New Artist Spotlight: Matt Kennon

by Bob Doerschuk

Matt Kennon has nothing against rock ‘n’ roll; in his younger days, he liked to crank up some Skynyrd as much as anyone.  He was a member of his high school jazz band too.  But being raised in Georgia with Lee Greenwood, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and Travis Tritt on the family playlist, he knew early on that Country was his home.

Kennon learned as he grew to sing with spirit in church and later to dish up Southern rock and Country in Atlanta clubs.  His voice, toughened through three years of band gigs, was sensitized to the nuances in lyric interpretation by coaching with songwriter and producer Chip Martin.  After getting the seasoning he needed, Kennon moved to Nashville and picked up a day job at a Harley-Davidson dealer.  A chance encounter with manager Gary Falcon on Music Row triggered a series of connections leading to James Stroud, who agreed to co-produce this self-titled debut with Kennon and Julian King for release on BamaJam Records.

Kennon’s history courses through these 12 tracks, eight of which he co-wrote.  Some of his early rock heroes, from Slaughter and Survivor, make guest appearances, but the feel of the music stems from Kennon alone.  His first single “The Call,” which he wrote with Jeremy Campbell and Noah Gordon, recounts several dramatic stories of how a single phone call can change or even save one’s life; Kennon’s deep drawl, gritty timbre and homiletic intensity convey the message like a sermon preached to a friend over a few whiskey shots.  From the righteous growl of “Some People Piss Me Off,” written by Ben Hayslip and Jimmy Yeary, to the soar of the Gary Duffy and Ron Wallace song “Cry Like Memphis” on twin wings of gospel and blues, Kennon plants one foot in the choir loft, the other on the brass rail beneath a honky-tonk bar and keeps perfect balance.

IN HIS OWN WORDS Q&A

MUSICAL HERO
“Ronnie Van Zant.”

SONG YOU WISH YOU’D WRITTEN
“‘Live Like You Were Dying.’”

LUCKY CHARM
“I have a Cross necklace tattooed around my neck.”

FAVORITE FOOD ON THE ROAD
“Pizza.”

TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY
“God Don’t Make Mistakes.”

OCCUPATION IF NOT AN ARTIST
“A DJ on the radio.”

FAVORITE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
“Harley-Davidson.”

PET PEEVE
“Double parking.”

BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND
“The Bible.”

SONG YOU’D SECRETLY LIKE TO COVER
“’Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room.’”

On the Web: www.MattKennon.com

© 2010 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

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