Grammy Award nominated singer/songwriter Mary Ann Kennedy has worked with some amazing music icons including Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, Garth Brooks and Sting. As far back as she can recall, music and horses have been a part of her world. Mary Ann’s career hasn’t slowed down but her passion for all animals has truly been a reward to her fans. Some of her recent music include “The Trail Less Traveled”, “Hoofbeats, Heartbeats and Wings”, “Who Saved Who” and “The Rhythm of the Ride” which was inspired by Natural Horsemanship.
Tell us how your passion for horses first started?
I’ve always had two passions; music and horses, and that has never changed. I am originally from Muskego, Wisconsin and my Mother was very musical. We started playing at county fairs. If I wasn’t singing and playing guitar, making up songs or practicing with my cousin, Randy, for our family band “The Country Cousins”, I was running around with the animals and riding: first ponies, then horses. I always felt blessed to have been born with such passionate interests. I never had to “wonder” or search for my bliss. I’m grateful for that!
Any “first horse” stories you can share?
Since I started performing at a young age, I was able to save some money. When I was 12, I begged for my own horse. My Mother grew up on a farm so she understood. Looking back, owning a horse was the “pull and grounding” that I came to recognize as my truth. Life on the road is not easy and is very demanding. I travel months at a time and always am drawn back to my animals.
Your first solo CD “The Trail Less Traveled” was inspired after losing 2 of your animal soul mates; Tonka, a black & white Tennessee Walking horse, and your dog Choy. Can you describe that period of your life and why you were moved to write an entire CD about these special animals.
My musical partner, Pam Rose, and I had the wonderful opportunity to join Emmylou Harris as her harmony singers. The sound we developed came to be known as Kennedy-Rose, and we were fortunate enough to be heard by Sting. He signed us to his Pangaea record label where we wrote and produced 2 CDs and toured with him. It was during this time that I dreamed of making music for horse lovers. After the 8 week tour with Sting, I came home to meet Tonka, my 2 day-old newborn colt I raised. When Tonka and Choy passed within 4 days of each other, through my grief, losing them inspired a whole new musical chapter in my life. Death and rebirth, the circle of life…it is amazing and I continue to be grateful.
You and Emmylou Harris share a compassion for dogs and dog rescue. On your website Ms. Harris offers a testament for your music and says, “We share a passion for music, and have been fortunate enough to make our “living” at it. But, we also share another passion, a deep love for animals, all animals and especially the ones who have graced our lives by their presence in our lives. Thanks to Mary Ann, we now have a soundtrack for the journey.”
Emmylou is a legend and a heroine of mine. When Pam Rose and I first auditioned as Emmylou’s back-up singers, I just knew we would get the job! She auditioned hundreds of singers but we had been influenced by her music, so I knew she would respond to our audition. That was the beginning of our long 25 year old friendship. We’ve done some heavy touring together, and share a love for all animals. Emmylou and I know that through the love of our animals – we know about unconditional love. Emmylou dedicated a song to “Bella”, her big black dog.
You have continued to write music for animals lovers, so you must continue to be inspired?
I am inspired everyday by little girls wanting their first horse, by blue heeler dogs who we love – but they drive us crazy! I believe people who love horses are of the same “tribe” and are all kindred spirits.
You wrote the song “Rhythm of the Ride” – the theme song for Road to The Horse. How did that come together?
The song is the journey inspired by Natural Horsemanship and taught by gifted horsemen like Ray Hunt, Pat Parelli and Buck Brannaman. They teach the language of the horse. I called Kate Riordan who worked for Pat Parelli and told her about The Trail Less Traveled and Pat said he would listen to it. I wasn’t sure if he was familiar with my work so I told him I was a professional music artist and wanted to share the song. Since no one had done anything like this before, I have to thank many professionals in the horse business who were moved by my music enough to get the ball rolling. Along the way, my relationship with the Parelli’s grew and our friendship developed. In 2010,Tootie Bland asked me to perform At ROAD TO THE HORSE, and also asked me to write a theme song for the ROAD. It is on my Holiday CD release “THIS LOVE OF HORSES”.
Tell us about any special horses in your life now?
I was blessed to own a horse named Rio, who just passed away this summer. He taught me so much. I trim all of my 9 horses and learned a lot more, thanks to Rio. He truly helped me understand “the horse” from the inside out. Rio is on the cover of my CD “Hoofbeats, Heartbeats and Wings”. He was a grey horse who developed cancer melanomas. The tumors grew fast and changed his sweet personality. I think about him all the time – how much he meant to me and how much he taught me.
For more information or to purchase Mary Ann Kennedy music www.maryannkennedy.com A portion of the proceeds go to rescue groups.