At age 25, she earned a Juno nomination for her latest album, In My Dreams, and her track “Sucker”, written at just 19 years old, won the SOCAN songwriting prize, but Mo Kenney’s biggest achievements aren’t her accolades–it’s her talent itself. The Canadian singer-songwriter first began playing guitar before she was even a teenager, the early musicality leading to her aptitude for songwriting starting at 16. In the decade that has passed, the young artist has released two full-length records with production partner Joel Plaskett, most notably known for being the frontman of alt-rock band Thrush Hermit.
Even though Kenney penned “Sucker” years ago and it first appeared on her self-titled debut record in 2012, the track is still going strong, reinforcing its award-winning status. A few months ago, Kenney performed the track with Beehive Productions in Kansas City, MO. Mimicking “Sucker”‘s intimate, conversational tone, the performance video shows her sitting comfortably on a couch with nothing but a microphone, her trusty acoustic guitar, and her smooth, fresh vocals. The guitar follows a mellow, lightly pulsing rhythm with sweet bursts of flavorful chord changes, not daring to overpower Kenney’s effortless voice singing bittersweet lyrics like “Now you’re just a memory of everything I’d hoped you’d be”–bitter because of the words, sweet because of the voice. Beyond the beauty of the song, Kenney is almost relaxing to watch–eyes closed, fingers gentle on the strings, with an ease and graceful air about her.
Watch the latest video for “Sucker” below and read Elmore’s exclusive interview with Mo Kenney beneath it. Connect with Kenney on her Facebook:
Elmore Magazine: What is the music scene like in Nova Scotia and how has it influenced your music?
Mo Kenney: Nova Scotia has a great music scene. There are a ton of bands in Halifax and a lot of bands that come out of Cape Breton. It’s really nice to have so many other musicians around. It really feels like a community. I think starting out, it was really important for me to have the support here at home. There are a lot of great musicians who are also great people here.
EM: How does your latest album, In My Dreams, differ from your 2012 self-titled debut record?
MK: In My Dreams feels more grown up and also leans more toward pop/rock than my self-titled album did. I was pretty young when I penned a lot of the tunes on my first record. I think the vibe of that album reflects my age at the time. It has its darker moments, but it’s pretty light in comparison to In My Dreams.
EM: You cite Wes Anderson and his films as a big inspiration for you. Can you talk a little about why that is?
MK: Wes Anderson films have amazing soundtracks, and I’ve always appreciated that. I’ve discovered a lot of my favourite artists through his movies. I really like the style of his movies. They always look amazing, and the characters are always really quirky and interesting. I think any kind of interesting art inspires me.
EM: In My Dreams was, rightfully, nominated for a JUNO award. What was that experience like?
MK: Being nominated for a JUNO was surreal. I was looking at all the other nominees and it became even more surreal. Pretty neat.
EM: What was the songwriting process and production like for your award-winning track “Sucker”?
MK: I wrote “Sucker” when I was 19, and had never recorded it until I got into the studio to start my self-titled record. That was about seven years ago now so my memory of writing it is a little foggy, but I remember it came quickly. I think I had the guitar hook first and then added onto it. Recording it was extremely satisfying. As with all of the other songs on that album, I hadn’t heard them recorded before. Hearing it come to life is something I’ll never forget. That’s still one of my favourite things about writing: getting into the studio and giving my songs life.