Ethan Kennedy & The Fat Cats
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Ethan Kennedy & The Fat Cats

Band Rock Blues


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"Texas native releases first solo record with past, future in mind"

It took Ethan Kennedy eight years, but he feels like he is finally finding his voice. The 24-year-old musician, originally from Spring Branch, Texas, has played instruments since he was 12 and has fronted myriad bands over the years. Now, with the recent release of his solo EP Rare, Kennedy has been able to flex all of his musical muscles. He played every instrument on the album, recorded it and produced it all on his own. The Daily Texan sat down with Kennedy to discuss his musical past, present and future.

Daily Texan: What sort of music were you exposed to when you were young?

Ethan Kennedy: Growing up I listened to a lot of rock ‘n’ roll with my dad. He introduced me to a lot of old Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and all that classic stuff. That’s what I grew up on, and for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to play the guitar. I can’t even put it back to, “Wow, I was this age”; it was just something I wanted to do. Really, I identify with the voice of the instrument. Nobody else in my family really plays an instrument. When I was 12, I started playing the cello, which I still play. Actually, I used it on the Rare record that I just did. On one track I used it like an upright bass.

DT: How did you transition to the guitar?

EK: I kind of wound up playing them at around the same time; I played guitar in the church that I grew up in. That’s where I kind of learned how to play basic chords on the guitar. I didn’t own a guitar; I was renting. I remember there was this fairly mysterious figure — his name was James. I don’t remember his last name. He just came out of the woodworks and briefly joined the church I was going to. This guy, he was such a different character from the rest of the church, which leant to the mysterious aspect of his persona. For some reason, he took a shine to me, and he just gave me my first guitar. It was a green, like Mexican green, Celebrity Ovation. He said, “I’ll give it to you on the one condition that you use it.” He was at our church a month, and then he was gone.

DT: Did you ever see him again?

EK: About six years later, I was working at this guitar store down in Houston at this local mall. I remember I was walking through the mall one day, and lo and behold, out of the crowd, this James just shows up, and then we say hi, and that’s the only time I’ve seen him.

DT: Were your parents supportive of your musical interests?

EK: Oh yeah, particularly my dad. He came to every show. Even my first band, a punk rock band, he used to come to every show, was the No. 1 fan. Even now, he’ll chastise me if I’m not playing a lot of shows. He’s a pretty hip dude.

DT: Who would you say your influences are?

EK: For the past two years I’ve been listening to mostly a lot of old bebop. Sonny Rollins is a phenomenal musician. He’s a phenomenal improviser, in particular. Wayne Shorter, also a saxophonist, is a great composer. I’m also listening to a lot of Tom Waits. B.B. King is probably the biggest influence on my approach to singing. He’s this blues and guitar icon — dude could sing, I mean, it’s insane the things he could do with his voice. I first started doing falsetto trying to sing his songs. Here’s what I’ll say about the influences: It’s not that I’m looking to merely replicate or to just focus on recreating adulation of the music that has influenced me, but I will say that I feel most connected to blues music.

DT: What are your future recording plans?

EK: Actually, I have a recording session in a studio tonight. I’ve got a lot of material, and nobody knows about it — really good stuff. It just keeps expanding, the possibilities just keep growing and growing and growing, to the point where I can no longer perceive where the edge is. I’m projecting a release date of mid-February to early March. That’s when we’re looking to put it out, prior to spring break.

DT: Does this mean South by Southwest is in your future?

EK: That’s the game plan. [My manager] has been working on that stuff, so that’s what we’re gunning for.

Ethan Kennedy plays the Carousel Lounge Saturday, at 7 p.m. - The Daily Texan


"Raucous" (December 2009)
"Rare" (October 2008)
Samples of all tracks can be found on



A bit of unspoken magic about music is that it can satisfy paradoxical human desires to the hilt, such as the simultaneous urges for simplicity and complexity, likewise for originality and familiarity. Ethan Kennedy endeavors to conjure this magic, not by a novel calculation of genre, but by energetically imparting his own unique character to his music. He belts out lyrics unencumbered with convention, though accessible through their earnest, yearning delivery. His singing is enveloped by music that is rock and roll in its heart and bebop in its brain. But it doesn't stop there, it only starts there.
Beginning as a young teenager in Houston, Texas, over a period of eight years and through a series of evolving projects, Ethan honed his musicianship, song craft, and penchant for performance. This period culminated in the project, Laughing Freemen-- about whom Laura Slavin of Houston's 90.1 FM KPFT (Pacifica Radio) exhorted her listeners, "The music world makes room for unique artists like these."
Ethan has since relocated up the road from his native Houston to Austin, Texas, where in 2008 he recorded and self-released Rare, a 6-song LP. His first solo project (the term solo is quite literal here, as the album sleeve bears the statement "Written, performed, recorded, and produced by Ethan Kennedy."), Rare finds Ethan's ability to render his ideas more fully actualized than ever before, finding a naturally strong and amicable identity.
The creative momentum of Rare spilled right into 2009 as he entered Austin's Arlyn Studios to record his second solo title, Raucous. For this effort, he enlisted the help of a gifted young drummer, Aeran Shabi, and the pair account for the myriad instruments heard on the album. Caitlin Witliff, a music writer at the University of Texas, has reviewed the album: "This album evokes faraway lands, expansive and mysterious. The listener transcends her daily duties and joins Kennedy and Shabi in a full-body, enrapturing musical experience. It reminds us all what the album is for - a fully-realized artistic expression." For live performances, Ethan and Aeran are joined by bassist, Sam Calvert, and together the trio are known as The Fat Cats.