by Rachel Swan
Two decades after Lompoc-raised soul artist Jerry Kennedy (aka J Soul) decided to use his sanctified Baptist choir voice to sing in a series of funky Southern California garage bands -- leading him to eventually cameo in En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" video, and form the successful funk outfit What It Is, for which he sang and played bass -- the singer is back to, as he puts it, "an earnest, honest, soul kinda thing." When What It Is dissolved in 2001, Kennedy -- who'd officially lived in the Bay four years by then, but spent most of that time on the road -- picked up a guitar and got back on his grind, performing on street corners all over town. "It was a personal choice," the artist said, adding that he wasn't down and out. "It was about growth and realizing where you are in your life, [and] not trying to keep a band together that wasn't practical. I was playing bass, went on to become a better guitar player."
People took note. After being discovered first by someone affiliated with Om Records, and then by fellow parents at his daughter's elementary school (who enjoined the singer to teach their children how to play ukulele), Kennedy landed on several projects, including Om's 2001 Pimp Recker compilation. He even cut a children's album called Jamming in C. The singer's current four-piece band comprises organist Steve Taylor, Mike Winar on guitar, and Anthony Woodhouse on drums. Check them out at Maxwell's on December 29, or visit Kennedy's site at Makin' Endz Meet Entertainment. And click here to stream "Back in the Ville."