Declan Kennedy comes from a musical family, so it is no surprise that he is a member of a band and now is breaking out into a solo career that he hopes to make his life’s work.
Kennedy, a junior at Brother Rice High School in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community, grew up with music as the son of Shayne and Eric Kennedy, of Oak Lawn. He took piano lessons as a youngster and later learned the guitar.
At age 13 in 2011, Kennedy joined the family band, The Kennedy Compound, playing keyboards. His father is the lead singer, his grandfather plays bass; occasionally, his mother will provide additional vocals to supplement the band.
“My dad used to have people over playing music in the garage and it developed into a bigger thing. When I was old enough and talented enough, I started joining the jam sessions. Before I knew it we were playing at bars,” said Kennedy, who now earns money from the band’s performances.
A couple of years ago, Kennedy wrote his first song.
“It turned out well. I was pleased with it and I felt like I put myself into the song,” he said.
Since then, he’s been writing a lot of songs and performs them at local restaurants and other venues.
Writing songs gives Kennedy a way to communicate.
“I am not the kind of person who shares his feelings when talking with someone, but I feel very comfortable in front of people if I have a guitar and I’m singing,” he said. “I usually put myself into the songs I write. It is a great way to present myself in an entertaining way.”
Over his winter break, Kennedy traveled to California with his dad and recorded a couple of his own songs in a studio, resulting in a professional-grade recording to use for self-promotion.
Last summer he attended the Interlochen Arts Academy summer camp in Interlochen, Mich. It is a camp designed specifically for aspiring singer/songwriters.
“My mom said she’d send me. I put together a video audition and was accepted,” he said.
The two-week camp was quite the learning experience.
“It was great because there were kids from all around the world and it was great to hear other people’s styles and hear what was happening with other kids my age who are singer/songwriters. I learned different ways to express myself and how to use different prompts for songwriting,” he said.
At Brother Rice, he is a member of the Lyrical Fight Club, a school choir. Last fall, he also scored the role of Ambrose Kemper in Mother McAuley High School’s musical production of “Hello, Dolly!” He is also a member of the National Honor Society.
“My dad is my role model. He is very passionate about music,” Kennedy said. “He’s a salesman but he loves the band a lot and puts his heart and soul into music. It is great to have his presence in the house. He has a good vibe that encourages me to pursue what I want to do.”
After high school, Kennedy would like to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston or Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., which also has a music program.
“I hope to major as a singer/songwriter or study recording engineering where I could learn more about recording technology and software so I can produce myself,” he said.
Listening to his favorite artists motivates him.
“It is inspiring and makes the creativity flow inside me. Just having inspirational music around me is very motivational,” said Kennedy, who said he has an alternative rock style.
“I want to write about real things and put emotion into what I do,” he said.