Singer-Songwriter Michael Kennedy and illustrator Vania Hardy brought their talents together in the making of “Keep Trying” - a delightful declaration of resilience after being knocked down. The song’s cheerful and catchy tune paired with Vania’s whimsical illustrations speak to the hope that is found in the hardships of life’s journey. No matter what we might face or experience, there’s always a reason to sing, and there’s always beauty to be found.
Both Micheal and Vania reflect on '“Keep Trying” below. You can stream or download “Keep Trying” here.
Vania Hardy, Illustrator:
”So many visual elements in the “Keep Trying” video are intentional. The story begins in the darkness before dawn. Further into the journey, the setting gets brighter and more hopeful.
Verse 2 is the turning point (“All the places I went wrong…”). We look up from the turtle and see the bigger context of where he is, and the beauty and purpose he’s surrounded by. The plants are based on real trees that grow in Hawaii—kauila and ‘ohia trees. The kauila tree was named after a mythical Hawaiian turtle and has leaves that are thought to look like turtle shells. The ‘ohia tree, which grows bright red flowers, is one of the first plants to grow out of the new land that settles from a volcano eruption, so it’s a symbol of new life springing from death. The verse ends on a shot of a volcano in front of a sun-lit sky.
After the second chorus, we dive right into the ocean. This shows us what the turtle is crawling towards but hasn’t seen yet—vibrant beauty and the start of a brand new adventure! And sure enough, in the end, the turtle does end up making it to the ocean.
I’m originally from Hawaii and was even a hula dancer. My childhood was filled with cultural stories and legends. When you’re a dancer, you learn a lot of the traditional songs, many of which are about nature symbolism. Turtles have always been my favorite cultural icon, as they symbolize endurance, wisdom, and finding your way home. After 35 years of wandering around the ocean, female turtles always come back to the beach they were born on to lay their own eggs. The journey they take as hatchlings, of getting to the ocean, gets their bodies so imprinted on the unique magnetic field of their natal beach that they know exactly where to come home.
I saw the true significance of that journey as I was illustrating the video. It’s where the turtle’s identity is formed, where it’s prepared for the perils and adventures of the wider ocean—its “promised land.” This project found me in a healing process from a rough season, looking back and seeing the purpose in the pain. Working on this was such a great outward expression of that healing, and a way to encourage others!
Michael Kennedy, Singer/Songwriter:
Two years ago it seemed like almost all the plans I had made for myself crashed down around me. I had just lost the most important relationship in my life, and beyond that I felt like nothing I was trying to accomplish at that moment was getting anywhere.
It was in the middle of the deepest point of my confusion when I wrote this song, as a way of grabbing on to hope even when I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see evidence that God was doing something at the time but I wrote this line out anyway, because I knew that It had to be true:
“The mess I’ve made is all being restored,
turns out it turned into an open door,
and I’m expecting something.”
Several months later I entered the song into a national songwriting competition and I ended up being one of the winners.
“Keep Trying” is the first song from my new EP, ‘Here on Out’ and it represents a sort of beginning place of a journey from brokenness to restoration.
Vania is an artist and illustrator from Elizabethtown, Pa. Her art comes from the patchwork of her identity–from the various places she’s lived, the cultures that have shaped her, to the communities that have influenced her, and the faith that’s been her lifeline. She’s often inspired by stories and whimsy.
Being a third culture kid, Vania is fascinated by unexpected juxtapositions that create unlikely connections. She expresses that with splashes of contrasting colors, along with a balance of structured lines and spontaneous strokes. Without always trying, she tends to explore themes of home, identity, community, and legacy.
Michael Kennedy is a songwriter who uses his personal struggles and life experiences as inspiration to write songs of hope and encouragement. His goal is to help people come alive and discover their purpose, using music as a spark for them to begin thinking differently. The power that music has to create a different atmosphere where new things are suddenly possible is something Michael tries to utilize in the writing and production process. Michael currently works as a server, lives in Elizabethtown, and spends his free time writing or finding other ways to be creative.