In the wake of Hey Rosetta’s last concert for the foreseeable future, bandmate Kinley Dowling has picked up 4 ECMA nominations for her solo album, putting her beside this year’s most nominated artists, Jenn Grant, Joel Plaskett and Rose Cousins.
Specifically, her album, Letters Never Sent, is up for Pop recording of the Year, Rising Star, and both Song of the Year and Fan’s Choice Video of the Year, for “Microphone.” KINLEY’s songs are commendably well-built. There are layers and layers of instruments and carefully crafted production flourishes. This is complex pop, and an easy to like album of rich, luscious, powerful pop ballads.
AN ALBUM OF UNIQUE ORIGIN
Each track on the album comes in the form of a letter, never sent. Each song is described as being “addressed to a different and specific person, and brought to life in a tropically tinged indie-pop style.”
“Microphone,” the song and the video, overtly give voice to survivors of sexual assault. In the 2-minute introduction preceding the video, Kinley shares, for the first time publicly, the story of her prom night experience that inspired the song.
The video depicts Kinley in a field in a prom dress, as well as other sexual assault survivors in locations where they were assaulted. The video’s concept or intention was for these individuals to reclaim those spaces.
A ONE-OFF PROJECT SHE NEVER INTENDED TO TOUR
Kinley wrote and released the record with no intention of playing live or touring. “I felt like I had things that I needed to say through songs, but I never felt like I needed to travel to towns to sing them to people.” While she always wanted to be a recording artist, touring that music was never her ambition. Placing the songs in movies and TV Shows was. It’s a dream that’s come true for her.
“I have been touring for 10 years with different bands,” she explains. “I am so lucky I have gotten to see so much of the world, but touring is hard. It is exhausting. I think every band should definitely do it. It made me realize how beautiful the world is and how everyone in the world connects to music (and how much great food there is!) but it also made me realize how much I love PEI. I really love the people here and I’m excited to be a more present member of the community.”
Other than a few songwriter circles, she hasn’t performed under the moniker, which means her ECMA performance will be the only time she’ll perform as KINLEY with a full band. “I’m super excited about it,” she says, but confesses, “I have pretty bad performance anxiety when it comes to singing my own songs. I find it easy to play violin but when it comes to using my voice, it’s a hard thing to get over.”
That anxiety is outmatched by her enthusiasm for the ECMA show though. “I know my song ‘Microphone’ is an important topic right now and always. I am proud to be singing it. This song is not just about me. It’s about SO many people. I’m doing it for people who have been sexually assaulted and cannot speak about it. I’m doing it for people who’ve been assaulted and need an anthem to give them a bit of strength to hopefully tell someone what happened to them. I’m glad Mara Pellerin will be singing backup in my band that night. Just to see her sweet face will make everything easy.”
Kinley says she was selectively mute as a child, “so I feel like I’ve come pretty far from not talking…lol. Who knows, some day that might change and I’ll want to play live shows, but for right now I’m chilling at home and writing more songs.”
VIDEO INSPIRED THE RADIO STAR
For Kinley, like many of us who grew up on Much Music, music videos are a big draw for what to do with her music once it’s written. “I always loved music videos growing up,” she says, “so I was so excited to be able to work with Jenna MacMillan, an amazing filmmaker and producer and director from PEI … who I know is going to be famous (I call her Jenny MakeMillions). She was the perfect partner to realize the visuals we came up with to accompany the songs. The best part is you can enjoy the videos from the comfort of your own home – any time you want!”
ON RECEPTION OF HER MUSIC
“The nominations are so HUGE for me. It means a lot to be recognized by your peers in the Atlantic provinces. I’m excited to get my music out and especially the message of ‘Microphone.’” And the message is being heard. “The school board in PEI has added my music video for ‘Microphone’ to the grade 9 health curriculum for next year, under a new module regarding consent, and I’m so proud of everyone that made that happen and that I could play a small part in educating the next generation. The shift is happening!”
SO, WHAT NOW FOR KINLEY?
Prior to recording her solo album, Kinley kept busy, not just on world tours and recording studios with Hey Rosetta, but as a guest on over 50 albums by various Canadian musicians, as broadly ranging as Matt Mays and Jenn Grant, to In Flight Safety and Buck 65, Classified, Rita McNeil, and Anne Murray.
As for her next batch of music. “I have written an album with Dennis Ellsworth as the duo Grande Finale. We plan on releasing singles randomly throughout the year. It is a fun project. We just released a music video for that the other day also directed by Jenna MacMillan … For now I’m learning how to record at home, playing gigs with local acts, and going to yoga regularly! Life is good.”