Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase Cletus Kennelly

Washington, D.C.-based Cletus Kennelly is an award-winning songwriter whose music blends contemporary urban folk with elements of melodic pop and alternative rock. He accompanies his clear, passionate vocals with both the power and the delicacy of his 12-string guitar. His songs create vivid character portraits as they explore the gamut of human emotions, while using phonetic phrasing and word-play to accompany his rhythmic and percussive style of guitar playing.

In the songs, we hear observations about life and humanity, some social commentary, and most of all we meet real people-- some actual, some fictional, but all real. "Some of the best feedback I've received", says Cletus, "has been when someone has said, 'I feel like that song was about me', or about someone else in their lives." "But", Cletus continues, "poignant lyrics with a forgettable melody or groove often don't get heard, because people haven't been drawn into the song. And, for me, it's boring to perform a song like that. I think a songwriter needs to draw people into a song with the music, to invite them to listen to the lyrics. Once they're in, you can tell your story."

"Songs are never background sound to me. When I have music on, I listen to it. I can't help it. I love being engaged by music, I always have. So when I write, I try to write songs that engage me. Many songs I have written remain unfinished or unperformed simply because they don't engage me enough.

I love powerful lyrics, but I'm also engaged by the sounds of words. I can be pulled into a song well before I know what the lyrics are saying. I'm drawn in by the phonetics, or by the chords, the groove, the rhythm, the instrumentation, the passion of the vocals. There's a lot going on in a song."

Cletus' songs are highly crafted, alert and contemplative. Several of his songs have received recognition in various songwriter contests, including a 2nd Place Award in the 1999 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, a 2nd Place Award in the 1997 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, a 3rd Place Award in the 1998 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, a 4th Place Award in the 1995 Louisville Area Songwriter Competition, and a Semifinalist Award in the 1996 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest. The range of categories in which he has received awards (Folk, Pop, Modern/Alternative, Adult Contemporary, and Rock) displays the stylistic breadth of his music. Perhaps his greatest honor was being selected to perform at Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center Millennium Stage (Labor Day, 1999). After success as a songwriter, Cletus began working with guitar legend Pete Kennedy, releasing a self- titled seven-song recording . After that, he followed up with his debut CD Thread, which along with Pete Kennedy, was produced by Washington Area Producer of the Year Marco Delmar. The CD, released in July 2000, features some of the D.C. area's finest musicians and songwriters, including Pete and Maura Kennedy, Lea, Morgan Rowe, Richard 'Dahl, Ray Ruskin, and drummer Tamir Eid (formerly of the band emmit swimming).

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