Madeline Kenney

Renaissance Woman

Nov 15, 2017 Photography by Cara Robbins Issue #62 - Julien Baker
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"We're all just an amalgamation of salt ions and that's pretty cool," Madeline Kenney says over the phone from her Oakland, California home. It's not a line you'd necessarily expect to hear from a musician, but Kenney is hardly your average singer/songwriter.

After studying Interpersonal Neurobiology at school and working for nine years as a professional baker, the Seattle native now nannies children and teaches voice and piano lessons. Oh, and she's just released her stunning fuzzy pop debut of a record, Night Night at the First Landing, written, arranged, and recorded at home by her, and produced by Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bear.

Kenney is softly-spoken, and the conversation is full of nervous giggles from her side, though her answers are always thoughtful and articulate. This is not the bolder musician heard on record. On album track "John in Irish," we hear a brash "Go on, get in your place now" over reels of voice samples from news programs, bright electric guitar riffs, and an insistence that with an instrument slung over her shoulder, Kenney can certainly rock things up a bit too.

Kenney's press biography labels her a "Renaissance" woman, and it's not far wrong. Her current project incorporates both her scientific education and her creative drive for music-making. She is currently interning at the Women's Audio Mission, a sound studio in San Francisco and the only womenbuilt and run studio in the world. "Only 5% of the sounds you hear are createdproduced or engineered-by women," explains Kenney. "It's a super male-dominated field which we as women already know aboutwe don't have to be toldbut other people do still have to be told."

At WAM Kenney has attended classes about production, live sound, recording, microphones"everything that you would need to know"but the latest task she's set herself is learning to build guitar pedals. "I've been teaching myself about circuit electronics," she says. "Right next to me I have a big stack of books from the library about circuit electronics, and I'm learning how to read schematic and Ohm's law. The specific sound I wanna try is like a tremolo pedal with an octave higher mixed in. It's way harder than it sounds: there's so much transfer and splitting of energy and you have to try not to blow yourself up while you're doing it!"

Several times throughout our conversation she will refer to the fact that her band, and the group of Oakland-based musicians she hangs around with, are musically-educated in a way she is not. "Those guys are all super talented. They all have degrees in jazz and can easily re-call and pull-up and discuss and write using relationships of scales and chords."

Kenney says she is "remorseful that I didn't study music in school and have that be my second language." But with a dazzling dreamy guitar debut making waves, and engineering and production talents blossoming, the multi-faceted Kenney seems to be doing pretty well for herself as it is.

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.mkenneymusic.com

www.madelinekenney.bandcamp.com

www.facebook.com/mkenneymusic/

 

 

 

 

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