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Kevin Whelan Reflects on the Past and Future: ‘Do Not Let Fear Win or Waste Your Time’

By Jaci Jedrych

Born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey and growing up in Ocean City, Kevin Whelan has always had music in the forefront of his life. He started playing piano at the age of 13. “My first gig was playing piano at the 8th grade talent show,” he muses.

His biggest most formal gig came in the form of one of the catchiest and most thoughtful indie rock groups of the ’90s, The Wrens. The group consisted of guitarist and vocalist Charles Bissell, guitarist Greg Whelan, drummer Jerry MacDonald, alongside bassist and vocalist Kevin Whelan, forming in the late ’80s and releasing their debut album in 1994.

Aeon Station
Kevin Whelan of Aeon Station – Ebru Yildiz

Though the group found success, even being courted by a number of record labels, they continued to save money to record their albums by keeping their day jobs, living together– save for MacDonald– in the same apartment, and recording in their living room. The group released their last album in 2003, and continued to remain close.

Over the past 14 years, Kevin Whelan recorded dozens of demos and sketches with Wrens’ bandmates Jerry MacDonald and Greg Whelan. With help from Tom Beaujour in his Union City recording space and his wife Mary Ann’s backup vocals, Whelan recorded his first solo project, Observatory, under the name Aeon Station.

“My inspiration comes from the love of making music. That moment of just grabbing the guitar or sitting at the piano and disappearing into a world of creativity. The story I wanted to write for my recent album Observatory was absolutely perseverance and positivity. To not let fear win or waste your time,” Whelan said.

Whelan’s sound is distinct yet classic, offering a side both nostalgic and constantly fresh. “Like most musicians and bands, the influences are vast and varied. I love everything from my classical piano days to the most current new music that continues to push the boundaries,” Whelan explained.

Kevin Whelan
Kevin Whelan of Aeon Station – Ebru Yildiz

But his biggest musical inspiration comes from his wife and two young boys– for Whelan, having a busy life adds to rather than detracts from his musical career. In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, Whelan shared some of his family’s experiences loving someone with autism.

“Yes, autism has been a powerful force in our family life. My little one who is now 9 was diagnosed at almost 2 years old.  He’s a lovely boy who brings us joy and happiness and has taught so much about empathy and love,” Whelan said.

Another inspiration for his music is on stage performance. He has always loved the energy that the audience brings, as well as its ephemeral quality. “Performing has ALWAYS made me super nervous, but what I like about it is that it’s IN the moment and then gone. You get one shot, and you better enjoy it,” said Whelan.

On stage, his most indispensable artist tool and lifeline is his bass guitar, which he’s had at his side since he was 16. “It’s been with me at every gig, and it’s always in tune,” said Whelan.

Among his favorite shows have been in the DMV, particularly Washington, D.C. The energy and love from the crowds are like no other for him because of how much passion he feels for music throughout the city. “I can’t even share the amount of amazing times we’ve played in D.C. How much people LOVE music in the D.C. scene.”

Kevin Whelan - SXSW Injury
Kevin Whelan – 2022 SXSW Festival

Not all shows have been this rosy, however. At his March show at SXSW, the singer was sidelined with a tear in his patellar tendon during his second song, cutting the set short. “Well, life and body teach you how time can change your knees,” laughed Whelan. “I was enjoying the show with lots of friends and got lost in a moment, and my knee gave out. As I’ve learned in life, it’s never a setback, it’s only a set-up for a new strength.”

As a veteran of the global music scene, Whelan’s expertise is applicable to people on every side of the music scene. His advice for debutants? “There is always so much talent and so much great music. My only guiding principle is to be as authentic as possible. Make sure you really like the music you make. Don’t copy or wish to be your idols.”

Fans can catch him next in Seattle at the end of April on KEXP, or keep up with his music year-round on his Spotify.

Jaci Jedrych

Jaci Jedrych is a World Politics student at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She loves going to concerts and exploring different genres, and has a passion for arts and news writing.

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