An Interview With Physical Therapist Turned Singer-Songwriter, KENYA!
Posted On 09 Sep 2015
Meet singer-songwriter, Kenya! Here are a few reasons why you should check out her debut U.S. album, “My Own Skin”:
Kenya’s U.S. debut album is a mix of soul and jazz, coined jazz-kissed soul, her style of music is wooing admirers simultaneously in the U.S. and U.K.
Kenya’s released her debut U.K. album, My Own Skin on Expansion Records in March 2015. The album reached No. 1 on the U.K. Soul charts and remained on the charts for four consecutive weeks.
Kenya’s new single, “Let Me” are both on Billboard’s Urban Adult Contemporary and Smooth Jazz charts. It was the No. 2 most added song on the Smooth Jazz format for the week of July 27, with eight new adds.
Kenya recently performed a live thirty minute live concert on Sirius XM’s Heart and Soul’s Soul Intro. She also made her debut performance at the ESSENCE Festival’s Centerstage during the July 4th weekend.
Learn more about this talented performer in the following All Access interview:
Looking back, how long have you wanted to be a performer?
It’s funny…I used to dream and pretend constantly as a child that I was a performer, but it was just that- a fantasy. Honestly, it wasn’t until I returned back to music about 5 years ago that I took it seriously. But the seed was planted very early in life. I just didn’t know how to follow and chase the dream back then.
Why exactly did you drastically change careers after becoming a licensed physical therapist? Did you feel like you weren’t following your dream?
Being a physical therapist is hard work both physically and mentally. Working with illness and injury daily pushed me to constantly reflect on life and purpose because I was working with so many people whose lives had drastically changed. The more I worked, the more I could feel I wasn’t living my purpose. I was scared because it would be a drastic change on so many levels. But I was feeling restless and depressed and knew I had to follow not just a dream…but my purpose.
What musicians have continued to inspire you through the years? Who would you love to do a duet with one day?
I am a fan first when it comes to music, so MANY musicians have influenced me. Namely Stevie Wonder, Dianne Reeves, Lalah Hathaway and a host more. I would love to do a collab with Robert Glasper! I keep putting it into the atmosphere…maybe just maybe…(smile).
What was the inspiration for your singles “Let Me” and “Be Here” which are in steady rotation now on Sirius XM channels?
“Let Me” is really a song about being vulnerable. In relationships, it’s critical that you allow yourself to get vulnerable so greater intimacy can be gained. It’s simply a concept that I thought listeners should celebrate. “Be Here” is about “grown folk” love. None of this “temporary” stuff! Relationships are hard work and you will inevitably be disappointed and disappoint your partner in some shape or form. The major point is how you respond…so I wanted to talk about forgiveness and how you can survive hardships in relationships. I can relate to both songs, hence wanting a space to share these stories.
So far, what have been some of your favorite experiences either in the studio, on stage performing or elsewhere? Where are you truly happiest?
The past few years have been insanely wonderful! I’ve had special moments everywhere! I think having my album mastered by the genius himself Bernie Grundman who mastered albums by Michael Jackson, Prince, Carol King and the list goes on and on was a huge high in the studio. Performing in London for the first time as well as performing on Center Stage at the ESSENCE Festival 2015 were both awe inspiring! I believe I’m happiest on the stage with one other musician either a guitarist or pianist and singing to an intimate crowd in a small room; that brings me complete joy!
You are gearing up for a busy fall performing all over the US. Where are you most excited to play at?
I’m very excited to perform in my hometown of Denver because that’s where it all began. But I’m equally excited to perform in Chicago where I’m based because I will use my full Chi-based band and some of my closest friends and supporters will be present. I also get the opportunity to share the stage w/ r&b recording artist Noel Gourdin in Chicago, so that’s an honor!
Do you have any pre-performance rituals? If so, what are they? What do you think makes a show just perfect?
I like to be VERY still before shows. Like, literally just staying in one spot during the day and then simply allowing myself to get still and centered. I always say a prayer to myself as well. What makes a show “perfect” is me being present. Being in the moment is crucial! If I think too much about the audience or musicians or the next lyric, I lose the moment. It’s the moment that allows me to really get into my performances.
How did you come to be known as “Kenya”?
Kenya is my birth name. My parents wanted me to have an African name so that when people read it they would know I was Black. That’s a very strong stance and I’m grateful my parents had that type of vision for my life.
What was it like writing a blog post for Essence.com? Do you enjoy writing?
This is another major high in terms of opportunities. I love to write (songwriting as well as prose). It’s funny, I was struggling to start the blog. It is ESSENCE after all and I wanted to make sure I was being both authentic and relatable. My producer, Kendall Duffie was with me when I started to write and I told him I was struggling. He said, “Just tell your story like you’ve told me and others.” And that’s how I began. Once I got started, the words simply rolled onto pen and paper. I want my story to help others. We all have a story and I hope mine is one that will encourage someone to push and take leaps of faith towards their purpose.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years?
Wow…I try so hard to stay in the moment so I can enjoy this journey. I used to think in terms of “where will I be in” in the future, but now I really try to focus on the immediate. My only hope is that I still will be working in a creative space, whether it’s music or artist development, this is where I belong.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music?
My music is honest and eclectic. The message I am trying to send is one of inspiration and honoring self however you can. Being vulnerable, sharing love, and being a light to inspire others to shine is my ultimate hope when I create music.