Mo Kenney is no longer Halifaxs best-kept secret.
The 23-year-old singer/songwriter snagged this years
SOCAN Songwriting Prize for her song Sucker, an elegiac
tune about being let down and left behind. Now
youre just a memory/of everything Id hoped
youd be, she sings in a voice beyond her
Kenney beat out fellow nominees Maylee Todd, Whitehorse,
Purity Ring and the Weather Station featuring Baby Eagle
with the simple yet affecting tune, which comes from
her Joel Plaskett-produced 2012 self-titled debut. Past
winners include Kathleen Edwards, Propagandhi and the
I was really excited and surprised to be even
put in the running, she says over the phone. I
was in good company.
She wrote the prize-winning song when she was 19, newly
dumped, living in her first apartment, working two soul-sucking
day jobs one at a dollar store, the other making
pizzas at a supermarket and generally wallowing
in a black hole of self-pity (weve all been there,
Indeed, its a familiar experience, and its
that truth that makes Sucker so resonant.
I think its the one Im most proud
of, she says of the song.
Despite her next big thing status, Kenney
isnt new to songwriting. She wrote her first tune
when she was 13.
I dont remember what it was about but I
remember it was really horrible, she says with
a laugh. I think it was probably extremely angsty.
Her guitar teacher pushed her into singing it at a recital.
I hated it, she recalls. I didnt
like being the centre of attention. I didnt write
anything for a long time after that.
Then, a switch flipped. By the time she turned 15, everything
Thats when I started really writing songs.
It felt really good. She cant pinpoint what
was different about songwriting, exactly, but something
definitely was. You dont have a lot of life
experience when youre 13 but I guess you
dont when youre 15, either.
I guess was thinking about more things and I was
more willing to go there, she says. I filled
three notbooks in a summer. I eventually put words to
music. I felt like I unlocked a secret because it felt
She began broadening her horizons musically, listening
to a steady diet of Sigur Ros, Mars Volta and the late,
great Elliott Smith, who ranks among her biggest influences.
Her fingerpicking style is reminiscent of his. I
found all of this music through movies I love
movies, she says, which isnt a surprising
admission, considering the cinematic quality of her
songs. She also began experimenting with four-track
I was fumbling around making weird music because
I wasnt trying to conform to any structure,
she says. I never figured out how to bounce it,
so there was two tracks on one side and two on the other.
Now, I sit down with a bit more intent. Im
When Kenney was 16, she caught the attention of Plaskett
via a school program that enabled young artists to share
their demos. A few years later, she was offered a spot
at Gordie Sampsons Songcamp on a recommendation
I couldnt believe he remembered me after
all those years.
Working with the East Coast indie rock hero on her debut
album was a thrill for Kenney.
Hes an awesome producer. Hes so musical.
It was my first record and my first time in a studio
there were a lot of firsts and it was
cool working with a producer whos also a musician.
In fact, shell team up with Plaskett again for
her sophomore album, which she hopes to begin recording
in November. Although shes loath to describe her
own music, she says the direction shes headed
in is weird pop.
Im letting myself do whatever. Im
just trying not to think about the fact people will