Deanna Kenisell of Big Hearted Babes

With the Bowen Classic coming up this weekend, we took some time out of the schedule of one of the very busy women behind it to find out more about their organization and the benefits they run.

1. First of all, for those that may not know, tell us what Big Hearted Babes is and how it got started?

We produce charity events for recording artists. I was in Memphis on tour with George Strait and one of the Memphis Grizzles asked if I could help him book Carrie Underwood for his upcoming charity event in two weeks and I realized people want to give back and throw cool events but they don’t always know how, have the time or the contacts to make it happen. We have volunteered on different types of events together since the 9th grade, it was our passion and something that we enjoyed doing together so we decided to see if we could make a career out of helping others, help others.

2. You and your business partner Mandy have been friends since the 9th grade, what’s it like working with an old friend every day?

We feel that we are blessed in many ways. Most business relationships are just that… a business relationship…and the parties involved don’t truly know who they are dealing with.

We have fun and can make the best out of any situation… and believe me we have had our fair share of situations. (laughs)

That has always been one of our biggest strengths in life. We can be ourselves and can usually find a way to laugh about the situation at hand at the end of the day. We definitely know each others in’s and out’s … we are truly the yin and the yang. We have opposite strengths and weaknesses which makes us a great team.

3. Name association:

-Alan Jackson – Chattahoochee
-Dierks Bentley – Empathetic
-Wade Bowen – Magical
-Randy Rogers – Take It Easy
-Cody Canada – Wormy Dog
-George Strait – “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” – Yes! I know he didn’t sing this song but I got the chance to sing it karaoke with him. It was a dream come true. (laughs)
-Jimmy Buffett – 5 O’Clock somewhere
-Stoney LaRue – Culprit of missed flights
-Natalie Maines – College roommate

4. You’ve hosted events for Dierks Bentley, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers Band among others. If you could plan an event for any artist from any genre living or dead, who would it be and why? What would the event be?

Wow, that’s a great question. Maybe Elvis because he changed music and with those changes I think we could have worked with him to start the trend of giving back and using his popularity in a positive way to help others and maybe even help him in the long run. Other than that I’d love to work with Dolly Parton and Pat Benatar.

5. What is the most stressful part of producing the type of events y’all put together?

All the moving parts. Many consist of a concert as well as the artists favorite hobby so there are multiple days and locations. Not to mention we do everything from placing the porta potty’s to even going out to churches to borrow tables and chairs to save money for the charity, there is no job too big or small. You would be surprised of what we have done to get the job done.

6. On the flip side, what’s the most rewarding part?

Seeing the lives you impact. It isn’t always the money your raise, sometimes the event is the experience someone needed to tackle another difficult year. The stories we hear afterwards make it all worth it. We have made so many life long friends doing what we do and knowing that we can put a smile on a families face that has recently lost a child or loved one is priceless.

7. Do you have any plans to expand your benefit production experience to avenues beyond music? Such as putting them on for sports heroes or movie stars?

We’d love to do that…we’re in the business of helping people, no matter where their background.

8. Part of each benefit y’all put on is an auction of some sort. What’s the most unusual auction item you’ve ever seen?

Not only was it unusual but a one of a kind, awesome package. Wade let us auction off a home concert on eBay…where he actually went and played in someone’s backyard. You certainly don’t find that at any other events.

Another item was George Straits worn/signed wrangler jeans…those were very popular as you can imagine. (laughs)

9. You get the opportunity to raise money for many great causes. What cause or charity is closest to your own heart?

My mother had Lupus when I was growing up and I always thought if I ever had my own benefit it would be for Lupus research, I am still planning on making this one happen. But that’s one of the things I love the most about this job I don’t have to pick just one I get to help numerous great organizations.

10. Your job is to take the stress off the benefit namesake. What’s your favorite stress reliever?

Crossfit…I don’t know what I’d do without it! Go Bayou City Crossfit!

11. Many of your benefits involve a golf tournament. Do you enjoy golfing yourself? Or do you take after the old Mark Twain “It’s a good walk wasted” quote?

(laughs) Does Putt-Putt count? Seriously, I own golf clubs and I took it for one semester in college, but all we did is hit golf balls on the football field. I’ve never played on an actual golf course. Kinda ironic I know.

