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Songwriters discover harmony

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If a screenwriter dreamed up a romantic comedy based on the long-distance love story of Craig Garrison and Kathy Kennedy, he'd have a hit on his hands. Consider this irresistible premise: The two met by accident, wrote a song together thousands of miles apart and fell in love in the process.

And it all started here in Bakersfield, with a misunderstanding over a song Garrison had written.

Garrison, who performs regularly at various locations, including the Chateau Lounge on South Chester Avenue, Murphy's Pub, and The Lode in Lake Isabella, had lived the nomadic life of a musician, playing gigs all over California, before retuning to his native Bakersfield in 2009.

"I came back to a place which was always a natural compass for me -- Bakersfield, California," Garrison said.

But wherever he is, he always keeps track of a song he wrote in 1993 for blues diva Trudy Lynn, titled "Instant Breakfast," an earthy, double entendre-laden song that puts such classics as "Empty Bed Blues" to shame. The song has become something of a blues standard for female vocalists.

"I periodically Google the song and see what kind of activity there is regarding it," Garrison said.

Garrison said that included radio play, Lynn's concerts, record sales -- anything that might earn him royalties and expand his reputation. One day he was surprised when his search led him to a Women in Blues website from Winnipeg, Canada, and a concert that included a performance of "Instant Breakfast."

"(The song) was included on the CD of that live concert," Garrison said. "I'm looking at the website and see it's available for sale.

"I said, 'Wait a minute -- somebody is making money on this,'" he said.

That "somebody" was concert producer Kathy Kennedy, founder of the Women in Blues in Winnipeg and producer of the CD. Garrison emailed Kennedy, telling her she wasn't licensed to use his song.

"I said, 'I don't get it,'" Kennedy said. "'I don't recall you writing 'Instant Breakfast'; we all thought it was Trudy Lynn.'"

Kennedy said she discovered the Canadian performing rights organization hadn't completed the paperwork for the song, and so she sent Garrison cash to cover his royalties from the sale of the records. But the relationship didn't end there.

"She said, 'By the way, do you ever collaborate?'" Garrison said.

"He said he was interested because he was a writer, he was a collaborator," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said she asked for his help with one of her own songs.

"I thought ('Instant Breakfast') was a great song," Kennedy said. "I liked to work with him because we are on the same page. The way we visualize a song -- we're on the same page."

Garrison said that invitation got them off and running.

"Pretty much instantly we began collaborating over the phone, online, by mail," he said. "We literally dug into the songwriting process several thousand miles apart."

That's not all. While writing music together, Garrison and Kennedy fell in love.

"I just did," Kennedy said. "It was wonderful. We connected instantly; a soul connection."

"There was nothing interfering with our attraction to one another," Garrison said of their personal circumstances. "There was also a kind of immediate reception of one another, as artists, as people."

Despite the connection, it actually took awhile to say the words "I love you." Even then, the two musicians didn't just come out and say them; they put the sentiment in a song, called "Read You Blind," completed in April of this year.

"In those lyrics, I was expressing my love for her, my feelings for her," Garrison said. "I didn't tell her what I was doing; I didn't tell her I was writing this song for her.

"We knew we had accomplished something significant," Garrison said of the song. "More than that, we had admitted our feelings for one another."

All that collaborating and falling in love, and Garrison and Kennedy had yet to meet face to face. That didn't happen until July, when Kennedy came to Bakersfield for a 10-day visit.

"She wrote a song about that, too," Garrison said.

Apparently, the visit was the final touch -- Garrison is packing up and moving to Winnipeg, where there are plans for a wedding and a joint career. Garrison said he will perform his last gig at the Chateau Lounge on Sept. 4.

"We're going to record a CD of our songs, and be full-time songwriters and performers," Garrison said. "As a duo -- Garrison-Kennedy, hyphenated."

"It's something we both want," Kennedy said. "We both want a partner who understands what you do. It's going to be quite a life. We have a lot of things planned, so away we go!"

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