The bouncy and brutally honest folk songs of Mo Kenney have established her as a young musical icon in Canada, and this maritime singer-songwriter from Dartmouth, NS has just been nominated for a JUNO for her 2014 album In My Dreams.
“It’s really surreal,” she says with a laugh, “it’s great to be recognized. When I started making music, I definitely wasn’t thinking about winning awards, I wanted to do something I enjoyed while also being successful.” In My Dreams is a masterfully balanced 10-song album — a follow up to her critically acclaimed self-titled debut release in 2012. In My Dreams sees Kenney exploring themes of heartache and heartbreak, but also a few new beginnings. The album’s release has definitely fulfilled Kenney’s ancillary goal of “also being successful,” having led to numerous awards including being hailed as among the “Best of Halifax” by the city’s street mag The Coast, as well as high praise from the East Coast Music Association among others.
“I was writing as soon as my first record was released, and a few of the songs were from before, like ‘Take Me Outside’ was written when I was 18, so when I wasn’t touring and I was at home I was working on [In My Dreams],” Kenney revealed to BeatRoute from her home in Nova Scotia.
Kenney isn’t afraid to bite off a cliché or two in her lyrics and musical style, but she takes a refreshing folksy approach to using the basics – bluesy guitars, drums and bass — to produce widely accessible ballads with clear hooks to hang her witty lyrics.
What Kenney sings, and how she sings it, is unique to her experiences and her point of view, she says. Her songs “are very relationship-based, love-based, lack of love-based, and there’s some love songs as well as some mean songs directed at exes,” says Kenney.
Kenney’s success has been in no small part due to Nova Scotia singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett, who has played an integral role — as Kenney puts it — in both the production and design of her two albums. “Joel and I ended up writing a lot of songs together, mostly just half-finished tunes,” says Kenney.
Kenney and Plaskett are both nominated for the same prize at this year’s JUNO Awards, something that Kenney describes as an honour. To be nominated in the same category is something both she and Plaskett can be excited about as friends who have worked together to make music they are both proud of.
“There’s no rivalry between us. I’m happy to be in the category with him. We’re really good friends, and Joel has had such a big hand in my record anyway that it’s both of us achieving this together,” she explains. Kenney usually plays as a three-piece, often with Plaskett’s famous The Emergency, however she will be flying “solo for these dates,” she says, “just me and my guitar.”
Mo Kenney performs on March 3rd at the Commodore in Vancouver, on March 5th at MacEwan Hall in Calgary, on March 6th at Union Hall in Edmonton, on March 7th at O’Brians Event Centre in Saskatoon and on March 8th at the Garrick Centre in Winnipeg.