Before the tours of Europe, before the packed out festival tents, before performing at SXSW, before Soft Boy Records, Kean Kavanagh wasn’t following his creative instincts. He always wanted to make music, but it took a long time for him to develop the confidence to allow himself to tread that path.
“I really didn’t know anyone from my town who went off and tried that, so it just seemed natural to go to college and study something as a backup. But I didn’t have too many lectures and I just filled my time with studying music and learning how to produce and record my songs.”
Moving up to Dublin from Portlaoise, Kean studied Law in the hallowed halls of Trinity College, eventually going on to work as an intern at a Firm. But the 9-to-5 didn’t sit with him, there was something burning up inside. The tie began to loosen.
“I found it very, very difficult personally because I felt like a fraud in there for not following my own instincts and having a go at what I really wanted to be doing. It did nobody any good for me to be there without passion and intention, so I left.”
It’s been a full-time love affair, with all of its dizzying highs and humbling lows, ever since.
For a period Kean was content with pulling strings behind the scenes at Soft Boy Records. Producing music for the artists, serving as the label’s A&R, and DJing for the imprint’s poster boy and fellow founder Kojaque, he was a key cog in Soft Boy’s early success. Festival crowds would get a taste of his talent when he’d venture out from behind the decks to perform his and Kojaque’s track ‘Eviction Notice’, a cut that is right now tipping 3million streams on Spotify alone.
But Kean Kavanagh’s talent would soon take centre stage.
At the tail end of 2018 Kean released his first ‘official’ solo track, “Coca Cola Sky”, a debut that set the beautifully flaked-out bar for all the music to come.
His body of work to-date, charming live performances and hard graft has led him to being on stage, either solo or with his long-time collaborator Kojaque, at Glastonbury, Electric Picnic, Other Voices, All Together Now, supporting slowthai on a UK and Irish tour, as well warming up for Lana Del Rey in front of 20,000 people in Dublin.
His solo support slots include accompanying Maverick Sabre on a number of dates, as well as for Vampire Weekend at last year’s Irish outdoor show in Trinity College (something of a homecoming at the university he attended at what seems like a different lifetime ago).
This year Kean appeared on the Everything is Recorded project ‘FRIDAY FOREVER’ alongside Aitch, Flohio, Maria Somerville, Ghostface Killah and others. His collaborative track ‘Whitney’ with Kojaque and Matt Finnegan was also featured on ‘Gangster Music Vol. 1’, a record that had contributions from the likes of Father, Jonwayne and Kaytranada, further solidifying just how sought after he is as a songwriter.
‘Dog Person’ is the deserved culmination of a whirlwind few years for Kean. His debut project features his semi-fictional, cigarette-bumming, binge-drinking, lovestruck alter-ego. A persona with just an echo of his real personality reverberating throughout the record.
“Before any of the songs were written I knew I was going to call the album ‘Dog Person’… That just cracked me up. It was funny to think of this demented half-dog, half-person… But then that led me to this character, this shittier version of myself. The procrastinating side of me. The side of me out drinking to get away from that. I liked the idea of that duality, that Jekyll & Hyde situation.”
“Everything on the project applies to me, but an exaggerated version. It’s very freeing to create a character and not have to feel defined by the themes of your own music.”
The project is a dream-like odyssey into melancholy, humour and the mundanity of life, with Kean’s tongue planted firmly in his cheek along the way.
Nearly entirely sef-produced and composed by Kean, he does lean on some familiar Soft Boys for the finishing touches. Peter Bríen lays down piano and extra synths on ‘Sideways’, while producing ‘EMMA’ too. Another label favourite Wastefellow lends his keen ear to the project, mixing the majority of the tracks.
The forthcoming record is set to be released on Soft Boy Records, an imprint that Kean and Kojaque decided to form as a means to release their music back in 2015. In five short years it has morphed into a cultural behemoth that gripped the Irish music scene and has refused to let go. Its influence has infiltrated every genre of music in Ireland, particularly hip hop, mutating all preconceived notions of what rap in Ireland should look and sound like. The label was subsequently the focus of a Boiler Room documentary in 2019, ‘Soft Boy Forever: An Irish Hip Hop Story’ leading to an hour-long Soft Boy gig streamed as part of Boiler Room’s festival in London later that year. The film is a fascinating insight into a story of friendship and doing it yourself. It’s a tale that transcended borders, detailing how Kean and Kojaque fostered a community of boundary-pushing creators, with the pair serving as the crew’s adopted fathers.
‘Dog Person’ will be released on [DATE] via Soft Boy Records, and it’s set to be a defining moment for an artist who has bubbled up from the underground on his own back.
Today, Kean Kavanagh has shared his highly anticipated debut project - Dog Person. The 10-track collection is a dream-like odyssey into melancholy, humour and the mundanity of life, with Kean’s…Read More
Kean Kavanagh returns with his new single “Emma”. A developed sound from his previous single ‘Roll Over!’ - the single delves deeper into Kean’s incredible versatility as an artist -…Read More