"The Trail Less Traveled" – A Straight-From-the-Heart New Music CD by Mary Ann Kennedy

Mary Ann Kennedy’s first solo CD,
" The Trail Less Traveled"

We at NHM had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mary Ann Kennedy, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, about her life, her career, her animals, and her new CD. Thank you, Mary Ann!

THE TRAIL LESS TRAVELED: Music from the heart about the animals we love

I have 2 passions in my life. The love of horses, and animals, and the love of music. “The Trail Less Traveled” embraces them both. My two soul animals - my dear pug, Choy, and the colt I raised, Tonka - shared a birthday on May 16th. Choy was 15 years old and Tonka 9 when their souls flew away together in August 2000. Through my deep grief, little did I know that they would inspire a whole new chapter in my life. I began writing songs about them and the other animal loves of my life. Death and rebirth, the circle of life … it is amazing and I continue to be grateful. They are now my angels, they're “not really gone”.
- Mary Ann Kennedy

When and how did you start your music career?
I was in family bands in Wisconsin when I was growing up. After graduating with a degree in music ed and teaching choral music for 2 years in Wisconsin, I moved to Nashville in 1978 to pursue my singing and songwriting career.

Mary Ann Kennedy
Photo by Kye Fleming

Were there any people in particular who inspired you?
I guess the Beatles and Tammy Wynette were 2 big influences.

What was your first success in songwriting?

After being in Nashville for 3 years, I had my first big single by a new act named Lee Greenwood. He recorded a song I co-wrote called “Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hands” and it was a top 5 record. At the same time, I was part of a band on Columbia records called “Calamity Jane”. That all happened pretty fast; I was blessed with success.

How has your new CD, “The Trail Less Traveled”, been received?
Again, Blessed is the word. I was moved to write this project after losing a beloved horse, Tonka, and my dear pug, Choy, at the same time 2 years ago. I was encouraged my by peers to complete the project and share it with other animal lovers. I seem to have put to music the joy, love, and feelings of loss we all feel about our beloved animals. I am amazed at the stories that folks share with me about their animals and experiences.

What songs are on the CD, and what are the songs about?
Well, there are 11 songs on the CD, so I won’t name them all, but, the title cut “The Trail Less Traveled” honors the horse, and talks about natural horsemanship - speaking the language of the horse. A main line in the song is “it takes a wise man to understand, that strength lies in a gentle hand”. Another cut is “I Wish I Had A Horse”, which is something I wrote in my fifth grade notebook. I said, “I wish I had a horse of my very own, if I did, I would name him Tonka.” It speaks about a little girl’s dream of having her very own horse, and how dreams can come true. “Choy’s Song” honors my little soul mate pug, Choy. “Blue Heeler”, “Barn Cat”, and “Gotta Go Feed” are fun songs that every animal owner can relate with. They are rather humorous, yet very ‘real’ songs. “Goodbye” speaks of animal loves and teachers in my life who I have lost, and they “Taught me how to say Goodbye”. These are a few of the songs. Talking about music is kind of like trying to tell someone exactly how your most beautiful horse looks, without seeing him! You have to see, or hear, to really get it.

What are some of your past hit songs?
Again, “Ring on Her Finger, Time on her Hands” was my first ‘hit’ in the early 80’s. A few others are, “I’ll Still Be Loving You” by Restless Heart, and the latest is “Safe in the Arms of Love” by Martina McBride.
I was part of a duo called “Kennedy Rose” on a label that Sting had. We had the honor of touring with him and released 2 CDs .I also had the privilege of working for years with Emmylou Harris, and we are still friends to this day. I have sung backup on many wonderful records in Nashville over the last 20 years too - Faith Hill, John Berry, Pam Tillis to name a few.

How long have you been riding and how many horses do you have now?
I owned my first horse at age 12 - well… not counting my grandfather’s little ‘Twinkles the Shetland pony’ who taught me a lot! I now have 4 horses of my own, and one rescue horse that will be ready to go to a wonderful ‘natural’ home this spring. I own a wonderful Peruvian Paso mare, who is on the CD cover, 2 quarter horses, father and daughter, and Tonka’s mom, a wonderful black ‘Walkin’ mare, who was just 27, plus 2 darling mini donks.

