Kevin Renick is a music teacher, songwriter, nature lover, and it all comes together in his performance work. He credits his interest in birding walks for many of his music successes.
“Wandering around in remote woodlands, vast fields, marshlands and river edges looking for birds gave me a very early appreciation for the diversity of the natural world and the notion of landscapes,” said Renick. “My interest as a youngster shaped my aesthetic in profound ways.
“When I turned 12, my interest in birds became so intense that my mom started looking for an organization I could join. She found the Webster Groves Nature Study Society,” said Renick. “I was the youngest kid to participate and I started going on their regular birding trips, an activity that changed the way I viewed the world, nature as a whole, and yes, music.
Renick said he loves walking in the woods and his birding expeditions. All of this gets sprinkled into his music, and it inspired his most famous song, “Up In The Air,” which was used for the 2009 George Clooney movie by the same name. It spells out a key influence for him:
“I’m out in the woods
Something here does my heart so good
I breathe the air and I know that I’m alive
And I stare at all the birds as they fly by
I guess it all comes down to them
Cause they’re up in the air.”
To Learn More About Kevin Renick, check out this story that appeared recently in the Webster-Kirkwood Times:
Fulfilling Their Dream
Songwriters at Meramec Produce Their Greatest Hits Album
Okay. So what if it hasn’t taken off like the “Eagles’ Greatest Hits” – a group of Meramec students are still flying high with their CD entitled, “Time To Write A Song.” It’s billed as a music album about love, death, bad drivers and existential issues.
The CD is the brainchild of Kevin Renick. His continuing education class at St. Louis Community College at Meramec in Kirkwood is titled: “Songwriting: The Art and Discipline.” Students learn that songwriting is an art, but it only happens with a little discipline.
“I start by telling my classes that to write songs you have to have something to say,” declared Renick. “Tell us lyrically and musically, why we should care. Don’t tell us you just found a new girlfriend.
Renick said that in his third year teaching the course, he realized that there was enough class talent to make a compact disc. He talked to Meramec administrators about helping fund the production of a CD.
They agreed it was a great way to showcase talent and add to the course with that “discipline” component. Students learned about deadlines, collaboration, booking studio time, packaging music and more.
“It was magical,” said Renick. “Everyone was respectful about what each student had to contribute. Some enrolled in the course several times to improve their music. One went onto Nashville to work in the music industry.
“As a teacher and a musician, I am very proud of what the students put together,” added Renick. “I’m tickled the first cut on the CD is called, ‘It’s Time To Write A Song.’ It’s always that time.”
A 1975 graduate of Kirkwood High School and 1983 graduate of Webster College, Renick always has had ambitions to write and play music. He did his first live gig at the old Grove Deli in Old Orchard in Webster in 2008.
Renick later achieved some fame in 2009 for writing the song, “Up In The Air.” The song played along with the credits for the Oscar-nominated movie by the same name, starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga.
The song for the film brought Renick plaudits from movie director Jason Reitman, international travel to help Paramount Pictures promote the film, and royalty checks on sales for his song.
Meramec Class Feedback
John Vullo of Affton, who has had a career teaching high school theater, said he took the Meramec class upon his retirement.
“I had some songs in my head and I wanted to pursue my songwriting interest,” said Vullo. “Kevin really made me feel like I could do it. He pumps everybody up. I’ve now taken his course three times. He’s made every class different and helpful.”
Vullo said part of the joy of learning is meeting new people with similar music interests. Caroline Steinkamp, a recent transplant to Nashville, Tenn., echoed that sentiment. She said that being in her 20’s, she wanted to meet creative people with life experience.
“I wanted to be with like-minded, creative people,” said Steinkamp. “I didn’t expect to be on a CD and doing concerts. Kevin bolstered my confidence and he’s probably the reason I am in Nashville now. I am working with people here on songs.”
Steinkamp hasn’t turned her back on the Gateway City. She will be back in St. Louis as “Bea James” opening up for the Grove Fest on Oct. 1. Janet Kraus is a collaborator on the CD with Steinkamp, Vullo, Lee LeBouf, Michael DeLeon, David Dimitry and Amelia Beckmann.
“It was quite amazing to end up on a CD and working with all these different people,” said Janet Kraus. “I started in choir in grade school and later learned to play some guitar for my friends and family. Nothing serious, though. That has changed some.
“Kevin is always encouraging that you can do more with your musical interest,” stressed Kraus. “A lot of people are just terrified of singing and playing music in front of people. Kevin helps people get over that terror and they make some new friends.”
Upcoming Music Gigs
Renick will teach the next round of “Songwriting: The Art and Discipline” at Meramec in the spring semester. The class has a limit of 15 and fills quickly. Renick has plenty of gigs on his acoustical plate until his class is offered again starting on Feb. 6.
The versatile artist plays guitar solo or in concert. This summer he played guitar and sang in a trio at venues like Boardwalk Waffles in Maplewood. On Sept. 18, at 2 p.m., he played with Denise Chappell at Good News Brewing in Defiance, Mo.
Next on the Renick tour circuit is Westport Playhouse, which has booked his Neil Young tribute band, Shakey Deal, to headline a concert on Friday, Nov. 4. He has booked two new shows in December: one at Johnny’s Hideout in High Ridge on Friday, Dec. 2. His Shakey Trio is slated Sunday, Dec. 18 1-4 pm at Lake Creek Winery near Marthasville.
“My tribute band to Neil Young plays some of his ‘Harvest Moon’ and ‘After the Gold Rush.’ Neil Young is my hero,” said Renick. “I do give his work a different twist, but I always honor the vibe.”
Renick will also perform “Up in the Air” at the Westport show and will acknowledge the 13th anniversary of the Clooney film’s premiere, which was in November of 2009. He has fond memories of his connection with the film.
“I invited my musician friend, Ted, from Webster College to go with me to promote UITA in Japan,” recalled Renick. “Ted Moniak has helped me with some of my dark and moody music. We had a good time in Japan along with Anna Kendrick.”
Renick said he used his journalism studies at Webster to great effect with the Japanese news media. He knew the “interview vibe” and he was succinct when he was asked about the film and what it was all about.
“I told them to always hold onto your friends and family,” said Renick. “They will get you through the hard times – and that is a consistent theme of the film.
“Also, if you lose your job and everything is up in the air, then turn to your life’s passion and do that,” said Renick. “Losing a job is not the end of the world, but not acting on your passion just might be.”