Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Next big thing' has been at it a long time

  • Print
Kenney, who performs tonight at the Park Theatre, hopes to begin recording her second album in November.

SUPPLIED PHOTO Enlarge Image

Kenney, who performs tonight at the Park Theatre, hopes to begin recording her second album in November.

Mo Kenney is no longer Halifax's best-kept secret.

The 23-year-old singer/songwriter snagged this year's SOCAN Songwriting Prize for her song Sucker, an elegiac tune about being let down and left behind. "Now you're just a memory/of everything I'd hoped you'd be," she sings in a voice beyond her years.

Kenney beat out fellow nominees Maylee Todd, Whitehorse, Purity Ring and the Weather Station featuring Baby Eagle with the simple yet affecting tune, which comes from her Joel Plaskett-produced 2012 self-titled debut. Past winners include Kathleen Edwards, Propagandhi and the Weakerthans.

"I was really excited and surprised to be even put in the running," she says over the phone. "I was in good company."

She wrote the prize-winning song when she was 19, newly dumped, living in her first apartment, working two soul-sucking day jobs -- one at a dollar store, the other making pizzas at a supermarket -- and generally wallowing in a black hole of self-pity (we've all been there, girlfriend).

Indeed, it's a familiar experience, and it's that truth that makes Sucker so resonant.

"I think it's the one I'm most proud of," she says of the song.

Despite her "next big thing" status, Kenney isn't new to songwriting. She wrote her first tune when she was 13.

"I don't remember what it was about but I remember it was really horrible," she says with a laugh. "I think it was probably extremely angsty."

Her guitar teacher pushed her into singing it at a recital. "I hated it," she recalls. "I didn't like being the centre of attention. I didn't write anything for a long time after that."

Then, a switch flipped. By the time she turned 15, everything had changed.

"That's when I started really writing songs. It felt really good." She can't pinpoint what was different about songwriting, exactly, but something definitely was. "You don't have a lot of life experience when you're 13 -- but I guess you don't when you're 15, either.

"I guess was thinking about more things and I was more willing to go there," she says. "I filled three notbooks in a summer. I eventually put words to music. I felt like I unlocked a secret because it felt so natural."

She began broadening her horizons musically, listening to a steady diet of Sigur R�s, Mars Volta and the late, great Elliott Smith, who ranks among her biggest influences. Her fingerpicking style is reminiscent of his. "I found all of this music through movies -- I love movies," she says, which isn't a surprising admission, considering the cinematic quality of her songs. She also began experimenting with four-track recording.

"I was fumbling around making weird music because I wasn't trying to conform to any structure," she says. "I never figured out how to bounce it, so there was two tracks on one side and two on the other.

"Now, I sit down with a bit more intent. I'm more focused."

When Kenney was 16, she caught the attention of Plaskett via a school program that enabled young artists to share their demos. A few years later, she was offered a spot at Gordie Sampson's Songcamp on a recommendation from Plaskett.

"I couldn't believe he remembered me after all those years."

Working with the East Coast indie rock hero on her debut album was a thrill for Kenney.

"He's an awesome producer. He's so musical. It was my first record and my first time in a studio -- there were a lot of firsts -- and it was cool working with a producer who's also a musician."

In fact, she'll team up with Plaskett again for her sophomore album, which she hopes to begin recording in November. Although she's loath to describe her own music, she says the direction she's headed in is "weird pop."

"I'm letting myself do whatever. I'm just trying not to think about the fact people will hear it."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 23, 2013 D3

History

Updated on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 9:29 AM CDT: adds video

10:31 AM: adds photo

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

On the job with sea lion researchers

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy
  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How much does the premier's apology mean to you?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google