Mary Ann and Angel
Photo by Kye Fleming

What do you do with your horses?
I am studying the Parelli system of Natural Horsemanship, which has changed my horse life so much for the better! I try to speak their language and enjoy them. Lots of ground work, which is so bonding; training time and trail riding. I go to as many clinics as I can. They are teaching me way more than ‘horsemanship’; they are a beautiful mirror for bettering my human traits. I know you all ‘know’ what I mean.

What are some of your ideas on caring for horses naturally?
After losing Tonka to founder 2 years ago, and basically to conventional veterinary medicine, even though they meant well, I started down this trail of ‘back to natural’ with my animals and myself. I had subscribed to a certain extent, but, changing the paradigm takes time and guts and usually one has to have a wake up call. My experience of Tonka’s declining health was mine. What a teacher he was and continues to be.
The challenge of creating a natural living situation for horses in domestication is a difficult one. I am a barefoot advocate, I pretty much do all my own trimming now, and I have studied the Strasser methods and other wild horse trim approaches. This alone is such a gift for our horses, as steel on their perfectly designed hooves has caused devastating disease. I feed very little grain, and good forage; 24-7 turnout, movement, but, with respect to their weight and the type of pasture they are grazing. THIS is the hard part. The lush grasses in the Tennessee Valley are a real problem, as is fescue toxicity. I believe in Dynamite supplements and probiotics. Their philosophy is of high consciousness and I see results with these products. I feed some Purina products, as I feel they are trying to stay current on research and good quality control. Finding organic grains has been a real problem for me, so we do only what we can do, and try to limit toxins where we can, of course. As with us, there is no replacement for exercise, and this is an issue when one owns quite a few horses. I am learning more about aromatherapy and homeopathy. Chamisa Ridge catalog is a wonderful resource for Hilton Herbs and other alternative products. I believe that treeless saddles are wonderful for our horses; I ride a Bob Marshall Sport Saddle, and my horses love it.

Do you feel that children can be shown a ‘better way’ with horses?
By all means…YES. I just performed at the American Youth Horse Council Symposium, and the future of horses for today’s youth is their cause. A Parelli instructor, Carol Coppinger (who I study with here in TN) was there teaching kids the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Approach. If I had been exposed to this as a youngster, my horse experiences would’ve ‘mattered’ more in my development as a horseman. Thank God for forgiving horse hearts. We now have the ”Horse Whisperer” secrets available to us today, and finally, kids can learn to speak the horses’ language, instead of expecting them to learn ours. BRAVO for the many clinicians today following in the footsteps of Tom Dorrance and now teaching the world a ‘better way’.

“She always was an angel.”
Photo by Mary Ann Kennedy

Do you do live performances anywhere?
Yes! I have performed most of my life, being raised in a musical family in Wisconsin, and part of a family band called “Little Country Cousins”. I performed on the road with folks like Conway Twitty and Emmylou Harris. The duo I was part of, ‘Kennedy-Rose’, toured the world with Sting (we were on his label). I love the intimacy and improvisational factor of real, live music. I performed at Parelli’s Savvy Days 2002, the Paso Fino Nationals, Purina Convention, and there are engagements set up for 2003. My sister Patty sings with me and plays percussion.

How can one contact you and how can one get your CD?
Tonka Records, PO Box 120, Fairview, TN 37062
Email me through my web
One can order the CD through the website, or call toll free
Order by phone: 877-692-7999
For wholesale prices or performance inquiries email info@maryannkennedy.com

Mary Ann with Tonka and Dance
Photo by Ed Rode

Good friends - Emmylou Harris and Mary Ann
Photo by Kye Fleming


What is your mission in life, and do you have plans for a second CD?
Yes, I do plan on recording another CD early 2004. I have already started quite a few songs for that project. It will be different in ways, of course, because I have different animal teachers now, but it will still be ‘music from the heart about the animals we love’.
My hope is that sharing this music will inspire healing, joy and a celebration of life.