Eliot Kennedy, the mastermind behind pop’s hit parade has now penned, produced and performed his own album.
For the first time, the man famed in the music industry as the ‘songwriter to the stars’ is stepping into the spotlight with his own album, A Yacht Named Sue.
The first single from the album, My Destiny, a funky, up-tempo pop track was released on 16th October 2020. Cause UK secured BBC Look North TV coverage for the launch.
As well as high-energy pop, the track Don’t Raise Me Up is about the pain and heartache of his divorce. “It was a difficult song to write and difficult to sing, but it’s why it works. It’s full of emotion.”
Lockdown, introspection and the encouragement of his famous friends led to the ‘deeply personal’ first album, an experience Eliot described as ‘cathartic’.
“Not only am I singing,” Eliot said, “but the album has a lot of my life in it.”
“It seemed the right time. I’m capable of doing different styles of music – that’s been the best thing about my career working with so many diverse artists – but this is more about expressing myself. There’s a lot of self-reflection going on, being locked down.”
In the past quarter century, Eliot has written some of pop’s biggest songs.
Milestone hits, co-written with his longstanding song writing partner Bryan Adams, include Baby When You’re Gone featuring Mel C, the title song to Celine Dion’s massive album, Let’s Talk About Love, and Never Gonna Break My Faith with Aretha Franklin and Mary J Blige, which won a Grammy.
Never Gonna Break My Faith, originally written in 2006 for the film Bobby about Robert F. Kennedy, hit the number one spot on the Gospel Digital Song Sales chart in the States this July after being reclaimed by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Eliot said: “This song was written with an artist like Aretha in mind, though neither Bryan or I ever dreamed she would sing it. But she was quoted as saying it was the best lyric that she had read in over 20 years. That quote is going to go on my headstone! It has been the honour of my life to have written a song for the best voice that ever lived, and to have it re-released as an anthem of our times.”
Known for developing the careers of major boy and girl bands, Kennedy’s first no.1 hit was Take That’s Everything Changes, co-written with Gary Barlow. His first global hit was the Spice Girls’ Say You’ll Be There.
Eliot said: “Gary [Barlow] has been a big supporter on this. I’ve ran all the songs by him and he advises me on mixes. He’s been a real supporter throughout the whole process. The same for Bryan Adams. I’ve sent the songs to Bryan and he’s commented or critiqued them; he absolutely loves the single, My Destiny, he thinks it’s a smash. My closest allies are also my fiercest critics because I write with them both.”
A Yacht Named Sue is inspired by the Yacht rock genre from the mid-1970s and early ‘80s, epitomized by Hall & Oates, Foreigner and Michael Macdonald. The album name references the style of music and is homage to Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue. “It’s dedicated to all women in my life, both love and pain.” Eliot said.
“I love Michael MacDonald. People say I sound like him but that’s because he’s a hero of mine. As a famous backing vocalist, he’s sang on classic songs like Ride Like the Wind by Christopher Cross. His voice is everywhere, so he’s been a real influence on me as a songwriter and vocalist. I’ve sang on a lot of backing vocals on the records I’ve made for boybands, whether it be 911 or Boyzone. Being a singer has helped me as a producer to be able to get the vocal performance from an artist.”
Yacht rock and pop, Eliot said, was ‘the era when men were able to be sensitive about their feelings’.
“There were love songs from men who were vulnerable – ‘I want to know what love is!’ – All that stuff, men can cry too.”
It’s an influence seen in the tracks Eliot wrote for boy bands; songs that saw nations fall in love with Take That and their progeny.
Eliot has written and produced for S Club, Five, Blue and Billy Piper. Picture of You for Boyzone won an Ivor Novello. He also worked as a Talent Director on ITV’s The X-Factor, where he mentored finalists in the show, and has written smash-hit Broadway musicals.
He said: “I think a bit about the pressure of expectation but you know, I’m not trying to go out as a new young artist. This is me -the same person who has written all those songs for other people – I’ve just applied my talent as a songwriter to myself.”
He added: “I wanted though to make an album as an artist – to make the kind of music I want to make. It comes down to me. I’m the producer, I’m the writer but I’m also the artist, so I’ve got no excuses but to make a really great record.”
One of the biggest thrills for Eliot is A Yacht Named Sue will be available on vinyl.
“Growing up, the idea of having my own vinyl record was probably more of a dream than any of the big hits that I’ve ever had. It will be a real buzz to have something to show the grandkids one day and say, I made a record once.”
Kennedy is something of a big-hearted local hero; fans approach him on the streets of Sheffield thanks to his annual charity concerts in his hometown.
It was a moment during one such charity gig last year, to mark his 50th birthday, that encouraged him to step up with the album. Many of the famous singers he’s worked with turned up to perform his hits on the night.
“Gary Barlow was there,” Eliot recalled. “He called me afterwards and said look you’re missing a trick here, you’ve got a proper voice, you’re a real singer. Backstage there was Mark Owen, Alfie Boe, Kenny Thomas, a couple of others. Gary told me Alfie turned round and said, ‘who’s singing here?’ And Mark said, it’s Eliot! Alfie didn’t know I was a singer. Gary told him, ‘Oh you need to strap in for this’. So they watched from the side of the stage, and Gaz said he was blown away.”
It’s not surprising then, that the songwriter’s first album is hugely anticipated by the music industry, endorsed by some of its biggest stars.
The album launch for a Yacht Named Sue will be in January 2021.
About Eliot Kennedy – composer, songwriter, record producer
Sheffield-based Eliot Kennedy is a Grammy and Ivor Novello award winner, Golden Globe Nominee and the co-writer with Gary Barlow of the hit Broadway musical Finding Neverland, as well as an A list film score composer on both sides of the Atlantic.
Eliot’s first No 1 was Take That’s Everything Changes which he co-wrote and co-produced with Gary Barlow which started their long running song-writing partnership. In 2012 they co-wrote, and Eliot produced, that year’s biggest selling single Sing, the official song for the Diamond Jubilee. They co-wrote songs for ITV’s Britannia High series for which Eliot also scored all of the episodes.
His first global success was the Spice Girls single Say You’ll Be There. He’s also had major hits as writer/producer with Celine Dion, Boyzone, Blue, S Club 7, Five, Billie Piper, Atomic Kitten, Bryan Adams and Take That. He and Bryan co-wrote Mel C’s hit When You’re Gone.
Eliot won the Grammy for Never Gonna Break My Faith, performed by Aretha Franklin and Mary J Blige for multi-award-winning feature Bobby and was beaten by Prince for the Golden Globe that year. His Ivor Novello was for Boyzone’s Picture Of You. He won Canada’s Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year jointly with Bryan Adams for their song When You’re Gone and the two of them were nominated for the Critic Choice Award for Never Let Go which featured in the movie The Guardian. In New York Finding Neverland won the Broadway.com Best Musical award and also Best song for Believe.