Singer-songwriter Mo Kenney may have begun taking classical guitar lessons with the Royal Conservatory of Music at the age of 11, but like a lot of young musicians, that didn't mean her taste in music was as mature.
"I kind of listened to pretty generic music that didn't have depth for awhile when I was younger," says Kenney.
At first she didn't have much of an interest in being anything more than a guitarist. But after four years of training she dropped out of the conservatory and began working on her own songs. That's when a Wes Anderson film changed her life.
"I discovered Elliott Smith from The Royal Tenenbaums and was just completely blown away by him," she says. "That's when I started to develop my own style."
Influenced by Smith's fragile songbird tenor and his ethereal approach to fingerpicking, Kenney began to teach herself how to play. "Fingerpicking was something I had to kind of train myself how to do," she says. "So I kind of developed my own way of doing it."
She began experimenting, figuring out her own minimalist approach by only using her thumb and pointer finger, compared to the usual open handed approach to picking.
Joel Plaskett, for one, took notice, watching her first perform when she was 17 and signing on to produce her debut album three years later, which will be released on her 20th birthday.
Recorded at his Scotland Yard studio, Plaskett decided to focus his production efforts on creating crisp tones with Kenney's vocals and guitar work, using sparse percussion in the form of drum machines and rim shots to further emphasize her playing.
With two shows during In the Dead of Winter, an opening slot on Ron Sexsmith's Atlantic tour and her debut album coming out later this year, Kenney's future is in good hands.
"Those are going to be the biggest shows of my career so far," she says excitedly. "I can't wait." —Matthew Ritchie
w/Stewart Legere, Breagh MacKinnon
Thursday, January 26, 8pm at The Company House
w/Kim Harris, Rosa Pullman, Matthew Byrne
Friday, January 27, 8pm at 2053 Gottingen
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