Kirby Farineau: Student, Musician, Journalist

February 14, 2015

If you don’t know him by his long, blonde, and–far from dreaded but still unkempt–hair, you will recognize senior Kirby Farineau by his voice.

It fills up a room. His opinions on this year’s Oscar nominations echo through the breezeway, the band room, your Stats class. If you listen, and even if you don’t really, you are able to hear, loud and clear, how much Farineau despises The Hobbit and how much he loves Whiplash. You’ll hear him walking through the hallways strumming his ukulele, playing a song you don’t know. Kirby Farineau might come in for an interview with you wearing a bowler hat, and he is such an eclectic human being that you’re really not sure if it’s for Model Congress, or if it is because he wears a bowler hat casually.

But while you can flounder your way through a conversation about movies, or what Farineau exclusively refers to as “films,” you will find yourself hardly keeping up while he starts to begin on music. Mention jazz to Farineau and you will find yourself glued to a chair for most of long lunch, learning from Farineau about who some of jazz’s greatest underground gods really were, what skiffle jazz is and why Tom Waits is so incredible. Consequently, you will discover how little you know about basically anything, at least compared to Kirby Farineau.

“Music started for me in the car seat,” Farineau said. “My parents played me Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell.” His first favorite band was The Who, where ours were Hilary Duff, or Foo Fighters because our moms would never stop playing it on the radio while we were growing out of our light-up sneakers.

Last year, he asked me what kind of music I was into and I panicked and told him “Johnny Cash” because the last song I had listened to was “A Boy Named Sue” and to my utter delight, it was the right answer. And there he went, fervently admiring Johnny Cash and offering small anecdotes about his life: did I know June Carter was actually his second wife, did I know Cash sang to the inmates in Folsom Prison, did I know about his addiction to amphetamines?

I didn’t.

“The real thing that developed my musical taste was not one person. My parents, my sister, my friends were all big influences. I was influenced by a whole group of people sharing cool music with each other.” Farineau said most of the music he has been exposed to can be accredited to others, and has given him a “broad musical taste.”

Just as music started for him in the car seat, writing started for him just as he got out of it. He began writing fiction in elementary school at Covenant. “I loved reading. I loved my cheesy superhero comics. I took in as much culture as I possibly could,” Farineau said. “I just wanted to put down my interests and ideas into words, as I think all writers do.”

This past summer, Farineau was able to combine his love of music and writing and use it to create articles.

Although he has previously dabbled in critical reviews through different mediums–namely his YouTube channel and his website–he was able to get an assignment with a music review website called Bluegrass Today. It took him and his father, Milo Farineau, a professional music photographer, IT contractor, and past-Volkswagen bus owner, to the Red Wing Roots festival in Mount Solon, Virginia.

Here, Farineau “talked to a lot of musicians,” got press coverage and a badge, and interviewed an artist that will be performing at The Jefferson on April 10, Larry Keel, “a very good friend of mine. I love him to death. He’s possibly one of the greatest guitarists you’ll ever meet.”

He sat down with Pokey LaFarge, an American folk singer whose style Farineau called “old rootsy, ‘20’s, skiffle jazz.” He was pulled onto a tour bus to interview the lead singer of the bluegrass/folk-rock band Trampled by Turtles, Dave Simonett. “After the interview, he told me ‘that was good, you actually did your research. That makes you better than about 95% of the interviews I’ve had.’”

“Interviewing these artists, to see where it comes from, is kind of surreal,” Farineau said. He’s been seeing live music since he was five, he said, and been going to music festivals since he was in middle school. He’s been part of “this extended, hippie family, this festival family” but his new journalistic assignments allow him to see the reverse side of that, and interact with the artists.

Farineau sat down with a few artists from the No BS Brass Band in Richmond on Feb. 7. He and his father attended their concert to review the Richmond-native 11-piece music group: 10 horns and a drummer. No BS was accompanied by the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and the concert featured the Dukes of Dixieland, which he described as a “40-year old New Orleans, Mardi Gras, dixie jazz group” and others described as “trumpet-y.” Farineau’s article on this event was picked up by a music reviewing website called Cosmic Vibes that also published his piece on Larry Keel.

Farineau plans to attend college next year, pursuing the same thing. “I’ve been accepted into four universities so far. In each one I checked off Journalism. I’m really trying to do that next year. I’m trying to go where the music is.” His bowler hat and his band t-shirts will go with him.

Kirby’s work, accompanied by his father’s photography, can be found on Bluegrass Today and Cosmic Vibes.

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