Mike Kennedy, 61, has a long grey beard that hangs under his jawline, a face that is kind and wise, and piercing light blue-gray eyes.
Kennedy is homeless and living with multiple sclerosis, but that hasn’t stopped him from nearly completing an album he’s been working on since 1984.
He has raised all of the money for the CD production by panhandling.
“I’m kind of proud of the fact that I’ve done it all myself,” said Kennedy.
“No man, or no government, or no agency or no nothing has ever financed my music or anything for me. I’ve done it all myself, panhandling of course. Because I have multiple sclerosis, I’m 61 years old, and I don’t have any way of raising money other than panhandling. And that’s what I use my money for.”
Kennedy’s album will feature 12 songs when it’s completed. He’ll also be performing at a show at The Capital Complex on Nov. 22. Roots & Soul Music Promotions, RealLifeSurvivor and The Montgomery Street Band are partnering to help Kennedy complete his album by putting on the show to raise money for his project.
“After it’s done, it will be a collection of songs from 1984 right up to now that I’ve written,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy’s songs tell stories of his life and share meaningful memories.
“I’ve written songs about New Brunswick, about the Bay of Fundy, things that relate to New Brunswick like about dandelion greens, marshmallow roasts … these are all New Brunswick memories for me.”
The folk music album is two songs shy of being complete. One of the songs, called “The North Wind,” still needs to be recorded.
“It’s about the Miramichi region, you know the north wind here in New Brunswick is a real cold wind,” said Kennedy.
The second song needs to be recovered. The master tape was ruined in a fire at the Moncton studio where it was recorded, so the original copy no longer exists. It was recorded in 1984 on a yellow 45 record, with a group of Grade 4 students from the Arnold H. McLeod Elementary School.
Kennedy is hoping to run an ad in the Moncton Times & Transcript to see if any of the students who attended the elementary school still have a copy of it.
“Somebody must have a copy of it. There’s copies of it around I’m sure,” he said.
Eddie Young from Roots & Soul Music Promotions said the first thing they wanted to do for Kennedy was to get a stage for him to play on. The second thing was to raise money to help Kennedy with the final process of completing his album: recording the last track, getting CDs made, creating an album cover, packaging and distributing the record.
Money raised from the show will also go to the Fredericton Homeless Shelter.
“I guess it all depends on how much is needed for the recording. So whatever is left over, then that will go to the shelter as well,” Young said.
This upcoming show will be Kennedy’s first time performing in a while.
“I don’t have any gigs. With MS, I almost had to step back from the performing part of it because I don’t have the strength to carry gear or anything and set up and travel, so I had to maintain away from the stage,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy already has one album out, a gospel CD titled The Homeless Song which was released in 2017. And he already knows what he wants to record next after the folk album is complete – a children’s album, also with all original songs.
“You don’t need to make up hocus pocus things for children, they just need to be natural and simple and true.”
But for now, Kennedy’s excited to have this 34 year process completed.
“Once this project’s complete, then I can lay down the folk writer’s pin.”