Published May 01. 2014 4:00AM
You've got to assume a few things about any young couple that would travel 500 miles to Lubbock, Texas, on their first date - just to see Buddy Holly's grave.
One: they're definitely music fans.
And two: if each comes 500 miles from a different direction, they must have some instinctual idea that they're truly meant for each other.
That's how it went down, two-plus decades ago, for Maura Boudreau and Pete Kennedy. Maura drove northwest from Austin; Pete southeast from Telluride, Colorado. They'd actually met and immediately hit it off a few days before when a mutual friend introduced them. Maura, a rock guitarist/vocalist, was living in Austin at the time, while multi-instrumentalist Pete was passing through town as a member of songwriter Nanci Griffith's band.
So, yes, they were both professional musicians.
By now, the duo has been married 20 years and recorded and toured together as the Kennedys for a million miles and 12 albums - including "Evolver," "River of Fallen Stars," "Better Dreams" and their latest studio effort, 2012's masterpiece, "Closer to You." Though they originally worked the folk circuit, the Kennedys from the word go infused classic power pop - recalling artists such as the Byrds, the Beatles, Holly, Cheap Trick, Marshall Crenshaw and REM - into the folkie architecture.
Each Kennedy has released solo albums, as well - Pete's brand-new "Tone, Twang & Taste" explores pre-rock 'n' roll electric guitar music - and they also record and perform with an all-star assemblage called the Strangelings that's inspired by British folk-rock acts like Fairport Convention.
On Friday, the Kennedys headline the latest presentation by Friday Night Folk, taking place in New London's All Souls Church.
Last week, Maura Kennedy spoke by phone from the couple's apartment in New York City. Here are excerpts.
On the similarities between "Evolver" and "Closer to You" - both of which are probably the most overtly pop records they've made:
"It's a funny connection. We don't have a formula for songwriting. Sometimes we write together and sometimes each of us will bring in songs separately. For 'Evolver,' Pete had gone in the studio and recorded some ideas - sketches of music rather than 'this is the verse, this is the chorus, this is the bridge.'
"Then I went in a wrote melodies and words to different sections. And we hadn't done that again until 'Closer to You.' The difference this time is that we'd just gotten back from France, where we were listening to a lot of Impressionistic music like Debussy and Ravel. I asked Pete, 'Can you use a lot of those chords and those approaches to structure?' He went in the studio and did it - and it was a wonderful challenge for me to fit melodies and words into these very different and complex arrangements. (She laughs.) My approach is to pick up a guitar and play a D chord. That's the beauty of writing with another person you know really well - and I think we have a very creative comfort zone."
On how to determine which project or group gets priority at any given time:
"We have so much going on in our brains all the time. That's one reason record labels don't stay with us. We have music going on in so many different styles that it confuses them. I think they'd rather we stay safe and predictable and release an album every two years.
"Pete's new album, for example, explores all kinds of pre-rock electric guitar. We could put one or two on a Kennedys album, but that wouldn't get across what that music means to Pete. And with the Strangelings, we all are fascinated with the whole British folk-rock scene from Fairport Convention through (songs like) 'Mattie Groves.' We want to consciously write songs that sound like that. So, basically, we have a lot of ideas and interests, so why not explore?"
On the longevity and evolution of being in a duo when you're married to the other musician:
"When we first started, we just wanted to be on the road together. And we've been touring almost continually - 20 years now - the whole time. It's a landmark chunk of time, but it sure didn't seem that long. Nowadays we go to Europe more because we've traveled the U.S. so much. Overseas they haven't heard our old jokes. I think we're gotten really good at bringing energy and suspending a crowd's disbelief - and it's amazing how much a crowd can still energize us. The only difference is the aches and pains! Didn't used to have those. Oh, and we still sing to each other. Every day."
The Kennedys, 7 p.m. Friday, Unity Hall, All Souls Church, 19 Jay St., New London; Friday Night Folk; $20 door, $17 advance, $10 students with ID; (860) 443-0316, fridaynightfolk.org.