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Rocky Mountain Outlook

Halifax-based singer-songwriter Mo Kenney is coming west for the first time.

The 22-year-old artist will tour Western Canada, playing nine shows in 10 days, with veteran musician Joel Plaskett. On Sunday (Sept. 23), they play two shows at Communitea Café, at 7 and 10:30 p.m.

Kenney, fresh on the heels of recording her first, self-titled album, spoke with the Outlook last week.

“I started working with Joel on this album last year in April, and we finished it a couple months ago. I’ve just been playing this summer and now I’m getting ready to head out on my first tour out west,” she said excitedly.

Plaskett, in addition to being an accomplished musician, is also a music producer and owns his own record label. It was through recording music that Kenney met him five years ago.

“I was doing some demo recordings at a makeshift studio in Halifax when I was 17,” she said. “Some local bands had been recording there, and then he came in to listen to some of the stuff, so I got to meet him then.

“Three years later I got a call from his manager, and she invited me to come to a songwriting camp – I got in because Joel remembered my name from listening to my songs – and from there Joel and I hooked up and started talking about recording an album for me.”

Getting to work with the legendary Plaskett was a dream come true, she said.

“It was awesome, he’s a wicked producer,” said Kenney. “His studio’s in Dartmouth and he does everything on tape, so everything he records has an awesome, warm sound because of that.

“And he really knows his stuff because he’s Joel Plaskett. I’ve been listening to him since I was a teenager.”

The pair co-wrote two songs on the album, “Deja Vu” and “Scene of the Crime,” and Plaskett also plays on several of the tracks.

Kenney’s favourite songs of this debut album are “Sucker” and “Eden.”

“I’m partial to “Sucker” and “Eden,” because they’re the first two we recorded, and I’m so happy with them,” she said. “It was surreal to listen to my music, recorded in a legitimate studio.”

“Eden” was actually Kenney’s first song, which she wrote at the age of 16.

“I feel like I’ve been waiting, since I first started writing, to have an album with songs for people to hear,” she said. It feels cool to have an album of old music, from when I was that age, to songs I’ve done now in the studio with Joel.”

She describes her music as pop with a folk twist, heavily influenced by the likes of Elliott Smith and Sigur Rós.

“I listened to a lot of Elliott Smith as a teenager,” she said. “He blew my mind when I first heard about him, he has a really unique style of songwriting and guitar playing and I’m enthralled with him.

“I started taking guitar lessons when I was 11 years old, and I remember being in the back of the van with my guitar out, driving home from the first lesson, thinking I had learned everything I needed to learn. I couldn’t put my guitar down. I’d go to bed and I’d lay in my bed with my guitar, playing.”

Having never been out this way before, Kenney is very much looking forward to the tour, which plays a variety of venues, from small clubs to churches to arenas.

“It’s cool, I’ve never done a two-week tour like this before,” she said.” I’ve done a few dates around the Maritimes, but nothing like this, so it’ll be cool and nice to play a bunch of different venues, just to have the experience.”

While the precise format of the show was not known at the time of the interview, most likely Kenney and Plaskett play an acoustic duo, with each also playing some solo work.

“I’ll be playing all the songs off the album and maybe a few covers,” said Kenney.

While Plaskett can fill a big theatre, like the Eric Harvie at The Banff Centre, or headline the folk fest, for these Canmore shows, he’ll be playing a small, intimate venue with a capacity of less than 100.

For this show, he’ll be playing acoustic, without his band, The Emergency.

by Drew Hoshkiw, Rocky Mountain Outlook