Five Questions With… KINLEY
The former member of Hey Rosetta! is now an award-winning solo artist. A second album arrives Friday, and here she discusses its songs, woman’s rights, the huge impact of earlier tune Microphone, touring with Stars, and why she loves Barry Manilow.
By Jason Schneider
Charlottetown singer/songwriter KINLEY releases her self-titled sophomore LP on Feb. 21, and it features eight deeply honest and reflective tracks including the call-to-action lead single Lightworkers and the infectious, pop-rock inspired Run With You. Produced by Colin Buchanan (Paper Lions) at The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown, the album solidifies KINLEY’s reputation as a raw observational storyteller with a knack for charming melodies.
The new collection follows KINLEY’s 2016 debut Letters Never Sent, which earned three Music PEI Awards and two East Coast Music Awards. More importantly, it contained the powerful song Microphone, which helped move the PEI education system to place more focus on consent, gender norms, bystander intervention and sexual assault within its health curriculum, starting in Grade 9.
As an in-demand string player, KINLEY has appeared on more than 70 albums by Jenn Grant, Matt Mays, Rose Cousins and others, with her tracks featured in a number of films, commercials and TV shows. But many will know her for her decade-long stint in Hey Rosetta!, that included multiple tours of Australia, the U.S., Canada and Europe, and appearances at festivals such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and the Mumford and Sons Gentleman of the Road tour.
KINLEY is also currently collaborating with Liam Corcoran of Two Hours Traffic under the name The Express, and they will perform on Feb. 29 at Bar 1911 in Charlottetown. Find out more at kinleymusic.com.
What songs on your new self-titled record are you most proud of and why?
I am really proud of Washington because I am a big advocate for woman’s rights. I went to the Women’s March in Charlottetown in 2017 and I overheard lots of older women saying they couldn’t believe they were still marching for equal rights after all these years. It really stuck with me. It got me fired up. My mom’s friend Karen looked at me and said, “You should write about what you saw here today.” I went home and wrote down everything I felt after the march. I then watched hours of the Women’s March in Washington online. I have a quiet voice but I know with the correct placement of words and honest writing, that you can reach people. This song is one way that I can do my part for equality and woman’s rights.
I’m also proud of Lightworkers, which I wrote for my childhood best friend Chrissy and her fiancée Ryan. They got engaged and we were all heading down south for their destination wedding when Ryan found out he had a horrible type of cancer called chordoma on the base of his spine. They had to miss their wedding and Ryan had surgery. I didn’t know how I could help in such a horrible moment in their lives, so I wrote this song to call all the lightworkers to help Ryan heal. A lightworker is a special person with almost psychic ability to intuit what other people are thinking, feeling, or need in order to heal. After a 14-hour surgery and many good vibes being sent to Ryan and Chrissy, Ryan has made a miraculous recovery and is back to work!
What's your best touring story?
A few years ago, when I was touring violinist with Hey Rosetta!, we were travelling through the US and were lucky to be on a sweet bus with 12 bunk beds. After the shows, we would jump on the bus and our amazing driver would have us in the next town by the time we woke up. But one night there was engine trouble that resulted in a fire. Our driver was very calm but very direct and told us to get off the bus immediately. We were in our pyjamas on the side of the road in what felt like the middle of nowhere on a very chilly early morning. We checked in at a motel nearby. The bus company said there were no replacement buses in the area, so we would have to stay the night and wait for another one that was coming from another state.
We were mildly upset at what had just happened but nonetheless celebrated being alive and safe at the motel where Mara [Pellerin] and I drank ciders and watched Sex in the City from our in-room jacuzzi. It was spectacular. The next day the bus arrived. We heard a rumour it was a star who had just finished a tour the previous day. It turned out to be Barry Manilow! The bus was stocked with chocolates, orange juice and champagne and the biggest can of Chicago mix I’ve seen to this day. We raised our mimosas, which we renamed “Manimosas,” and cheered “Barry!” for saving our tour. To this day every time I see Chicago mix, I think of Barry Manilow and smile.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
I started taking violin lessons in school in Grade 4, and our teacher Jen was amazing. In Grade 7 I joined a string orchestra she also taught called Singing Strings. We played receptions around town. It was my first paying gig and, despite the hideous turquoise dresses with puffy sleeves, it was a really fun time. That same year we travelled to Europe to represent Canada at an ISME (International Society for Music Education) conference. I was so excited to see the world while playing music. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got while travelling in another country was from my teacher. She told us to always travel in groups of three. So, if someone got hurt there was one person to stay with the body and one to go get help. Ha! I was so lucky to see so much of the world at a young age. I learned most of my musical skills from Singing Strings. Sometimes they would forget the sheet music to a song someone requested, so she would just say, “Do you know this song? Okay kids, start on D.” That kind of ear training on the spot was incredibly valuable to my future career as a musician.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
The song Microphone from my previous album, Letters Never Sent, means the most to me. I wrote it about being sexually assaulted 15 years earlier. It took me that long to process what happened and to articulate my feelings into a song. It was actually the fastest song I have ever written when the words started to flow. It was a cathartic experience to write and record and a lot of people connect to it. I am so proud to say that Microphone and the music video—directed by Jenna MacMillan—have been added to the Grade 9 health curriculum in my home province of Prince Edward Island. The accompanying modules deal with consent, gender norms, bystander roles and sexual assault. The people on the task force that wrote the curriculum did the most incredible job and I really think it should be used in health classes across North America.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It, by Stars. It is my favourite song by one of my favourite bands. It’s an incredible song about love and life and joy and heartbreak at the same time. Playing with Hey Rosetta!, we were lucky to get to tour with Stars a few times.
The song just makes me dance the moment the bass comes in. It was a favourite for a few of the Hey Rosetta! gang and we actually surprised the Stars band one night in the middle of their set. Four of us from Hey Rosetta! choreographed a dance routine to the song. We rehearsed it in faraway rooms while Stars would soundcheck each night. They had no idea we were going to do it and the look on their faces was incredible. We performed it for a few more shows on the tour. It was one of my favourite moments of touring.