|"Physician-Musician on a Mission" Kenny Davin Fine at Will Rogers Memorial Park|
Kenny Davin Fine
At Will Rogers Memorial Park
9650 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills
“I believe that there’s a creative revolution going on, and in the future, it’s not going to be rare that a doctor is a musician. People are going to say, ‘What instrument do you play? Because I want to go to a doctor who plays trombone because I play trombone.’ This is a paradigm that will catch on and be more acceptable,” expresses singer-songwriter, musician and medical doctor Kenny Davin Fine.
With Brian May of Queen attaining a PhD in astrophysics, Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin a zoology PhD and Dexter Holland of the Offspring studying molecular biology as just a few examples, it is indeed becoming more common for musical artists to also be scientists. Kenny, who refers to himself as a “Physician-Musician on a Mission,” entered medical school at age 17 but at the same time harbored a passion for music and singing, and he has spent over a decade traveling across the country, dedicated to utilizing both his creative and academic fields of specialty for the greater good.
“I consider myself a missionary of goodness. I do what I do to help and heal people, represent God and inspire people to a better life, whatever that means to them. Going on the road to the people makes more sense than being in an office and having people come to me,” he says. “I understand it it probably has some deep metaphysical purpose: Spiritually inclined people often travel because they’re seeking, climbing mountains, trying to go higher and be helpful. I used to think you had to go to a Third World country to be a missionary, but there are plenty of people to mission to right here.”
While Kenny’s home base is technically Dallas, Texas, he crisscrosses the United States in an RV to lead health seminars and perform shows with his band, the Tennessee Texans, and lands in Southern California at least twice a year. He meets me on a sunny day at one of his usual haunts whenever he is recording music in Los Angeles, Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills. We talk about his two career paths, his latest album, Brand New Road, that released last month and, since we’re in a park dedicated to him, Will Rogers.
“I’m from Missouri, which is next to Oklahoma, Will Rogers’ home state. I guess he was named the first ‘Honorary Mayor’ of Beverly Hills,” informs Kenny. “My uncle, who is a doctor too, lives in the Palos Verdes area, and my first trip out here was when I was 16, driving his car with my brother from St. Louis. My dad didn’t like to drive long distances and we didn’t have enough money to fly, so we only went to places you could drive to in four or five hours. When my brother and I drove out to California along Route 66 [aka Will Rogers Highway], the first mountain I ever saw was in Albuquerque. I’ve been coming out here to work on my music since I started recording in 2002 and make at least one trip a year out here.”
Like Kenny, Rogers spent time traveling the states on lecture tours. His memorial park in Beverly Hills has become a frequent place for this wandering troubadour to visit ever since he started recording with producer Michael Lloyd (Dirty Dancing soundtrack, Leif Garrett, the Osmonds) at his nearby studio.
“I first Michael when I started promoting in Nashville. We tracked our first album together [2014’s Son of the Heart] at the Village in West L.A. and did the vocals and mixing at his studio. Then we tracked and did the whole production for Brand New Road at Michael’s studio,” recalls Kenny. “In L.A., I never drive in rush hour, so if we finished at 6 p.m., I would park here in the shade, walk my dogs around and hang out in the park. I got to know most of the area, where to find Whole Foods, and a friend works at Amoeba Music, so I visit her a lot. I can only take the energy of the Hollywood scene for 24 to 36 hours, then I go out to Venice Beach to take a break, and parking an RV there is pretty commonplace. Another thing that sends me to Venice is when I’m recording vocals and I’m in the city for too many days in a row, I start to get an element in my voice that’s undesirable from the pollution. I go to Venice or drive up to Oxnard for a few days just to get near the ocean and clear out the crud.”
Since he was a football and baseball player in high school, Kenny has always worked out and lifted weights. He remembers wanting to visit Muscle Beach in Venice when he came here as a young man.
“I wanted to go to Muscle Beach to show off! Now I do pull ups and dips anywhere I can find a tree branch, pull up bar or children’s playground,” he laughs. “My favorite thing about Los Angeles is going to farmers’ markets. I have an organic food business, the Organic Alternative, and have been eating a raw food diet for over 20 years.”
When he’s not perusing a farmers’ market, in the studio with Michael Lloyd or decompressing on a beach, Kenny is at his uncle’s home in the Palos Verdes Mountains where he likes to walk in the hills. He also likes to hike off of Mulholland Drive or in the San Gabriel Mountains.
