A TRACK BY TRACK BREAKDOWN OF H. KENNETH’S DEBUT RECORD ‘THIS IS A JOURNAL’
BEHIND THE SONGS
A SOUND IN THE DARKNESS
I chose to open the record with this song because it functions a bit like a ‘palate cleanser’ for those unaware of my style and approach to songwriting. I really attempted to throw in elements of jazz, cinematic, indie, americana and electronic styles in an effort to present and condense the different vibes of the full record into the two-minute track. In terms of the lyric and arrangement it’s really a metaphor for how my mind works because I suffer from high anxiety, general mood disorder, ADHD and bipolar I. My mind is constantly flying in different directions and rearranging and I’m literally unable to stop thinking. The background noises in the track were all recorded during the production of the vocals. I chose to leave them in because it really is a sensory glimpse at the environment in which I spend most of my time and create this music. I wrote the record in my “studio” – aka the room above my garage.
This song is a quick look at my history and experience with relationships. Just like everyone else, I’ve been through some serious heartbreak. I spent lot of time growing up trying to understand how to find and maintain a solid emotional relationship. Ultimately I experienced a breakup in 2014 that resulted in some manic episodes, emotional trauma and a lengthy road to self-discovery, self-improvement, and recovery. I’ve returned to dating with a new outlook but I’ve discovered I carry some fears about letting someone else in. This jazzy piano vibe came to me one day and these honest words just started flowing out of me. It started out as this negative “I’m giving up on love” thing. But as I was writing, I stumbled across this thought that I just grabbed onto immediately – ’good love will come to you.’ And I really do believe that’s true if I stay patient and open.
‘No Parachute’ is just a fun, free, shiny song about what it feels like to meet someone who gets your heart racing. It’s about young love. I really didn’t set out to write this one on purpose. I literally sat down in my studio one afternoon, banged out the beat and synth vibe in 20 minutes and came up with the title, then the melodies and lyrics just started flowing. The whole thing came together in about 3 hours on a sunny wednesday afternoon. It really is the kind of song that wrote itself and it’s the only one of it’s kind on the record. My dream is to see some YouTube dance videos for this one!
When you’re with someone who truly improves your overall existence and makes it so easy to be with them, it’s the best feeling. ‘Thank You’ is a simple message about letting your person know that you see them and telling them how much you appreciate them. It can be so difficult for some (myself included) to truly express their emotional feelings to a partner. In this song I really tried to breakdown and simplify these monumental feelings into a simple phrase – “Thank you.” I think it’s a beautiful and simple sentiment.
“TBP” stands for “The Beautiful Part.” This is a direct reference to the lyric in the song which goes “Sometimes the most beautiful part about love/is when love falls apart.” I actually wrote this song as a demo pitch for Kelly Clarkson last year when she was working on her new record. (Spoiler: It didn’t make the record.) The song is about being put into the position of having to end a relationship. It can be a hard thing to be the person who has to do the breaking-up. The lyric is presented as a direct conversation with that person and asserting that you no longer want to be with them. Sometimes, in an amazing relationship, feelings can fade without explanation. I know the lyric may come off a little harsh or ‘uncaring,’ but when you think about how breakups usually unfold, there always tends to be a ‘bad guy.’ I think this lyric is about accepting that roll.
This is the exact opposite perspective of “TBP.” If we’re talking about the order of songs on ‘This Is A Journal’ I’d say this one was the most difficult song to find room for. I initially didn’t want to include it on the record because stylistically it falls into more of a soulful/americana lane and there really aren’t any other songs on the record like it. I ultimately realized that it was a great thing that it sounds so different. It helps it stand out because I absolutely love what this song is saying. It’s really the kind of talk I wish I’d gotten from someone when I went through my previous breakup. If someone out there is going through what I went through, I really hope they come across this song and it eases their soul just a little bit. “Keep your head up child/and soon enough/you’ll find love again.” I remind myself every day.
NOW & THEN
This is the most personal song on ‘This Is A Journal’. It’s the factual recollection of the feelings I experienced after the heartbreaking loss of my previous relationship and the process in which I attempted to cope. When that person left me I was absolutely destroyed. I spiraled and felt absolutely lost. I didn’t eat for days, drank myself to sleep every night for weeks and even cut friends off because I felt like they would just see me in this painful place and judge me. After my diagnoses this year, I realize now that the feelings and downward spiral were a direct result of the emotional suffering which triggered my undiagnosed mental illnesses. This is also the only song on the album that was presented with a visual. The ‘cowboy dying in a barn’ concept of the video was inspired by the lyric from the song which states ‘Now I don’t feel anything.’ I had this idea of a cowboy being mortally wounded by this woman who is just watching him bleed out and he’s just getting more and more numb. It’s a heavy topic and visual, but it’s a perfect representation of how I felt in the aftermath. It was also a great excuse to sneak my dog into my art.
DON’T TELL THE SKY
Early this year I was going through an incredibly dark time in my personal life as well as experiencing an identity crisis in my career. I was feeling incredibly hopeless about pretty much everything (Note: I still hadn’t been diagnosed at this time.) I was actually experiencing flashing thoughts of suicide. Around this period of time I heard the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. For some reason, a thought krept into my mind that I’ll never forget – “What if I reach that age and level of success and still feel these things?” It scared me to death. It was late at night, probably around midnight, and I felt this incredible enlightenment wash over me. I’m not religious, but in that moment I literally disassociated from myself and my body and felt as if I had died. During the experience, I wrote ‘Don’t Tell The Sky’ as a conversation with myself. It’s a letter reminding me that there’s a reason to live. There are people who love me and there are people who would miss me if I was gone forever. (I’m literally crying as I write this.) I wrote and recorded the song in about two hours. The next morning, listening back to the song, it sparked the whole concept for ‘This Is A Journal.’ It gave me a purpose, which I had been needing so desperately. I felt like in that moment I got back my identity. The following week, I received a full psychological evaluation which resulted in beginning treatment for multiple mental illnesses. This song actually saved my life.
NOTE: So many people suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide. I always hope against hope that my songs can help someone else feel better, but it’s so important to seek help if things don’t feel right. It can be scary but it’s such an amazing feeling to find purpose and peace. You can do it. Just reach out.
In life sometimes we come in contact with someone who just overwhelms us with feelings and emotions and just touches our soul without any effort. The encounter is brief and beautiful and then they’re gone. You don’t know when or if you’ll ever see them again. This song is about one very specific moment for me. I met this girl who just absolutely knocked me off my feet. I could barely breathe when I saw and spoke to her. I felt like I was in middle school again. But we went our separate ways and I haven’t seen or heard from her since. Kind of a ‘missed connection’ situation. The lyrical approach I took was an attempt to create this visual of this incredible thing that’s just out of reach and the feelings that ensue after the encounter. I love how the end of the song becomes this anthem of feelings and thoughts that I wish I could tell her, but never will. I dunno, maybe she’ll hear the song and know it’s for her. I guess that could be a little more effective than Craigslist.