Big Kenny takes chance on reggae
THOUGH he grew up in the farmlands of Culpeper, Virginia, singer Big Kenny says his musical tastes were not limited to the country sounds the region is known for.
"We had AM radio that played everything... George Jones, The Beatles, Bob Marley. I listened to everything," he told the Sunday Observer.
Big Kenny is in Jamaica to film a music video for Hope Chance, a song he recorded with singer Ky-Mani Marley.
Hope Chance is among the first batch of recordings for Electro Shine, a project featuring an eclectic group of musicians including former Eurhythmics member Dave Stewart and country singer Megyn Mullins.
For 49-year-old Big Kenny — who has made a name in country music as part of the duo Big and Rich — working with Marley is an opportunity to "expand my art".
He says Electro Shine was conceived last year after he and Marley were introduced by a mutual friend.
Though their backgrounds are vastly different, Big Kenny says he and Marley share a musical vision.
"His message is one love, my family always said 'love everybody'. We both want to make music that will take everybody to a good place," he told the Sunday Observer.
Two of the places Marley and Big Kenny filmed Hope Chance are steeped in music history. The Tuff Gong studio is owned by Marley's family, while the Trench Town Culture Yard is where his father, Bob Marley, once lived.
Culpeper, Virginia where William Kenneth Alphin (Big Kenny's real name) was born is a totally different scene from Kingston's concrete jungle which inspired many of Marley's songs.
He started off as a solo act, recording a country album for the Los Angeles-based Hollywood Records in 1999 before striking up a fruitful partnership with singer Jim Rich as Big and Rich.
They recorded four albums for Warner Bros which sold over five million copies and spawned 10 hit songs on Billboard's country chart.
With the Electro Shine project, Big Kenny has also found kindred spirits with a conviction to "making music from the ground up".
"We're talking about real organic music...acoustic guitar, banjos, fiddles," he said. "It's about music without prejudice."