One of the strongest independent releases of 2017 is Kenny Foster’s ‘Deep Cuts’. An authentic, meaningful look at life and at the human condition. We were lucky enough to speak to Kenny recently and chat about life and music.
‘Deep Cuts’ is such a terrific piece of work. A lot of love has gone into it.
It takes a long time to develop as an artist, as it turns out. It’s one thing just to get up, write songs and sing songs and I’ve been doing that for a long time but to find your voice and have it be specific to you and be different to everything else that’s out there takes a long, long time.
Give us a potted history of your career to date.
I moved to Nashville a long time ago! Maybe coming up on 15 years. Anyone from a small town knows that you get to a particular point as a musician and then you need to break out, to spread your wings. My Dad always said he hoped he raised kids who had the roots to know where they are from and the wings to move away. I had a band when I first got to Nashville, I was at University, we were showcasing and had a lot of interest but we fell apart in a heinous way. It sent me into an interesting self discovery mode and I then took a stab at a whole lot of things. I acted for a while – I did a couple of strange Super Bowl commercials – but while I did love acting and it’s paid better than music ever has, I couldn’t help but feel that some days you are the painter and some days you are the paint and in acting you are very much the paint. I decided that I wanted to find a voice of my own and music was my first love.
So, how did you survive during this ‘self discovery’ period?
Lots of interesting day jobs! When I was acting it paid well and I had to work very little so I had lots of time to write songs. But when I moved to music I got married at the same time and we found ourselves at our first Christmas together with neither of us in a job or with any real source of income. I took a job managing a venue, several venues actually, here in Nashville. At University I was an intern at Sony Records and saw from the inside how the Country industry worked so I knew people from that, which helped. But managing a venue means most people take you out of contention for their thinking as an artist – it’s like you couldn’t be both, working 60+ hours a week whilst trying to write and play at night.
Did seeing how the industry works from the inside effect your thinking in any way?
It put me off completely! I worked for wonderful people, don’t get me wrong, but when you are wide eyed and bushy tailed coming into this industry and thinking you are going to take over the world you need to realise very quickly that not only are you NOT going to take over the world but that world is NOT looking for you to take it over! It was a strange time that lead me to realise that it was either time to go home or time to try and understand and work with the system to see if you can find your place within it. It was time to leave or get better and I decided to get better.
‘Deep Cuts’ is a true album in the old sense of the word. It seems like it has been lovingly put together.
When I was younger and I fell in love with a record it was because I loved the thing from top to bottom. Maybe the singles were what got me in through the door but it was the deep cuts that made me fall in love with it, hence the title of the record. I understand why singles are huge these days, I understand the nature of the shuffle crowd these days but I could not change my heart. I imagined there are people out there just like me that miss the way that it was and maybe it is those type of people that will hang out with me now! There are still people hungry for albums and those are my kind of people.
That’s why I think you will do particularly well over here in the UK. We are an intelligent, respectful audience hungry for good music.
(Kenny is touring the UK in September, dates to be announced)
I wonder how much we could trace that back through the musical history of the United Kingdom? I don’t think America has such a great tradition of ‘group singing in pubs’ like you guys do. Even Bluegrass takes it’s influence from some of the traditions of areas like the north of England and into Scotland and Ireland. You guys used acoustic instruments because there was nothing else to play and that was the entertainment. There’s something really natural and human about that which is why we went with all acoustic instruments on ‘Deep Cuts’ despite there being a trend away from these things. As an independent artist I can reach out to England in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do signed to a label. I get to determine where I travel and we love it over there in Western Europe. We’re not beholden to anyone or anything and I know that there are fans over there that will love us and what we stand for.
If there is one song on ‘Deep Cuts’ that defines you, which one would it be?
How about I answer that in this way? I can tell you what song I built the whole record around and that was ‘Made’. (Track 2 on ‘Deep Cuts’) ‘Stand’ was the way I wanted to introduce myself to people but I then wanted to quickly follow that up with ‘Made’. By my nature I’m not a very combative human being but I do get very fired up about justice and being a good human being. I feel like that is what we are meant to be doing, being better. So many people do what they do for purely material gains, for the grandiose amounts of money, success and notoriety because I imagine at the end of our striving and troubles we can look down upon them and scoff – like, ‘Oh, I’m so glad I don’t have to do that anymore’ and we imagine that what comes with that will be a sense of peace. Peace is the driving force behind our toils as humans, it’s the motivating factor behind doing what we do. To me, peace isn’t found by striving, ambition, success, fame and fortune. You might actually be spending a huge portion of your life chasing something you already have, and that’s what ‘Made’ is about and that’s why I built the album around it. It’s marker of where I was when I made this record and a reminder that if I ever become discontent again at some other point I could come back to that song and ground myself.
There are other songs on ‘Deep Cuts’, such as ‘Revival’ that follow that same sense of finding peace.
If we all felt that sense of peace a little more we may well be a little kinder to each other as well. In light of everything that is happening in the world at the moment it is becoming more important to think about how we all take care of each other. The album felt very distinctly American to me, the problems, the issues that we face but then you guys are going through your own thing over there as well. I hadn’t even considered your political climate at the time of making the record but I love getting feedback from the UK (as it stands now) that my music resonates at this time. There doesn’t seem to many voices just asking people to talk to each other, there’s some much polarity coming out of the Western world right now and that’s why it’s important that some of us speak up.
Make sure you check out ‘Deep Cuts’ and go see Kenny live when the UK dates are announced. It will be an evening of thoughtful, authentic Country music done well by a person with his head and heart in the right place!