With his Robert Plant good looks and alt-rock vocals, The Black Moods’ Josh Kennedy was bound to be a frontman.
National music magazines have picked up on Kennedy’s talents as well, choosing “Someone to Save Us,” the first single from the Tempe band’s debut album “Medicine,” as their hot picks.
“I’ve been doing interviews with people from the U.K. and all kinds of crazy stuff,” says Kennedy, who also plays guitar. “It’s been a trip, for sure.”
It’s about to get busier for The Black Moods, as “Medicine” is slated for release on Friday, October 14, on Another Century/Sony Music. The same night, the band will host a CD release party at Wasted Grain in Scottsdale. The trio—which also includes drummer Chico Diaz and bassist Johannes Lar, an Army combat vet—will spend Saturday, October 15, at Phoenix Children’s Hospital singing for kids and their parents.
“With us being such a part of the Phoenix scene, we wanted to do something like this,” Kennedy says. “We’ve done it before in Los Angeles. The kids have a good time and the parents have a good time, too.”
‘Meat and potatoes’
Kennedy calls “Someone to Save Us” a “straight-up rock song” that deserves to be heard.
“As far as the band goes, it represents everything we do,” he says. “I think it’s that song. It has all the elements. It’s raw. It has hooks. It has a pop element, as well as the standard meat and potatoes.
“We don’t play to tracks. It’s completely organic with us. There are three guys on stage playing rock songs. That’s it. We can do it anywhere.”
Kennedy was bred in the most unlikely of spots for a rock singer—Wheaton, Missouri, in the Ozarks, where his head was filled with Southern rock and country music. Wheaton has a population of only 700.
He found his calling when his dad summoned him to the living room to see a band that he liked.
“They didn’t have MTV,” he says. “This one day I was in my room playing and my dad says, ‘Hey Bub—he calls me Bub—come check out this band.’ It was the Gin Blossoms playing ‘Hey Jealousy’ on an awards show.”
Josh’s dad told him he could write music like that because it wasn’t virtuosic.
“I decided when I was 13 that I was going to play guitar for the Gin Blossoms,” he says. “On my 21st birthday, I was on tour with the Gin Blossoms. They invited me onstage and I got to play guitar.”
Flashback to when he was a teen, when he met the Gin Blossoms’ Robin Wilson, after a show with his side project Gas Giants.
“I was a super fan,” Kennedy says with a laugh. “I talked to him after the show. His advice? Go to college. He was playing 200-seaters to 50 people. Of course, I didn’t listen. I came out here. I found him playing Long Wong’s and I hit him up for a job. I worked at his studio.”
The Gin Blossoms have proven to be a huge influence on Kennedy’s songwriting.
“‘Someone to Save Us’ is an example of a song that has the Gin Blossoms kind of feel,” he says. “It also has a harder rock sound than those guys have.
“We take elements of stuff I grew up on—Bad Company, Led Zeppelin. I listen to them just as much as I did the Gin Blossoms.”
Now he has the jangly alterna-pop musicians’ phone numbers on speed dial.
“The 13-year-old me would be freaking out,” he muses.
On the business side, The Black Moods are influenced by local rocker Roger Clyne, who has hosted The Black Moods at his shows in Rocky Point.
“He brought us to Mexico and made us part of what he’s created, which we are super grateful for,” Kennedy says. “Initially, I went down by myself when he heard my record. He invited me to sing a song with him, me and the Peacemakers. Then, he invited us as direct support and we gained many fans from that.”
Music is all the trio does. When they return from touring, they get right back into their Tempe studio.
“Arizona’s my favorite place,” he says. “Out of all of the states we’ve been to, it’s worth coming back to Tempe, Arizona.
“Everything that’s happening leaves my head spinning a little bit—where is this going? Is it taking off? That’s part of the gig, though. You have to be willing to risk (relationships). You have to trust people, the people in your camp. We have it and it’s working. There’s no reward without risk.”
The Black Moods w/Black Bottom Lighters and Analog Outlaws, Wasted Grain, 7295 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, 480.970.0550, http://wastedgrain.com/portfolio-item/the-black-moods/, 9 p.m. Friday, October 14, $15-$25.