Meet The Pros - Ben Kennedy
Why don’t you start by introducing yourself?
My name is Ben Kennedy, a Drummer/Music Lecturer and Booking Agent. I have been playing Drums for 24 Years and my career highlights include touring worldwide with Ladyhawke, Foxes and Jasmine Thompson as well as playing many major festivals/TV/Radio Performances. From a booking prospective, my clients include X Factor, Coca Cola, 3 Mobile, Highlands Whisky, Made In Chelsea, Jax Jones and Huawei.
What’s your earliest musical memory?
Probably starting out with Music Lessons in Primary School. I started playing the Trumpet, moved on to Piano and then finally Drums when I was 11. I remember my grandad, who was a Jazz Musician, giving me a cassette tape of Buddy Riches’ Big Swing Face. From then, I got my first 2nd hand kit for Christmas and just couldn’t stop playing, I was hooked!
Tell us about your musical training.
I studied at The ACM in Guildford, where I graduated in 2006. I also did my Grade 8 whilst in Year 10 of Secondary School. I also played a lot in different bands, including the school orchestra and an Original Rock Band, which gave me valuable experience of rehearsing and playing live.
Was there a turning point in your life where you decided to pursue a career in music seriously?
When I got my first major label gig, Ladyhawke, who is a great Singer/Songwriter from New Zealand. I was teaching Music full-time just after I graduated, but always thought it was something I could come back too.
When I successfully auditioned in 2009, I was fortunate enough to be on a 4-year touring Schedule around the world, promoting two of her records.
Is there a mentor figure in your life or someone that really inspires you?
I wouldn’t necessarily say a mentor, but playing influences include Dom Howard, Zak Starky, Ronnie Vannucci, Chris Sharrock, David Garibaldi and Steve Gadd.
What does your practice routine look like?
I don’t practice as often as I should, but when I started Teaching Drums at Degree level, it made me revisit a lot of things I hadn’t worked on in a long time…. Rudiments, Technique, Groove Playing and Reading.
I would usually do some technical things, something that will challenge me and then just play along to tracks old and new that I like or learning new songs for a project. I’ve never been a Drummer who plays lots of chops, I’ve always focussed on Music for the song and doing my best to make things Groove!
Talk us through your preparation for a big show or recording session.
Be prepared, do your homework before the show/session. Get the best sound possible for that particular project you have been called to do, and it’s also important to be punctual, be nice and most of all play good.
What have been some of your standout professional moments?
My highlight was supporting Coldplay in Europe and the U.S with FOXES on their Head Full Of Dreams tour in 2015. It was my first Stadium experience and really was an incredible memory to look back on. Regardless if you like Coldplay or not, it’s the best live show I’ve ever seen and watched 32 out 32 gigs.
Other highlights include Radio 1 Live Lounge, TV appearances on X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Recording on albums for Foxes and James Walsh from Starsailor.
Do you have any funny backstage stories you can share with us? (juicy stories essentially)
I flirted with Girls Aloud once. I was asked to be in their music video for The Promise which actually was a number one hit in the end. It was the best Monday morning of my life. We had to sit in these cool vintage 60s cars and pretend we were at a drive in Cinema. We had to wink and flick popcorn at the girls whilst they blew kisses and flirted with us back!
Have you ever made any embarrassing mistakes during a performance or recording?
Yes! Of course, mistakes happen. The one I can remember is playing Manchester Academy with Ladyhawke supporting The Ting Tings. I was running the backing track and forgot that we ran two tracks - one into another. I stopped the track half way through the click and lost where beat one was of the count in. We ended playing the whole first verse of Paris Is Burning completely out of sync/time. Luckily we pulled it back for the chorus and I didn’t get fired!
What set-up do you use on stage?
I endorse Yamaha Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks, Protection Racket Cases, Porter and Davies Drum Thrones and 64 Audio In-Ears. I would use Roland SPDSX and Yamaha Triggers also, depending on the gig! My set is usually quite simple – one tom up top and one/two floor toms down. Usually just the one main snare, but again, depending on the gig.
WeJam is all about getting music lovers of all abilities to experience what It’s like to play in a band. What are the best bits about being in a band for you?
It’s great from a social perspective. I’ve made many friends through playing Music. It’s a great buzz too, especially live. You have to enjoy what you do with your playing or don’t bother! Playing in bands has taken me around the world and created some amazing experiences which I’ll never forget.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for bands/musicians just starting out?
Funding would be one. It can be expensive starting out in a band. Buying gear, rehearsal/recording time and also getting commitment from all members around other life factors.
The market has always been so saturated with bands, so it’s important to be Original and stand out, but first and foremost, write good songs.
What tips do you have for any aspiring musicians trying to break into the industry – either as session musicians or as solo artists or bands?
Work hard. Practice, Write, Gig as much as you can with different musicians. Use online platforms to your advantage: Instagram, Facebook, Spotify etc…
When you’re not working, what kind of music are you listening to?
I have quite an eclectic taste, I guess you have to be open to listening being a session player. But I tend to like bands such as The Foos, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M, Crowded House, Manics. And songwriters such as Jeff Buckley, Paolo Nutini, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon.
What’s next for you and where can we follow your career?
Hopefully some work when lockdown ends, it’s been a very different year!
To follow Ben, check out these links:
Instagram : @bkdrum