Mo Kenney Refuses To Sweat The Details

The Nova Scotian singer-songwriter finds her voice with new record

The first time I first heard Mo Kenney was at the beginning of 2012. She was serving as the opening act for Ron Sexsmith in Moncton, and struck me as an artist that was wise beyond her years. Not only was I slightly envious of the way she commanded the attention of everyone in the audience, she pulled a wickedly great cover of David Bowie’s “Five Years” out of her back pocket that left me in awe.

Fast forward six years. I assume Mo is six years older although the jury is still out on similar matters about yours truly. The good news is, Mo is still releasing music, and I’m still writing about it.

Mo’s latest record,The Details, is her third full-length effort. It is simultaneously her most rocking effort to date, but it’s also arguably her most personal record. Speaking in advance of shows in Fredericton, Charlottetown and Moncton (details are below), Mo spoke with us about her latest album, and how King Crimson is too goddamn underrated.

The Details is not only more electric-based than your two previous efforts, you’re also putting yourself ‘out there’ more lyrically. Were those intentional moves on your part?

I didn’t deliberately set out to be more rock or anything like that [laughs], but it just happened to be the direction in which the songs were headed as they came together. In the demo stages of recording these songs, I was doing a lot of stuff on the guitar that I hadn’t necessarily done before, but it was a lot of fun and is probably the reason why the guitar figures more prominently on this latest record.

Was there a certain feeling of coming into your own with this album? There’s so much emphasis put on an artist’s first and second records, but if you look at a band like Sloan, I feel – with no disrespect intended toward their first two albums – they really started to find who they were with One Chord To Another. 

Definitely! When I was making the record, I knew I wanted to do something a little different, but also let the audience in on me a little more than what I had done with my first two albums. Music is like anything else in that the more you do it, the more comfortable you become. As an artist, this record is probably the most comfortable I’ve been in terms of expressing myself. It should be interesting to see where I go with the next album.

As with your first two records, your friend and mentor Joel Plaskett helped bring this album to life. What set making The Details apart from your other releases? 

I went further in-depth in the demo process this time around than what I had done with my other albums, and it ended up being so helpful to getting this record completed. And once again, Joel had a big hand in the production side of things. The great thing about working with Joel is that he has this knack of taking a song that’s maybe an 8 and making it an 11. He definitely brings out the best in me and is just such a positive force to have in my life.

I have to ask: The four albums on the wall in your promo photo, is there a certain significance to their being so prominently displayed in the photo?

I love the artwork on each of them, but they also individually kind of informed the making of The Details.

Seeing the T Rex, Guided By Voices and David Bowie album covers didn’t necessarily surprise me as much as seeing King Crimson’s In The Court of the Crimson King among them. “21st Century Schizoid Man” is such a beast of a song. It’s a complicated listen, but it’s so good! 

Totally! King Crimson is one of those bands that don’t necessarily get their due, but the production on some of those songs is just amazing.

Catch Mo Kenney and her band live:

March 9 — Charlottetown, PEI — Charlottetown Beer Garden & Seafood Patio
March 10 — Moncton, NB — The Tide & Boar Gastropub
March 11 — Fredericton, NB — The Capital Complex (rescheduled from March 8)

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