Ithaca College with Roland Bentley, whose warm-up exercises she and Pete still use every day. After graduation, she spent three years back home in Syracuse, working as a computer trainer by day and singing in a country band, the Delta Rays, by night. But in 1991 she made a decision. "The more demanding my day job got, the less energy I had to play the weekend shows," she says. "So I finally decided that it didn't matter how I did it, but I had to quit my day job and do music full time." She turned down a big raise, packed her things, and headed for Austin, Texas, which she had heard was a happening music town. Soon she was playing nine gigs a week, trying to make ends meet. It was then that she met Pete.

"In 1993, when we met, he had been traveling on the road for three years, playing for Mary Chapin Carpenter and Nanci Griffith," she explains. "He was in Austin playing a solo gig, and then he went back on the road. We stayed in touch, and after about 10 days we decided to go on a date." But Maura was in Austin and Pete was 1,000 miles away in Telluride. So they split the difference, each driving 500 miles to meet in Lubbock, Texas - at Buddy Holly's grave.

Luckily for their blooming romance, a spot for a backup singer opened up on Nanci Griffith's tour, and Maura joined the band. She and Pete immediately began to write songs together, and soon they were the opening act. They've been playing together ever since. Their folk-funk fusion has garnered them a loyal following in the metro D.C. area, and they've toured almost every state in the union. Critics enjoy Pete's guitar pyrotechnics and Maura's inventive melodies. (She still uses skills she learned in Steve Brown's jazz improv class.)

"One time a little girl came up to me at a show," recalls Kennedy, "and said, 'Are you famous?' My response was, 'Apparently not.' " She laughs. "A lot of people think that you have to be a household name to be making a living as a musician, and it's not true. We're really happy to be doing what we're doing. That's the key to life."

- Bridget Meeds '91

Photo by Robert Corwin

 

 
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