Pursuits of Happiness, 17 VTBJ, Summer 2017-#8

Pursuits of Happiness

Vol. 43 No. 2 Pg. 8

Vermont Bar Journal

Summer, 2017

Low Country Funk—An Interview with Michelle Kenny

Jennifer Emens-Butler: I am here at the office of Kenny and Gatos to interview Michelle Kenny for our Pursuits of Happiness column. I have enjoyed doing these interviews so much; I always find it interesting to find people that I don't know what their special and unique talents and interests are.

Michelle Kenny: I don't have any, and I don't know why you are here!

JEB: We are here to talk about the woodworking because this office is fabulous and there is a lot of beautiful woodwork and photographs.

MK: That was definitely not me, you'll have to interview Pam then.

JEB: Ok, that could be next, but I've heard that you are a singer in a band and you perform.

MK: My secret is out.

JEB: Yes, your secret is out. Ok, so tell me a little bit about it. How long have you been in this band?

MK: I have been with Low Country Funk for 3 years now, and I actually didn't start singing with anyone until about 4 years ago.

JEB: Ok, so you were on your own before you joined Low Country Funk?

MK: No, I really did nothing. I sang in church growing up and in the car like everyone else.

JEB: The car, the shower, that kind of singing?

MK: Yes, in the shower, not on stage. I took a trip to Nashville probably 5 years or 6 years ago. I have been a country fan since I was a little kid; pretty much the only one that I knew that liked country music.

JEB: Not my favorite.

MK: Almost everyone says that and they think you must be some sort of random transplant from a county region like Nashville to Vermont.

JEB: Maybe it's just not very popular in Vermont, I just never liked it but there are a lot of Vermont followers of quasi-country like bluegrass and folk.

MK: Yes, and I grew up listening to Alabama and Garth Brooks and some other acts, but they were really country.

JEB: Real country!

MK: And most of my friends are like what are you listening to?

JEB: Where did you grow up?

MK: Right here in Rutland. About 5 minutes north of where we sit right now, so I am as Rutland native as they come. Graduate of Castleton, which was Castleton State College at the time and Vermont Law School and now I live just south of Rutland. Obviously I practice law in Rutland.

JEB: Yes we will get to your law practice in Rutland. But let's get back to the story. It was just a vacation trip to Nashville?

MK: Just a vacation trip, yes, and I went down and I was with a friend who was doing some music in a studio and I have been interested in music my entire life. I kind of explain it like there are people who have music in their blood who just feel it, they get it.

JEB: All the time.

MK: Yes, and it is just what you do and that is the kind of person I was but I really never had an outlet for it or it just didn't present itself. I took this trip and I was with my friend in a Nashville studio and I was in awe; I loved it and I was singing along with one of his songs and one of the producers that was in the room sort of looked at me and said 'do you sing?,' and I said 'sort of yes,' and so I sang a little bit for him and he said we need to get you in here. It snowballed from that point forward. It sort of opened up this whole idea to me that I could actually get involved in something that I love.

JEB: Did he record something that you could keep there?

MK: Not at that trip, but I took another trip maybe 6 or 8 months later and I did a little demo of 4 or 5 songs, so I had my little CD and felt like such a big deal—Like I am a rock star! I had these songs and when I got back I had a serendipitous moment at Over Easy's Restaurant in Cuttingsville. I was there waiting tables and one of the gentlemen that I knew came in and said "hey I am getting a bunch of people together in this studio place and we are just kind of jamming with different talented people and you should just come." So I started showing up and I met all of these musicians. This was probably 4 or 5 years ago that this happened. I am not sure of my timelines exactly but there were guitarists and drummers, harmonica players and other vocalists there and a keyboard player. I loved going. I just started singing and pretty soon, I found myself in a band with some of the guys I met through that experience

JEB: Was it jamming on the weekends?

MK: That's right. Or. a Thursday night, a random 'everyone is getting together tonight, can you come down,' and I have kid-dos at home so it was hard for me.

JEB: Wait, you were an associate in a law firm at the time and you had kids at home?

MK: Right, 2 boys. Remember when we started and I said I feel like I am one of the busiest people ever?

JEB: And you still feel like that?

MK: Yes, I still feel like that.

JEB: How old were your kids at the time?

MK: At the time they would have been 5 and 7, so 10 and 12 now.

JEB: They would come with you and sort of walk around and you would jam with the group.

MK: Yes, and there was sort of this random gym area in the huge studio.

JEB: Ok, go play.

MK: Yeah, it was like go play on the punching bag, you know, run the treadmill. So we did that and I loved it. During this time I met the guys in my band: Neil Blanchette who is our lead guitar player; Nick Vittone is our bass player, and Blake Gowan, who is our drummer. These guys have more musical history and experience than I do, and they brought more of a rock/ alternative side to our band.

JEB: Not country.

MK: No country, and in fact Neil will say his 15 year-old self would probably punch himself for playing the music that we currently play, but they all love it. I bring the country to it and it was just this collaboration that started as we are just kind of jamming to put something awesome together. We started practicing on Sunday afternoons and we still practice every Sunday afternoon. We have been doing that now for 3 years. We have really great energy and rock mixed with my country. I really dig the high energy rock country!

JEB: You still do stuff like Garth Brooks?

MK: Yes, we do a couple of Garth Brooks, big hits like Friends in Low Places and the crowd goes wild.

JEB: I didn’t know if you ventured more into the folksy kind of side.

MK: No, no. We venture more into the Guns & Roses and AC/DC side with modern country music that you might hear on the radio, like Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and some of those big names now in country music. We do all of that. I love Miranda, so we do a lot of Miranda Lambert, but like I said, it has got a different spin because it is so much rockier….

JEB: Because those guys know how to jam; they know how to rock. I did prepare for the interview and went on the Face-book page for Low Country Funk and there were not a lot of live videos, but some of your vocals in practices reminded me of Iris Dement, a more folksy kind of country.

MK: And that’s because you have seen the acoustics. Right, what you would see online is a couple of acoustic sets. It would appear more folky, especially with my voice. Our live show though is not really online, so it’s sort of something that you have to experience to come out. We are playing this Friday night...

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