Kenzie May: Songs of Love and Loss
Singer-songwriter Kenzie May opens up on her relationship to music and love.
Kenzie May‘s lyrics are familiar — a story of love and loss, made only more reminiscent in her soft, soulful voice. Born in Boston, the London-native got to listening to the tunes of Erykah Badu and Alanis Morissette before defining her own sound. Her premiered album, Skeleton Key released to critical acclaim, before the artist announced “Honey.”
Love is “a paradox in a beautiful mess,” the singer explains. “Yes, love is great, but you have to take into account all of the things that come with it: the beauty and the ugliness.” The sequel to “Honey,” her just-released single “Never Find Another” is an example of love in retrospection. Relationships can be brief, but Kenzie May’s music certainly endures. Check out our full conversation with the talented soul below.
Born in Boston but raised in London, your background must have influenced your musical diet. Tell us about your early influences.
I grew up in the UK, but both my parents are American so most of my earliest favorites came from them. My Dad was all about Motown and soul. Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire were often played in the house. My mum was into singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell, Erykah Badu and Alanis Morissette, and she loves her rock ‘n’ roll. Both sides played a big part in shaping my musical influences.
What’s changed since then? Walk us through the progression of your musical style.
As soon as I stopped looking to my parents to introduce me to music, and started stumbling upon songs and artists on my own — or through others — my influences expanded. I don’t think you can help the way music infiltrates. Whether I like it or not, flecks of everything I’ve really connected with processes and reflects back in my music. It’s a distorted, jumbled homage.
Recently I’ve been pulling from the dark corners of music blogs, the beautifully weird parts of SoundCloud and other streaming sites. I have producers and writers who are friends of mine giving me feedback on songs I play them, and they play me stuff they’ve done. That exchange is super special and definitely conducive to my music and what I do.
Applauds on your emotional single “Honey” and its accompanying music video. You quote Nikos Kazantzakis “Once, I saw a bee drown in honey, and I understood” – can you expand on its meaning? What’s the symbolism of honey in that video?
It’s similar to the idea of “too much of a good thing,” but I think it goes beyond that. It’s no secret relationships are difficult. They take a lot of work, patience and compromise; you have to just hope that it’s worth it. Yes, love is great, but you have to take into account all of the things that come with it: the beauty and the ugliness. As sweet as it is, it’s not something that can be easily controlled, and the deeper you go, the harder it is to escape. Drowning in honey demonstrates just that — a paradox in a beautiful mess.
Whether I like it or not, flecks of everything I’ve really connected with processes and reflects back in my music.
On to your new single “Never Find Another.” It navigates a different emotional space on the tale of love than “Honey.” Why the change in tone?
When I write songs, it’s cathartic. Things I have trouble explaining are revealed…things I didn’t even realize were on my mind come to the surface. Both “Honey” and “Never Find Another” were that way — sort of at a subconscious level when I wrote them, speaking on things that I had been thinking about, but hadn’t yet come to a head, eventually becoming almost self-fulfilling prophecies. Honey is that realization of a relationship’s pitfalls; “Never Find Another” is a retrospective look back on a relationship. They almost act as part 1 and 2.
You boast a sound list of collaborations including a gig on Metronomy’s album Love Letters as the backing vocalist. What was that like? Any plans for a reunion?
It was a lot of fun. I don’t get too many opportunities to sing with other vocalists so closely. The band was great to work with, and Jaelee & Beth, the other girls I did vocals with on the record, are amazing singers. It was altogether a pretty special experience. I’m a big fan of Metronomy so it would be dope to work together again in some capacity.
It seems many artists straddle that line between music and fashion. Any plans to do so yourself?
Right now I’m pretty much solely focused on music. I like what I like, and I don’t expect anyone else to.
So…what can we expect from Kenzie May next?
Watch the music video for “Honey” and listen to “Never Find Another” on SoundCloud.
- Vicky Grout