Kenya is an eclectic soul singer from Chicago. Kenya is one of our SonicBids competition winners, from almost 500 entries, so we’re extremely excited to share her music and story with you. Read the full interview below to learn about her recent experience attending the Grammy’s, her musical inspirations and what she’s hoping to achieve in 2011.
Q: If you could classify your music in a genre or a number of genres what would it be?
R&B/soul, jazz, adult contemporary and alternative soul. You know…a little bit of this and a lot a bit of that!
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
Eclectic soul, innovative, & soothing music…the kind of music that inspires yet also entertains.
Q: What is your musical background?
I began singing around 8 years old the same time I began playing flute. Singing naturally grew with me. I picked up the piano when I was 13 and consider it my secondary instrument (voice being primary).
Q: How was 2010 for you?
In one word…AMAZING! I released my first EP/CD and NEVER imagined all of the wonderful responses and reactions. 2010 was also a year for healing, nurturing, and spiritual growth which is why I truly believe my music came alive.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
Musicians who deliver music with passion, originality, and those who take risks while staying true to the craft. Therefore, this list is LONG! From Stevie Wonder to John Mayer to indie artists who few know…so many inspire me.
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
Esperanza Spalding and Gretchen Parlato are absolutely amazing artists whom I look up to because of their individuality and ability to create progressive music. They are jazz artists, and while I am not a jazz artist, I love jazz and its ability to be so progressive. Its innovative and I aspire to do the same with my music.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
I’ve always daydreamed of the ultimate moment with greats such as Stevie Wonder or George Duke or Quincy Jones. But, I also imagine singing with John Mayer or Dianne Reeves. There is such a large spectrum to choose from.
Q: What songs are on your ipod at the moment?
The better question is what song ISN’T! Can’t type that list….from hip hop to jazz to rock to pop to lounge to house music….I’ve got it all and that’s what keeps me so enthralled in music. The options are endless.
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
Typically one of two things will happen- a melody will simply land on my brain completely out of the sky (those are always eery moments) or I will simply fiddle on the keyboard and a melody will develop. Once a simple melody is created, I then try to sense the energy or vibe of the melody. Is it melancholy, happy, loving, whimsical, etc? Then I create lyrics to fit the mood and create a story. Sometimes, a story will come to mind and I simply develop a song to tell the message.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
Good question… I love to write and tell stories, so often I’m drawn to what is being said. But, ultimately, its the melody that catches the listener and causes the song to be etched in the mind.
Q: Where are you based?
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
I’m originally from Denver, CO and Denver is an amazing city full of beautiful landscapes and positive energy. It’s laid back nature is always so welcoming. Chicago is also a beautiful cosmopolitan city with a huge variety of experiences. The music scene is positive and I’ve met a number of amazing artists. However, as an alternative soul artist, I’m still exploring the music landscape in Chicago to collaborate with like minded musicians. So far, the journey has been exciting!
Q: What are you currently working on?
Multiple things, which is great! This spring and summer is mostly focused on performing in both public and private events. I’m also writing and collaborating with a couple of different producers. I’m preparing myself mentally to begin going into heavy writing mode for the fall because I want to begin working on a full cd…and I’m REALLY excited about the possibilities.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Being in the music scene at this level is very new for me, so everything feels like a highlight! I imagine a big highlight thus far was that I attended this year’s Grammy Awards show in LA. While I wasn’t nominated for anything, it was a huge opportunity to simply be in the moment with so many amazing musicians. I was able to meet Bobby McFerrin and even see Julie Andrews in person. It was an awesome experience.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?
Exposure, exposure, exposure! My goal right now is for people to hear my music either by performing or promoting my music where ever opportunities present themselves.
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
Two exciting gigs coming up include Keeping Success PURE May 27th here in Chicago at Mayne Stage-this will be a charity concert that will be videotaped & broadcast on Chicago’s PBS channel. In addition, I will be interviewed and featured as an “On the Rise” artist in Chicago. Also,July 22nd in Homewood, IL I am the opening act for American English, a Beatles Tribute Band, during the Starry Nights Concert Series.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Exercising, watching House Hunters on HGTV (such a relaxing show…for some strange reason), spending time with my family… and listening to music. Finding rare musical gems is a hobby as well as a source of relaxation for me.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
My debut EP/CD “Starting Over” is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.com…don’t delay! Check me out!
Editor’s Note: Wow what a voice! The partnership of Kenya’s soothing vocals with laid back grooves creates an extremely commercial and eclectic sound. We’re looking forward to seeing Kenya’s career progress over the coming months and years.
If you’d like to learn more about or contact Kenya just follow the links below:
twitter link: www.twitter.com/kenyamjmusic
facebook link: www.facebook.com/#!/pages/KenyaMJ-Music/117845384914225
myspace link: www.myspace.com/kenyamjmusic