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Reykjavik Boulevard Interviews Mo

by Roberta and Niccolò, Reykjavik Boulevard

We went to Iceland Airwaves and found out a young singer-songwriter was playing, with her guitar sound and her feelings exposed to ears, eyes and heart of people. We had one word in mind: adorable. When you think about Canada, the Maple Leaf and probably the most appreciated country in north-America – at least when you find young travelers with their backpacks around the World – you don’t usually think to Nova Scotia. Well, probably you won’t even know where Nova Scotia is. And we’re not talking about Scotland, that’s way far from there. We are talking about one of the smallest province in Canada, and trust us: Canada is a huge Country. So, imagine that: Nova Scotia is a oyster, Mo Kenney can be its pearl. Here’s why: in her voice we found the colors of some little wooden houses in Halifax, in her figure on stage, holding an acoustic guitar we found a defensive attitude like if she was Fort Edward’s blockhouse moved to Reykjavik… But way more young and rich. Rich of talent, emotions, passion. Young like a Mayflower. Here you can find little blossoms, answers that she gave us about her experience in Iceland, her memories, and her way to live with music, being a singer. But also being a songwriter, like another son of Nova Scotia… Certain Hank Snow whom songs have been sung by The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Well, Mo: “You’re easy to love”, “Just keep a-movin’”.

From your bio: “A few of the songs are happy. Most are not.” Can you tell us something about “The Happy Song”?

Sometimes I joke with people that “The Happy Song” is the only happy song I have ever written, and that’s why it’s called “The Happy Song”. At the time when I wrote it it really stood out from my other songs, because it was a lot more up-beat. If you listen to the lyrics I guess it’s not really a happy song, but the music suggests otherwise.

You’ve chosen to cover Bowie’s “Five years”. Has this song a particular meaning to you? Could it be “The Sad Song”?

I wanted to cover a song and put it on my album. I spent a couple of months thinking about which song would be best and finally settled on “Five Years”. It seems to fit in really well with the rest of the tunes on the album. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time and I love playing it in my live shows. Ziggy Stardust was a record that I listened to frequently when I was living on my own in Halifax. It reminds me of that apartment.

You wrote the songs of “Déjà vu” together with Joel Plaskett (Producer). How did this collaboration start? Is there any other artist with whom you’d like to work together?

Joel and I began writing “Déjà Vu” together pretty spontaneously while we were in the studio recording the record. There are tons of other artists I would like to work with if I could. Tom Yorke, Emily Haines, Gillian Welch, Elliott Smith (if he were still alive). The list goes on.

What does “Déjà vu” means to you?

“Déjà Vu” is a positive break up song. It’s looking at a relationship ending as a positive thing as opposed to some awful heartbreaking experience. Sometimes it’s for the best.

Is there any artist that you would like to write songs for you? And viceversa, if you’d have the chance to write songs for another artist, who do you wish he’d be?

I always want to write my own songs. I don’t think I would like to sing someone else’s song, because songwriting is something I love doing. If I could write a song for someone else I would probably want it to be for Radiohead. I know they would do something really cool with the production. It’d be really cool to hear a song of mine done by them!

You realized your debut album at 22, how do you see yourself at 44? Is there a message in your songs that you wish people could understand and would you prefer to be partially understood by a lot of people or completely understood by a few?

I’m not sure where I’ll be at 44. I know I’ll have a bunch of albums under my belt by then. I’m interested to see how music is going to sound 22 years from now. I don’t think I have a message for other people in my songs, that’s not what I’m thinking about when I write them. I just hope that my songs can take people somewhere else like my favorite songs do for me. Something magic happens when you hear a song you really love, it’s inexplicable.

How old were you when you wrote your first song? Is there a maximum age to write songs and perform?

I was 13 when I first tried my hand at songwriting. It wasn’t a very good song, I don’t think I would be able to play it now. I didn’t try it again until I turned 15, that’s when it really did something for me. I have been writing non-stop since then. I think most people start writing as a kind of therapy, I know that’s why I started. It’s good for you. I think you should write and perform for as long as you find it enjoyable.

Where do you get inspiration to write your songs? What is the hardest part of writing a song?

I’m not sure where my inspiration for writing songs comes from. I’m never sure when I sit down and write whether or not something good will come of it. I guess what I’m feeling has a lot to do with the way the song will turn out. The more strongly I am feeling the more likely a song will come out of it. For me the hardest part of songwriting is finishing the songs. I will feel inspired for a certain amount of time and once that wears off I have to be relatively disciplined and finish.

You played at Airwaves in Reykjavik. Iceland: first time in this Country? Did you have expectations? Can you tell us something about this experience?

It was my first time in Iceland! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived. The weather did meet my expectations, it was really cold and windy when we arrived! I had a great time in Iceland and at the festival. I was amazed at how many great artists were playing. I didn’t have time to go and see everything that I wanted to see. I hope I get to come back and play next year. It was definitely the highlight of my fall.