The Guardian: Mo Kenney’s new album, ‘The Details’, reveals personal journey

Halifax singer and songwriter Mo Kenney lays her life bare for all to see on The Details, her third record. Kenney produced the record with her long-time friend Joel Plaskett.

By Doug Gallant, The Guardian

Some artists are reluctant to peel back the layers and let you see what’s really going on inside their heads.
Mo Kenney is not one of those artists.
“The Details”, Kenney’s third album, comes as close as any recording I’ve ever heard to putting everything out there for you to see, to experience and to reflect on.
The 14 songs on this deeply personal set detail a series of events in Kenney’s life when she was going through what must have been one hell of a rough patch.[READ MORE]

Plunger Music: Canadian chiaroscuro bewitches the Green Note …

By Plunger Music

Nova Scotia’s Mo Kenney brought an intriguing mix of light and shade in her set that held the Camden crowd rapt in total silence. The solo setting meant the songs, more usually delivered with a band on record, were as stark, spare and intense as the spotlit artist herself, but just as entrancing.

With only her guitar and voice to work with Mo still conjured a broad palette of colours and emotions, often blurred and blended within the same song. Opener I Faked It saw delicate acoustic picking and a breathy drawl deliver a sardonic bitter break up lyric, and that disconnect was apparent elsewhere, in Field Song’s hazy, smoky vox and mesmeric picking, and in the Look What They’ve Done-style rag of The Happy Song with its humming and whistling belying the distinctly unhappy subject.

Mo’s mesmeric musical box picking added an eerie childhood vibe to many of the songs: the almost Trumpton-like refrain of Eden; the bright hypnotic Take Me Outside, where dark desperation seemed to lurk beneath the soft upbeat vocal; while the brittle crystalline accompaniment of Carnivore hid more dark inspiration in the loss of an old schoolmate. There were interesting unexpected harmonies and progressions in a dark Vega-ish Mountains To The Mess and the unsettling folky Dancing, another number where a hidden undercurrent slowly revealed itself in Mo’s intensifying emotion-laden breaking vox, climaxing in a very effective left-hanging ending.

Bringing more light were the bustling Greenwich Village folk of The Great Escape and the girlish playground melody of Sucker, in the impassioned In My Lungs and its segue partner the almost-Everlys punchily-strummed Déjà Vû and the intimate, impromptu-feel of the lilting In My Dreams. showing the more indie flavours of much her albums were ‘If You’re Not Dead’, an urgent Martha & The Muffinsy rocker with hints of Message In A Bottle, a bouncy Unglued with an anthemic coda, and Mo’s self-confessed poppy cover of fellow Nova Scotians Mardeen’s Telephones. [READ MORE]

[Mo’s latest album The Details is available to buy here.

Inverness Scene: “It felt right to reveal a little more about myself”

Canadian singer-songwriter Mo Kenney has a history with the highlands – her debut self-titled album was released through the north of Scotland’s Middle of Nowhere record label. Now, as she returns for a date at the Tooth and Claw on Saturday, now on her third album, Mo talks to Kyle Walker about returning to the region, going electric, and finding catharsis through songwriting

By Kyle Walker, Inverness Scene

Are you looking forward to playing the Tooth and Claw?

Really looking forward to playing the Tooth and Claw! It’ll be my first stop on this upcoming tour.

How would you describe yourself, your sound and your live performance style to a new audience?

I would describe my sound as a mix of pop/rock/folk. It’s tough to accurately describe. I’ll be touring solo with my acoustic guitar. It’ll be an intimate bunch of shows.

I understand there’s already a Highlands connection for you – your first self-titled album was released by Middle of Nowhere Records, based here. How did that come about? Have you got any other fond memories or connections to the region?

I was introduced to Middle of Nowhere Records by my friend Rachel Sermanni. We met at a folk conference in Toronto years ago, and she was kind enough to bring me over to the UK to open some of her shows.

This new album – The Details – is a far different beast to that debut. For one thing, you’ve gone electric! What was the catalyst?

I’ve always been partial to playing electric guitar. I began playing music on my acoustic guitar because it was the easiest set up logistically. I felt right with this record (my third) to dig into the more rock side of what I do. I co-produced this record with my friend and mentor Joel Plaskett, which was a first for me.

The album deals with some dark emotions. How did the album come together for you?

Writing has always been very cathartic for me as my songs are usually very personal. It felt right to reveal a little bit more about myself with this third album. It’s been interesting and rewarding to have people tell me their own experiences after hearing my record.

