Mo Kenney in the UK

Flazeda chats with Mo

By Sadie Hale, Flazeda

As Mo returns to tour the UK for the second time, we catch up with her to talk about her new album, honest songwriting and her plans for the future

At the age of just 25, Mo Kenney is a quiet force to be reckoned with. Having written songs since she was a teenager, the Nova Scotia native has won hearts the world over in recent years. With her gentle voice, knack for writing earworms and easy-going, amicable stage presence, Mo is a self-contained star who nonetheless emits endearing humility and likeability.

She’s garnered a lot of recognition in her home country since her critically-acclaimed, eponymous debut album was released in September 2012. She won the Canadian Folk Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year in 2013, and was also included on the iTunes ‘Best Singer Songwriters of 2012’ list. She’s been nominated for hordes of other awards, too, including for CBC Radio 3’s Bucky Award for Rookie of the Year and an ECMA for Rising Star Recording of the Year. Most recently, her new album, In My Dreams, has scooped up four nominations for the Music Nova Scotia Awards, including for Recording of the Year.

With all this promise, the new album was always going to be brilliant. In My Dreams was released in the UK on September 4, and to accompany it, Mo has been doing a string of performances at venues across the UK and beyond. We caught up to find out how she’s doing.

You first toured the UK as a support act for your friend Rachel Sermanni, around 18 months ago. What have you been up to since then, and how has your music developed?

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Mo featured in Acoustic Magazine’s “Retune Your Ears”

Mo - The Uniter

Style… (Pop/Rock/Folk)

By Acoustic Magazine

My regular guitar is a Hensel parlour acoustic from the 1930s. I bought it from the Halifax Folklore Centre, not far from where I live in Darmouth, Nova Scotia. It’s an incredible instrument. When I strum I use a pick, but I mostly finger pick. It’s not so great when I have to strum a tune, but it sounds beautiful finger picked and it has an incredible warm tone. I use a Fishman Rare Earth soundhole pickup and then I plug it into a DI. The Hensel is my favourite, but when I’m playing with my band I use a 1974 Gibson ES-335. I also use FX pedals – an MXR Analog delay and an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail reverb – with both guitars. I find it hard to put my music into a genre, but I’d stick it in the pop/rock/folk categories. Everything inspires my songwriting – there are lots of songs about love on last year’s album, In My Dreams, but they’re not all love songs. The title track is an unrequited love song, about someone out of reach, but my favourite is ‘Field Song’, as I liked how it turned out. I feel the record is a progression from my first, Mo Kenney. There’s a lot more production, and I think my songwriting and voice have progressed as well. I usually begin writing a new song on my acoustic. Sometimes I have a phrase and melody in my head and start with that. I took guitar lessons for some years and then taught myself the rest. I try to play every day – it’s rare I go a day without picking a guitar up. Alternate tunings? YEs – I use a weird drop C tuning sometimes. It’s CGCEGC. ‘Wind Will Blow’ is in that tuning. I’m currently about to go out on tour. I’ll be in the UK in September, then Germany in October. While I’m home I’m writing lots so that I have enough material to choose from when it’s time to make a new record.

Penny Black Music reviews In My Dreams

Canadian Mo Kenney’s second album expands on the pop/folk of her acclaimed and award-winning debut by introducing a rockier and, at times, more experimental sound

coverBy Malcolm Carter, Penny Black Music

Mo Kenney has been quoted as saying that her self-titled debut from 2012 had a foot in a couple of different genres, namely the pop and folk camps. Not surprisingly Kenney won awards for her debut covering both the pop and folk side of her music and, as her follow-up, ‘In My Dreams’, has already been out in other territories for some time that has also picked up or already been nominated for various awards. With ‘In My Dreams’ Kenney takes a rockier stance, not so much as to alienate those who loved that debut, but there’s certainly more of a rockier edge to some of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s new songs.

There are those of us that, although it pains to have to admit it, have not been as impressed with Aimee Mann’s recent output as we were with her earlier work. Although Kenney is far from a Mann impersonator vocally, or even lyrically, there are times when listening to ‘In My Dreams’ when Mann’s best work comes to mind. That’s really where any comparisons are going to stop, for while it’s a compliment to be compared to such talent Kenney really has, even as early as her second album, made a strong case for being in a class of her own.

Joel Plaskett who also lends his considerable musical skills over a number of instruments and shares four co-writing credits here produced the album. Kenney wrote five of the songs single-handedly ,and the rest, bar one cover, she co-wrote. ‘Telephones’ the one song here that Kenney didn’t have a hand in writing, has been receiving the most attention so far. It’s obvious why as lyrically it’s smart, it’s one of those songs that are full of hooks and Kenney’s vocals are captivating. Lines such as “You used to make my Mondays Saturdays” and “You listen to techno/I hate that stuff” detail the breakdown of a relationship astutely, while the sing-along, jaunty melody belie the, at times, cutting lyrics such as “It never used to be cold sitting on your roof top/But now I feel the weather/Our fights have fucked our shelter”. But the fact is that every song on ‘In My Dreams’ is as strong as ‘Telephones’ and in many instances even stronger.

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