Being vulnerable is something that is almost entirely essential when being a songwriter if you want to connect with an audience. The act of exposing your feelings and the truth behind them, even if it's not directly speaking about a situation, shows the courage and ability of a songwriter.
Singer-songwriter Kenzie Moore has a unmatched amount of confidence when I speak with her about not only this topic of being vulnerable when songwriting, but really anything related to music. She's vibrant and happy, and more than willing to talk about the process, emotions, and the vulnerability behind the songs on her newest full-length album, Dear You. We spoke over the phone last week in regards to this record, making it with an incredible time-crunch and working under pressure, and much more.
Let’s talk about “Body of Armor”. I was very interested in speaking with you about this. From each listen, I felt like it was a very vulnerable song. What was the song about, and what kind of state were you in when you approached writing this song?
You know, I was lucky to work with the producer, Scotty Grand, out in Los Angeles. When I approached him in the studio, I kind of had this idea of saying lyrically, “I’m gonna be your body of armor”. It’s kind of a song about showing that women don’t always have to be the damsel in distress in the relationship. In a situation that I was personally going through, I was looking at a friend of mine. He was in a relationship that just wasn’t right for him. I felt that I wanted help and protect, and I liked doing it in a way that shows that I’m strong for him, and he doesn’t have to be strong one hundred percent of the time.
Scotty really understood it, which was totally awesome, because I think it’s important when the singers and the producers mesh well together to get the same message out there with the song. I really loved the way it came out. Personally, in that whole scenario, I felt some things for my friend, and seeing him hurt through this bad relationship was frustrating for me because I felt that he deserved more. It was nothing against her in that sense; I think I need to justify that. It just wasn’t a good match, and I think this song kind of shows that, you know, whenever you’re feeling weak, I can be there to help you push yourself back up. You know?
Absolutely. And I hear you about the whole relationship scenario. Some people just don’t work. Two people could be great and wonderful, and nothing bad could happen in the relationship, but sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. I completely hear you on that front.
Yeah! And it doesn’t have to end as though someone breaks another person’s heart. It could just be that two people aren’t compatible. And it’s nothing against either of them.
Would you say that was the theme for the album, or was that just one of the topics that was touched on?
There are some songs that are related to “Body of Armor”, in the sense that I had feelings for a friend of mine who I didn’t think shared them. There are a couple of songs about that, and I’m sure that anyone can relate to that. There are songs surrounding the idea of “I’m here to protect you as well”, just like “Body of Armor”, and then there are songs about people not being compatible. You know, a good chunk of them are about my personal experiences, and some of them are me acting as a third-party observer, which I think was kind of unique when I was writing these songs. I was looking at some of my friends’ relationships, and adding my two cents, which was probably unwanted (laughs).
To see it as an outsider, that puts a whole new sense of emotion into a song, because you see how that’s affecting your best friends. I’m really excited because, in any song on the album, there is something for someone who is going through either a new relationship, or ending things, or having feelings for someone who doesn’t reciprocate them. I think that there’s a lot of themes on the album, but I think they’re pretty relatable things.
In comparison to doing an EP like Stories, what was the process lie in terms of going into the studio and working on an album in comparison to an EP? Was there a bit more pressure, was it more relaxed? What was the overall vibe?
It was crazy because I started recording in June, and then I took a little bit of a break and went back home to Michigan. Then, my manager called me and said, “I know this is probably crazy, but what do you think about having a full-length out by September 23rd?” I got this call on July 25th. I was like, “okay, well I still have ten more songs to do. (laughs)”. They said, “Alright, that’s fine, we can try to release it later in the year.” But, I was like, “You know what? This is a good challenge. Let’s do it.”
I went down to Nashville, and worked with Mike Lombardi and Rob Chiarappa, who are both the main producers of the album, for five days straight in the studio. I got ten songs done, and it was probably the most exhilarating experience of my entire life. It was super intense, super crunched for time, but it was totally, one hundred percent worth it. These songs are so amazing and so high energy! We were just so excited to get this done. That little bit of anxiety also, kind of, makes your work a little bit harder.
The EP was something that was a lot more relaxed. I took a lot more time in recording everything and picking things, whereas the songs for the full-length were written in the sense of me going into the studio and saying, “I like this beat, and this theme of the song.” I had a much better idea of what I wanted because I had the experience of recording, writing, and producing my EP. I had literally no idea how the industry worked until I did my EP.
It sounds like you got more of that introductory experience while doing the EP, and while the album went faster than usual, it felt like you were about to go into it with more experience. As sounds like as rushed as it was, it was an enjoyable experience. That can be rare.
Oh my god, yeah! I loved it. I work better under pressure, I think. I mean...oh my gosh. I’m so excited to have this album out and to have people hear it. I think it’s so different from my EP. New music and new vibes coming from it. I feel like it’s so cheesy saying that (laughs). I think, because I was so under pressure, I created (with the help of the creative brains of Mike and Rob), something completely new. I hope people will like it as much as I liked creating it. I hope! (laughs)
From a songwriter’s perspective, I feel like sometimes, there’s that one song that can be challenging or hold things up. Was there maybe one song for you that was more challenging to take on than others? If so, how did you overcome it as a songwriter?
Yeah! The title song of the album, “Dear You”. Caleb Schultz was the producer. Normally, when I meet a producer, I can immediately take off [with the songwriting], because I usually have this idea and we’re able to build off of it right away. For some reason, “Dear You” was just not taking off as quickly as it normally does. I was having a really hard time trying to relay the message that I wanted to in this song.
I had certain lines that I really loved that I wanted in the song, and I didn’t really know how to piece them together. Caleb was super awesome and patient with me in terms of offering ideas, and I just kind of started picking through some of the other lyrics from other songs that I didn’t think I’d really use. As a songwriter, you have hundreds of lyrics that are just scratched out that you never use. I was going through some of my old lyric books for I think about an hour, and really picking very small lines from each one. I think it, eventually, became my favorite song on the album. By going through all of these old lyrics, I have hundreds of experiences and memories to make this amazing song. I think that’s probably why it’s my favorite! It’s not just one particular story of mine; it’s hundreds that I went through and pieced together. Caleb loved it, and that’s probably why it came out the way that it did.
That’s why I wanted to give it that title. “Dear You” is such an open ended title.
Last two questions: what kind of message, if you have one, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
I think, for me, and this kind of relates back to the EP, everyone has a story. Whether it makes them the person that they are today, or it shows what they want to relay onto other people, they have a certain message or story that they want people to know about themselves. I do that through my music! My lyrics are very personal and emotional, and I think that people shouldn’t be afraid of telling their story. I think that this music shows that you’re allowed to be vulnerable and let people know how you’re feeling, whether it’s through music, writing, dancing, maybe through athletics; whatever you do as a person and what your passion is, let it all out! Show people the person that you are. Don’t be afraid to tell people how you’re feeling (laughs). It’s good to be vulnerable, I think. Some of the best moments of your life [happen] when you’re vulnerable. I hope the people can take at least one song on the album and have something to relate to.
Finally: what does music mean to you?
Music means everything to me. There’s always a song that can relate to a situation I’m going through, to a book I’m reading, to a person I meet. Music is a message. It’s a way of sharing what you can’t share through normal words or body language. It means everything to me, whether I’m listening to it, writing it, or performing it.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.