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Wednesday, 18 September 2013 13:31

Singer/songwriter Mo Kenney’s diligence starting to pay off

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In speaking with singer/songwriter Mo Kenney, she comes across as the quiet, unassuming type —  not someone you’d think would like the bright lights of the stage and adulation from a cheering crowd.


Make no mistake, she loves to experience the reaction, something she respected while performing in Swift Current last year. She’s back as the headliner Sept. 25 at the Lyric with opening act Julia McDougall.
Maybe her quiet nature is due to the fact she’s a true student of her craft. Always learning is an important part of the job.
Last October, she went west and spent time on tour with Canadian legend Ron Sexsmith and Joel Plaskett.  Kenney learned as much as she could on how to read crowds and better her stage presence. Now, the Nova Scotian is the headliner.
“It’s a little nervewracking,” admits Kenney who wants to try hard to impress with her own unique indie style. “It’s cool though. Last year, I played a half hour set. This time, I have a full band. It’s different than when I would just go out there with my acoustic guitar.
“It’s been a substantial learning experience since I hit the road. I’m going to be applying what I learned there onto this tour.”
This new knowledge doesn’t mean she will try to imitate Sexsmith or Plaskett, but maybe emulate them on how she conducts herself on the road, making sure she’s completely satisfied during sound checks and getting a feeling  for the songs from her repertoire which will most effectively entertain the audience.
Kenney’s debut release came out in 2012 with the help of Plaskett who signed her to his Scotland Yard record label. Plaskett not only produced her album, but shared the duties of being the other musician on her release.
The duo officially began their collaboration in April 2011, but it actually had started long before that.
Kenney had always been interested in music in her hometown of Bedford, Nova Scotia. That interest dramatically increased in high school.
“I started playing guitar (in my teens). I was so obsessed with it, I knew I wanted to do something with my life and (playing music) was it,” explains Kenney. “I started writing stories when I was 14 and also started writing poetry too. Back then, I knew what I was writing about, but it didn’t makes sense to anyone but me. It was kinda coded almost. It was not literal and I thought it’d be boring to everyone else, but all of that opened up other doors (such as songwriting). It just opened up Pandora’s Box.”
Her song writing increased as she really enjoyed the process. Playing in a band soon followed and when no one else wanted to sing, she took control of that too. Plaskett happened to see her perform at the tender age of 15 and he was intrigued. Plaskett invited Kenney to a song camp, he was hosting and told her to send a demo.
She did both and he was impressed with her work ethic and ability. However, it was two years before they actually collaborated.
On her website, a reviewer from CBC said Kenney’s style and voice could make her the next KD Lang.
Heady praise indeed, but if you listen her voice is reminiscent of the Alberta new wave country crooner although the musical genre is different.
Kenney has played the prestigious Iceland Airwaves Festival, The Great Escape, and Green Man Festival; was nominated for a CBC Radio 3 Bucky Award for 2012 Rookie of the Year, a 2013 ECMA for Rising Star Recording of the Year, and the 2013 SOCAN Songwriting Prize; and made the iTunes Best Singer Songwriters of 2012 list.
Touring is difficult and not the overly glamourous lifestyle it’s made out to be. However, it’s enjoyable and satisfying or else no one would do it. Kenney is still relatively young so she feels she has a lot to learn.
“The novelty hasn’t worn off on me yet. Going from place to place is fun,” explains Kenney. “You just have to take care of yourself. “

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Ryan Dahlman

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