His uncle has actually been a bit of an influence on Kenny.
|Kenny at Michael Lloyd's studio|
“He is an esteemed surgeon but used to be an actor and singer. he used to be the lead in his college musicals, and is a very charismatic, intelligent guy. If he’s in a room, his presence is well known, and I’m more subtle,” he reveals. “It’s more of an ironic parallel since we were both cantors (as were his father, brother and my father’s grandfather). He did leave me with some incentive to sing in synagogues, and that’s where I started singing publicly. I think of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, the top voices in the world and how they started in churches and relate to that. Had I not done that in a synagogue, in a way that I could tell how my voice could uplift people, connect me with God and be something special, I probably wouldn’t have pursued it so strongly in the world. There’s an element to that as your core seed. My guess is that they [Franklin, Gaye] would never stop identifying as a gospel, spiritual singer.”
Kenny is the only musician in his immediate family, and although he took piano and violin lesson as a youngster, he didn’t get into music until middle school or seek out an instrument on his own until his late teens.
“I’m Jewish, and if you’ve ever heard the cliche about Jewish mothers and their son the doctor, we were groomed to be these professionals from a young age and get good grades. In about sixth grade, I found music and read books on the history of rock and artists of my day, as well as the past. At the end of high school is when I started to aspire to sing. I teamed up with another football player and baseball player, and we did a tryout for a talent show [performing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’]. We didn’t get the gig because I was shy and embarrassed, looking at the floor, even though I could sing well,” he confesses. “When I went to med school, something told me that I need to be playing an instrument. I walk to this music store two miles from my dorm freshman year to buy an instrument and came home with a harmonica. I started playing guitar the year after med school on a very serendipitous day when I was getting some tires changed at a Good Year that was next to a used guitar store.”
He took a few lessons that came with the purchase of his guitar but mainly learned chords on his own and various tunes from songbooks. After watching a rerun of the old “Ed Sullivan Show,” Kenny wrote his first piece, a love song.
A fan of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Kenny prides himself on also being a harmonica-guitar player. He also calls his Tennessee Texans his Crazy Horse.
“Neil Young’s an all-out electric guitar rocker and also an acoustic, folk and harmonica player – and that’s how I see myself. If I’m solo then it’s going to be harmonica and acoustic guitar, but I like to rock it out and play with my band just as much. The Tennessee Texans are my Crazy Horse or like Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band. I identify with Seger’s singing style, songwriting, attitude. He was also a little older than the norm when he hit with the Live Bullet album,” he says. “I named the band that because the guys come from Memphis, Nashville and Dallas, so Texas and Tennessee. One of my friends who lives in Tennessee noted that when Texas was fighting the Mexican army at the Alamo, men from Tennessee, including Davy Crockett, volunteered to go down to help save the Alamo, which they didn’t, but there is this connection between Tennessee and Texas. My band’s name doesn’t have any deep connection to that, but I like the idea. In my song ‘The Ballad of the Tennessee Texans’ – which came out of a soundcheck in Nashville one night – I knocked off a little bit of a line from a song called ’T for Texas’ that goes ‘Give me a T for Texas, give me a T for Tennessee.’ In my song, it’s ‘Give me a big fat T for Texas, from Tennessee we get around,’ so I guess there has always been this T for Texas, T for Tennessee connection.”
After relaxing for a bit on a bench next to the water fountain/turtle pond at Will Rogers Memorial Park, we decide to head over to visit Michael Lloyd at his studio. Kenny notes the beautiful blue sky and trees, telling me that “in Beverly Hills, each block was meant to have its own type of tree. One block has pine trees, another block as palm trees and so on.”
Lloyd is working on a project for the Beach Boys’ Mike Love when we step into his studio, but graciously takes some time to show me around his board and system. Kenny grabs his guitar and debuts a brand new song, “All the Girls I Meet Are Librarians,” for us. As his clear, strong voice fills the studio, a few statements he made to me in the park flow back into my head.
“Singers sing for the same reason birds sing, because they were made by God to sing and it’s their purpose. If somebody’s a singer they have to sing. If they don’t professionally, they sing in the shower or while walking. I do it because I’m inclined, programmed to and always willing to do what I’m inclined to do as somebody created by God. But I have chosen to continue to seek both of roads of music and science, whereas many people leave one behind. I was a medical professor, but I could tell things were starting to change in my life. I got divorced, and things were turning upside down. It was no longer acceptable that I just sing in my living room, I have to sing for other people. It’s all about creativity,” he concludes. “I’m reading an interesting book by Amit Goswami, a physicist who is now a creativity scientist, called Quantum Creativity, and this is really what I am. Common physics is about the multitude of possibilities, how to allow so many possibilities to exist, and I know how to do that. If somebody says, ‘Anything is possible,’ then you know they are thinking in a quantum way: unlimited, sky’s the limit.”
Brand New Road is currently available. For more information, visit kennydavinfine.com.