By Emilie Charette
CALGARY – For singer-songwriter Mo Kenney, music is all about communication, and she’s eager to share her stories with listeners. Kenney, born in Halifax, began playing the guitar at 11 then writing and recording songs in her teens was inspired by both classic and alternative rock. She caught the attention of Joel Plaskett, with whom she eventually produced her debut album released in 2012.
“I started songwriting to work through things that were going on in my life,” states Kenney.
Her third, most recent album, The Details, spares none. An intensely personal and introspective album, it chronicles Kenney’s journey through the depression that she has struggled with since her teens, as well as her struggles with alcoholism.
“I tend to write from a pretty personal perspective,” she reveals. “Before I started going to therapy, I would write about that a lot, which was extremely helpful.”
Adding that her “experiences have a huge impact” on her songwriting, listeners are allowed a glimpse into Kenney’s life as she confronts herself and works through her problems, emerging from darkness with a new capacity for endurance and hope for the future. Her favourite track from the album is “I Can’t Wait.” While the song states that she can’t wait to get out of her head, it’s clear that Kenney’s self-reflection has allowed her to channel pain into something relatable and, ultimately, hopeful. She says, “I still find it really helpful to write it down to make sense of it.”
Despite the serious subject matter, Kenney feels that creating The Details was the most enjoyable she’s had writing a record. “I was recording a ton of demos in my apartment and doing a lot of weird electric guitar stuff, which was really fun.”
Although the music industry tends to be male-dominated, Kenney’s experiences within it have, by and large, been positive. “I haven’t experienced any discrimination based on my gender. I’ve had it pretty good, but I can’t speak for other women in the industry.”
However, says Kenney, the industry is undergoing a change. “Music has a wave of badass female musicians lately. It’s really refreshing and nice to see women playing electric guitars and fronting rock bands.’” Recently she saw The Beaches, an all-female alternative rock band from Toronto, and raved about their performance: “They fucking ruled. They were so, so good.”
While she acknowledges that more could be done to increase the inclusiveness of the industry,
Kenney feel that things are looking pretty good from her perspective and are only likely to improve. “We’re heading in the right direction.”
Placing a lot of importance on growing as an artist, Kenney’s music has grown and changed just as she herself has. An increase in confidence has allowed her to be more vulnerable in her songwriting, and she’s glad that each of her three albums so far have sounded different.
“I think it’s important as an artist to keep evolving and changing and trying new things. Otherwise, what are you really doing?”
For her, music is ultimately about taking what was created in the solitary act of song-writing and using it to connect with other people, something she hopes to do for the rest of her life. “Writing music is a way to communicate myself to others. I think that music is a really good way of connecting people.” Adding that, “It’s one of those things that makes you feel like the world isn’t such a bad place after all.”
See Mo Kenney on Thursday, June 28 at the Commonwealth Bar and Stage (Calgary).Commonwealth Bar and Stage, Joel Plaskett, Mo Kenney, The Details