The album deals with some dark emotions. Did creating this album help you process and deal with this time in your life (and how)? How did the album come together for you?

Writing has always been very cathartic for me as my songs are usually very personal. I have always used it much as a way to communicate myself to others and understand myself. It felt right to reveal a little bit more about myself with this third album. It’s been interesting and rewarding to have people tell me their own experiences after hearing my record.

Looking more generally at your work as an artist, what inspired you to go into music and songwriting? Has your initial motivation changed or evolved since you first started writing and performing?

As far back as I can remember I have really loved music. I began playing guitar at 11 and fell in love. I love the feeling of creating art. If it has an element of creativity to it, I’ll probably like it.

What has been the best gig you’ve played so far? The worst? The weirdest?

The best gig I’ve played so far was in my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. I had the opportunity to play with the Symphony Nova Scotia as part of the festival the Halifax Pop Explosion. Worst gig I’ve played was probably at a bank. Weirdest gig also would have to be the bank gig.

What has been the nicest thing that somebody had said about your Music?

The nicest thing to hear is that someone has related to my music, or that it has helped them in some way. That is the best part for me.

The Details

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1. Cat’s Not A Cake
2. On The Roof
3. Details
4. June 3rd
5. Maybe I Am
6. Counting
7. Out The Window
8. If You’re Not Dead
9. Unglued
10. I Can’t Wait
11. Video Game Music
12. Lights Out
13. Punchy
14. Feelin’ Good

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“I am demented and all my friends are scared of me,” Mo Kenney sings on a beloved, unreleased staple of her live shows. “I am an alien waiting for my family.” Connection—the rare times we have and hold onto it tenuously, the lack or loss of it, the search for it, and even the creeping feeling that it may be unattainable—is a defining theme of the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia songwriter’s body of work. It’s no stretch to imagine that it’s maybe the main reason her fans are so passionately drawn to her as an artist and performer, either. In a world where connection becomes increasingly scarce, there’s a quixotic stubbornness in Kenney’s songs, an insistence that forging a bond is worth all the unavoidable pain and heartbreak and self-destruction that might be wrought from it. And there are few songwriters who are able to create such unforgettable melodies while communicating just how rough the ride can be.

Throughout Kenney’s own rough ride, from troubled teenagerdom and teaching herself Elliott Smith songs in her small-town bedroom to battling with her demons on 2017’s eclectic and brash The Details, music has remained constant. At 17, she stunned Maritime rock ‘n’ roll legend Joel Plaskett with a couple songs recorded at her friend’s high school, eventually leading to a long-running collaborative relationship between the two. In 2012, she released her self-titled debut, a powerful first impression that melds her extraordinary knack for nuance—the dreamy, award-winning folk tune “Sucker,” for example—and a clear bent toward sounds more incendiary and ambitious that shows up on the driving kiss-off “Déjà Vu” and her cover of Bowie’s “Five Years,” which explodes with an interstellar crescendo worthy of the Starman. She expands that vibe on In My Dreams, venting existential frustration by almost gleefully urging the listener to blow her head off on the hazy pop of “Take Me Outside,” dabbling in spacey prog rock for the stomping “Mountains to the Mess,” and stylishly sowing sorrow on the title track over subtle, ‘60s-tinged piano, convinced that she’s hallucinated an absent lover.

Kenney pathologically mines the most shadowy corners of herself in order to surface with something unflinchingly honest, but The Details found her exploring uncharted territory. It traces her own strange, devastating, and ultimately hopeful trip through the trials and tribulations of booze-fuelled breakdowns, clouds of depression, and disintegrating relationships. It sounds as fraught as the subject matter demands. “On The Roof” seethes with suffocating anxiety and punchy guitar; the jangle of “Unglued” is deceptively sunshiney, the way someone might force a smile as they’re falling apart; and “Feelin’ Good” offers some real redemption in its weird, soothing sparseness, but feels tentative, as though Kenney is aware things could still unravel at any moment.

It’s this willingness to bare so much of herself—not all, mind you—on record and on stage that draws in fans from all over the world, people far and wide who feel like aliens themselves, looking to connect with anyone or anything. And that illuminates a comforting truth: sometimes the fear that you don’t belong in this world is the most human feeling you can feel. With a touring history that’s seen her play her tunes for swaths of the United States, Europe, Australia, and the UK, the future will find Kenney continuing to tour as much as possible, expanding her sonic reach here on Earth and perhaps beyond, beamed up somewhere deep in the cosmos among other beings like her.



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