SONGWRITERS No. 4. Tony Floyd Kenna. July 2012.
Number four in a series where Songwriters on MT have been invited
to tell a little about why they write, and to pick a personal favourite of
their own. Tony lives in Killiney in Ireland, Europe.
On May 24th. 1966 Bob Dylan turned 25 and played electric at the Olympia in Paris.
On May 25th. 1966 TFK reached 8 years old. Truly ‘The times they were a changin’. It would be a few years before I actually discovered Bob but the door he opened
for us all was there waiting. In the Summer of 1974 I was 16, earning money,
discovering Led Zepplin, The Beatles, Quo, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Free, Yes, Uriah Heap and most particularly… Eric Clapton and of course Bob. It was easy to imagine following in their footsteps..yep, an idle dream but dreams look very achievable when you’re 16!
I was always writing stuff, poems, stories. This combined with acquiring a
‘rock’ image soon made me quite useful around my music playing friends. The
fact that I couldn’t play or sing was only a minor point. So a budding lyricist
was born. I still hoped to learn to play something and remember writing a
complete concept album and recording it with me beating the drum sticks on a
couple of cardboard boxes and singing along earnestly! I guess this was the
beginning of my engineering and production career! Eventually my school friend
John (O’Grady) decided I should learn guitar. So we went off on the bus and
bought one. My Dad wasn’t impressed, he thought I’d become a long haired hippie
type. He was of course quite right. My playing skills left a lot to be desired
but John had great patience and persevered until I learnt a few basic bits and
pieces. When a band was being formed a bassist was needed so off on the bus
In 1977 John and I wrote ‘Dawning Of Each Day’. I believe we were truly
impressed with ourselves, in the way only 18/19 year olds can be! Our first really good song together. In those days I would write lyrics and pass them over to John to turn them into something we could play. As the years rolled on I developed a great passion for recording and no doubt annoyed the hell out of everyone pushing them, rehearsing them, just so we would be good enough to go in and record some great tracks, just like our idols!
The music circles widened, bands came and went. After a short stint with The
Gravediggers (2nd. from right in pic.) I answered an add in the newspaper (no Internet in those days!)
and found myself playing with Joe McGuinness. Joe still loves relating the
story that I was only second at the audition, the other guy wanted money so was
ruled out! But we did actually get paid, playing most weekends for several
years as the warm up band in the old Tara Club (Pic is Maggies Farm 1979. Joe, Kieran, Bren and Tony).
I continued writing lots and lots of lyrics but it was only when I linked up with Dave Long, and we formed the first incarnation of Good Intentions, that I started to try to do some of the music myself. I have to seriously thank Dave for his encouragement in this regard. ‘Soul Sister’ would be a special favourite from that period.
Eventually Jean O’Sullivan and I formed Face To Face (pic.is Jean, Kieran, Ian (unseen) Susan and TFK) and wrote and co wrote a serious amount of songs. This was during my years working as a sound engineer, so our recording expectations had increased dramatically and our taste in recording studios got very expensive! Face To Face was probably the one band that came very close to ‘making it’, but alas it was not to be. ‘Dreams’, as recorded with Face To Face, captures the energy, passion and aspirations of those days…but wait, we’re still not at my favourite yet!
By the end of the Eighties it was quite clear that the chosen career of
Rockstar was not actually feeding the family and putting a roof over our heads
so I ‘retired’ from being professionally involved in the business, and got
stuck into the ‘day’ job. But luckily, as part of my work involved designing
and delivering training courses, I still got to write stuff and perform!
Music was sidelined to an occasional session, gig and only a little
The onset of the recession suddenly found me going from being able to work six
or seven days a week to only two or three. So with a bit of unexpected spare
time the obvious thing was to ring up my old bandmates and tell them we were
reforming! The response was great and John, Dermott and I set into writing some
great new songs which culminated with the 2010 release of the ‘Sacred Ground’ CD from Good Intentions. Having found my feet again I found myself writing, writing, writing, and in the process having to develop a ‘voice’. I was writing far to much to expect my friends, the usual vocalists, to keep up with.
Having also reformed Maggies Farm (Joe McGuinness & TFK in pic.) we were booked to appear, with our new CD, on a radio show in the Autumn of 2010. A few weeks before the date it became obvious that the CD would not be finished in time.
Plan B, I rang the show and explained that although the Maggies Farm CD would not be ready they were not to worry, my own solo CD EP with five great new tracks would be ready. Of course I only had the first three songs for this project finished and had to quickly finish/ write/record or select a few more in a similar mode! One I decided to include was Sky, which yes, is the favourite. It was sort of inspired by a feel good relaxing, rediscovery of self and nature movie which I was watching on a Saturday evening. The words and music came easily and quickly and by Sunday evening I had it recorded and ready for whoever might care to listen…….. ‘I was talking to the Sky, and she was wondering why…’
Of course on any given day I’m sure a lot of songwriters will agree that the favourite is always the newest song written but as I have to pick one…. I can listen to SKY as if it’s not me at all, that’s good. I like the vocal, the lyrics, the feel, the guitar piece, and the feedback on it has been phenomenal. It has touched so many people in so many ways… ‘in the morning she would wake me, and in the evening she would take me, to the places I dreamed, to the places I hoped, and all the while she’d always smile’
So why do I write? Because I can, I want to, I have to, I enjoy it, I love creating something from nothing, I still love listening to the radio, to CDs and saying ‘I can do that’. The bonus is it’s also a great way to tell stories, to express feelings, to say something that’s not easily said. And of course when you’ve a bunch of friends who also play, it’s just a wonderful feeling, a terrific buzz, to be able to hear your own songs coming to life with a band. Not forgetting that in recent years I’ve co written and collaborated with a lot of new friends too, great people I’ve connected with as a direct result of songwriting…and Musicians Together! Some of these resulted in the recent ‘Collaborations’ CD. And going back to the earlier mentioned Joe McGuinness, we have continued our long relationship and under the name of Wanman & Floyd, written, recorded and released two albums in the last year! (Johnny Skip, TFK and Mama Kaz, Dublin 2012 in pic.)
I know too that I am very lucky to be able to write not just from my own experiences, not just from observing others but also totally fictional scenarios.
You could say I have a good imagination!
And, the payback… it may not have come in financial terms but when you get
positive feedback, when one of your songs touches someone else’s life, when it
touches their soul, that’s what the great songwriter Paul Williams calls ‘Heart
Pay’, it really does make it all worthwhile.