12. Sadly, there are a number of artists who act one way in public and another way behind the scenes. Without naming names, can you give an example of some of the most outlandish diva type behavior you’ve seen in your music business career?

This is going to be a boring answer…but I don’t really have any good stories about this. I’ve been really blessed to work with awesome artists with big hearts. I think that in the aspect that we get to work with the artist, we are truly blessed to get to work with them and what is closest to their heart, which takes out any of those types of situations. You cannot imagine the big hearts that all these guys have, its amazing to know no matter how big the artist they all have a heart like ours and want to make a difference… it’s nice to get to help them achieve that.

13. Prior to getting into the benefit business, you worked in many other aspects of the music business. Could you tell us what all you’ve been involved in and what was the most fun job you’ve had in the biz?

I’ve loved all my jobs in the music business from my first real job with an artist management company in Nashville to working a semester at Sony Music and working the albums of Jack Ingram, Daryl Dodd and Charlie Robison on Lucky Dog Records. Each has been a dream come true in its own way. I’d say the one that I walked away from with the most unforgettable memories and pinch myself experiences was working with renowned concert promoter Louis Messina and The Messina Group. I learned a ton from him!

14. When you’re so involved in one thing like you are with the music industry, it’s almost mandatory to have some sort of outlet that provides a getaway. What’s your favorite hobby?

I enjoy going to concerts that I’m not working and spending time with my 3 nephews…they make me laugh! Laughing is probably my favorite hobby though!

15. If there was one song you could banish from the radio forever, what would it be and why?

I can only pick just one? The first one that came to mind is “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”, but then I remembered “Watermelon Crawl” and it’s a tie. Surely, I don’t have to say why. (laughs)

16. A lot of people hate on Houston, myself included in the past. If you were tasked with chaperoning someone around Houston who wasn’t a big fan of the place, what itinerary would you put together to change their mind?

Houston gets a bad rap, but it has its moments. I’d taking them on the St. Arnold’s brewery tour, going to Tacos A Go-Go by the Continental Club…maybe even catch a show there. If not Armadillo Palace is always fun as is the Firehouse and even Blanco’s. You can’t leave without going to Cedar Creek…they have great food, cold beer and an inviting patio for a good Sunday hang with all your friends. If you like mac and cheese don’t leave without trying Jus’ Mac all they serve is mac and cheese a million different ways.

17. I doubt when you were growing up that you envisioned yourself having the type of career that you do…what did you originally want to be when grew up?

I actually kinda followed what I always wanted to do. I originally wanted to be an artist myself. I started singing at the age of 4 and sang all through college. I even was given the chance to open for Gretchen Wilson in Hidalgo, TX at Dodge Arena. Growing up I always prayed to God that I could one day be on tour with George Strait. I joke now and tell people to be specific when you pray…I was on the road with him for 7 years but not as an artist. God has a good sense a humor. Or rather He knows best where we should end up!

18. Rapid fire:

-You’re at your favorite Mexican food joint…what do you order? Jalapeno Ranch at Chuy’s
-Favorite live music venue? Luckenbach Dancehall
-As a Houston girl…Texans, Astros or Rockets? Can I say Rodeo? (laughs)okay…Astros.

19. We ask everyone this question, but since you’ve worked with him some in the past this could be a tough question to answer, but what’s your favorite George Strait song?

“The Chair” hands down, but there are a lot of his songs that mean so much more to me after meeting the writers and hearing some of the stories behind them.

20. What do you enjoy most about working with Texas/Red Dirt artists as opposed to those who are nationally renowned?

I enjoy all the artist I’ve had the chance to work with but Texas/Red Dirt artists are unique in that they are just who they are…real…I love how their fans become their friends and how they will come out after a show and have a beer at the bar.

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

17 thoughts on “Deanna Kenisell of Big Hearted Babes

  • May 11, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    LOVED reading this interview! I’ve known Deanna and Mandy for a while now and their commitment and dedication to making these benefits a success is amazing!
    And you can tell how great her personality is by reading her answers! She’s so much fun!
    You go, Big Hearted Babes!!!

  • May 13, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Great Read!

  • May 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I would,have and will walk thru fire with these 2 babes any time, anywhere!

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