In just a short amount of time, pop singer-songwriter Mo Kenney has gone from making music in her bedroom to performing on stages around the world. It’s an indie-rock Cinderella story for the ages, minus the evil step-mother and nefarious step-sisters, but with an equally inspiring ending.
As a classic-rock influence teen, Kenney’s musical journey began with her playing guitar at age 11. She wrote her first song at age 15, but was ultimately shy about sharing the material she had written.
While still a student in high school, her class received a visit from fellow Nova Scotian musician Joel Plaskett. Impressed by her talent, Plaskett put Kenney’s name forward as a participant in acclaimed songwriter Gordie Sampson’s Songwriting Camp.
The rest, as they say, is history. Plaskett would go on to take Kenney under his wing, producing and performing on her 2012 self-titled debut effort. From there, Kenney earned slots supporting the likes of Ron Sexsmith and Plaskett, touring throughout Canada, England, Australia, the United Kingdom and Iceland.
Along the way, Kenney racked up numerous accolades, including Music Nova Scotia Awards, East Coast Music Awards, and a Canadian Folk Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year.
Given all she accomplished with her debut, it would have been reasonable to expect Kenney to perhaps be a little apprehensive when it came time to settle down to make her sophomore effort.
It turns out that it wasn’t the case for the 24 year old Kenney.
“The whole sophomore jinx never really crossed my mind a whole lot, honestly. I was a little worried about it at the outset of the making of the album, but I felt confident with the collection of songs we were working with. Besides, there’s nothing I can really do if people don’t like it anyway,” she laughs.
Given the artistic chemistry that she and Plaskett found with her debut album, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Kenney would re-enlist him to help realize her latest record, In My Dreams.
“If anything, the process of making the record felt a little freer this time around to try a few different things. Joel and I have become such good friends that it’s easy to work together; I never worry that he won’t tell me if an idea is ridiculous. I trust his judgement implicitly.”
Kenney says writing for In My Dreams began in earnest at the start of 2013, but that the bulk of the songs were just fully realized in the spring of 2014. While some artists unquestionably struggle with the seemingly finite amount of time in which they have to write a follow-up effort, Kenney found ways to avoid feeling such pressure:
“If anything, playing live over the couple of years leading up to the recording of In My Dreams helped immeasurably. Going into the making of my debut, it seemed as though I had an endless amount of songs to choose from, where with this album, it felt weird not having such a wide selection to pick from.
“Looking back, however, it ended up serving the album better. It made the record a much more cohesive chunk of work that comes from a very specific time period. I’ve always felt that as some people get further and further into their music career, they can lose sight of seeing the album as a cohesive unit.”
As her nation-wide tour with Plaskett prepares to wind down – only a hometown show in Halifax remains following their sold-out show at Moncton’s Tide & Boar on Saturday – she is already looking forward to her third album.
“When I’ve been home, I’ve had these creative bursts where I am just writing a lot of material. I like being on the road, but I also know that time passes by so quickly, that if I don’t take advantage of writing when I can, I am going to miss the opportunity altogether.
“Really though, it is dizzying to look back on my life of the last five years. I think back on everywhere I have been and everything that has happened and can’t help but realizing that I never could have imagined this when I was 19 or 20 years old, living in Halifax and trying to make a go of music. It’s been a dream so far. Regardless of how much longer I get to do it, the experience alone has been amazing enough for me,” Kenney says.
What: Mo Kenney, special guest to Joel Plaskett
When: Saturday May 30,
Where: The Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
The show is sold out