Neil Kennedy McConachie is a music producer and song ghostwriter. He is also a successful recording artist in his own right who releases music under the name Kennedy One. As a musician, Neil is known for creating emotive, downtempo electronic music, progressive house music, and melodic techno music.
Originally hailing from Ontario, Canada, Neil Kennedy McConachie has written and produced electronic music since he was 14 years old. For a period of time, Neil worked for the prestigious record label Sony Music. Since then, he has ghostwritten songs for a diverse clientele of recording artists from all over the globe, which has enabled his music to be heard worldwide.
Now based out of Dallas, Texas, Neil Kennedy McConachie is also the host of Dark City Radio, a weekly radio show that is heard domestically and internationally by 1.2 million listeners. It is syndicated to radio stations in 30 different countries, including the United States and many countries in Europe.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
As I was growing up, I was very into music. I played piano and guitar, and later I became more and more interested in the production side along with electronic music. I started writing some songs, got involved with some music libraries, and my music career sort of took on a life of its own. It was never something I sat down and thought about—it just happened.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Usually, I’ll get up and do something unrelated to work before I start the day. My mornings are typically a bit more focused on business-type tasks, then in the afternoon I tend to get into more creative elements like writing, editing, or mixing. Usually, I’ll stop around dinner time and be done for the day, but sometimes I’ll go back to it at night. For me, the night is a very creative period of time. I’ll just lock myself in the studio with some headphones on and try to inspire myself.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas come to me in a few different ways. They’ll come from a song I’ve heard or a piece of art I saw or just as a result of noodling around on the synthesizer. There’s no structure to the way my ideas evolve, so bringing them to life is a matter of capturing that first stage of the idea itself. From there, I put some structure around it and augment it with other instruments in order to give it another level of texture and make it more interesting. I’ll give it a day or two, then come back and add things that are missing or take away things that I don’t like, which usually pushes a song to about 70% or 80% completion. The most difficult part is tweaking that last 20%, which makes the difference between a song that’s polished and ready versus a song that’s not quite there yet and still needs minor adjustments and differentiations. Beyond that, the other important part of the equation is knowing when to stop and put a song out for public consumption. That’s harder than it sounds because I end up with all these songs on my hard drive that, in my mind, aren’t quite finished. And though I know a particular one may not be perfect in my mind, it still might be as refined as it’s going to get, and maybe I should release it. Whether writing my own stuff or ghostwriting, I always have to find that balance.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Social media is exciting, but there are two sides to it: On the one side, it lets people communicate with others around the world very quickly and honestly, but the other side of that is the need certain people have to try to game the algorithm or one-up the next person. It’s great if you can be honest and share what you’re doing so people can access your content and understand more about you as a person. However, it can quickly devolve into this continuous need for validation from other people which I don’t think is healthy. There’s this never-ending quest to prove that your life is more interesting than it is, so you’re always chasing ‘likes’ and plotting the next post to get more attention simply for the sake of getting more attention—not because you made something new and exciting to share. I’d like to see people engage with social media in a more healthy and sustainable way.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m task oriented, so I make lists of things I have to do. I’m pretty meticulous about that. That doesn’t mean I stick to the lists 100% of the time, but I do use them as a way to focus my efforts and make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. It also helps to dissuade me from getting distracted, and ensures that I’m always focused on my creative goals and other tasks that are important.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Enjoy life in the moment instead of always looking toward the future. Save more money and spend less. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take more calculated risks. Spend more time with the people that matter and less time with the people that don’t. Learn how to say no to things that you don’t want to do and that aren’t furthering your objectives.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Constantly reading and following the news is a complete waste of time and only perpetuates anxiety. It makes you think that you’re more in tune with what’s going on in the world and it helps you have great soundbites at parties, but it’s ultimately a waste of time. That isn’t to say that learning about history isn’t important, but the current news just sucks you in and you end up reading all this stuff that, for the most part, is just overly politicized and hyper-partisan. I’m not saying to ignore all the news, but I don’t think it’s useful to know exactly what’s going on in the world every moment of the day. Important information has a way of filtering down to everyone.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Set long-term objectives and view everything through the lens of whether it’s getting you closer to those objectives or not. You don’t have to be rigid in sticking with that set of objectives, but having them in mind does make the longer-term view clearer. Chasing short-term objectives can be more detrimental in the long run because, when you do that, you often lose track of the big picture. What really matters is trying to stay on track toward a destination; a place you’d like to be in life. Although you may not end up at that destination, by keeping your eye on the big picture you’ll find that the way you operate becomes more strategic in nature, as opposed to reactive.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
While it is important to enjoy what you do, you need to treat anything you are trying to do as a career as a business and not a hobby. You have to put in the work, but you need to be smart about it. It’s important to track the relevant business data; to understand what it is that you’re trying to do with the business; to measure how you’re achieving those objectives, and adjust your strategies based on that information. In my field particularly, I would also say it’s very important to be persistent. As a musician, you have to be okay with rejection because you’re going to hear the word ‘no’ a lot and you can’t let it weigh you down. Keep playing and creating music until you hear a ‘yes’ from someone. Go after the big things and be tenacious.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There was a point where I wasn’t being true to myself and creating music that was more geared towards hitting a volume objective. The music I was writing was very mechanical. I didn’t enjoy it, and I was miserable. The way I overcame that was by taking a step back and asking myself what I was doing. That’s when I got into ghostwriting which was mentally liberating because it let me be a little more creative.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This isn’t a good business idea at all. I tend to have terrible business ideas. But I’ve always wanted to create a hedge fund style algorithm that better informs trading decisions around the ups and downs of the stock market. This isn’t a novel idea and has been tried many times with middling success. But I’ve always thought it to be fascinating to perfect a technique that explains the herd mentality at play in the markets.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a bunch of vinyl albums by an artist named Nils Frahm. I intentionally got them on vinyl because it brings me a lot of enjoyment to put on a record and listen to something deeply and with purpose. It’s a nice way to disconnect from the world and that artist’s music is very introspective. It really resonates with me.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
There’s a piece of software called Cubase and it’s a digital audio workstation that I’ve used since I was young. It has evolved significantly over time, but that’s how I create everything and where it all comes together for me. I don’t think I could go one day without using Cubase.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant. The author’s name is Eric Jorgenson, but this book is all about the musings and ideas of Naval Ravikant. It’s got some great and simple lessons that anyone would do well to read a few times. I think Naval has a great balanced way of looking at the world, with topics ranging from how to make the most of your time and maximize how you think about commercial success and earning money. My favorite work of fiction is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller because it just cracked me up.
What is your favorite quote?
Ernest Hemingway once said, “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
- Create lists of tasks as a way to stay focused on what’s important.
- While social media is great, there is a steep down side to it.
- Treat your career as a business and focus intently on your objectives, but still make sure to enjoy what you do every single day.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.