Interview: Emily Kinney of "The Walking Dead"
Mon, 28 Oct 2013 14:31:52
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"I've been writing little poems and stories for a really long time," says singer-songwriter and The Walking Dead (TV Series) star Emily Kinney. "I write about how I feel about things. It's my place to be really honest".
Not only is her new EP, Expired Love [iTunes link], heartfelt and honest, but it's also instantly irresistible. Kinney delivers these personal and poetic little tales with pure passion and a lithe levity. It makes for one of the most delightful albums you'll hear all year and the perfect introduction to the wonderful and whimsical musical world of Emily Kinney.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Emily Kinney talks Expired Love, artists that shaped her, the show, and so much more.
Is storytelling an important aspect of songwriting for you?
Yeah, I feel like it is. It's the place where I can be like, "No, actually I feel this way". In "Julie", I say, "I am better than that girl" [Laughs]. I feel like it's the place where I can make sense of things that have happened or take a feeling that's upsetting and put it into a song. In some ways, then it can feel lighter and happier. It makes more sense to me. I use songwriting as a way to definitely work through things for myself. It's so great to have people tweeting certain lines from the songs at me. They'll say, "That's exactly how I feel" or something. It's extremely satisfying to put some of my thought out there and have people tell me they love a line or they feel the same way. It's been really fun.
That comes across. You're being very open and honest, but the music is still catchy. It's the perfect balance.
I usually have a line, and it fits into some sort of melody. I'll keep saying the line over and over again, and it'll fit into this in a certain way. Then, it'll feel like the right way to sing it. For some reason, that tends to be a little more upbeat for me. Or, I'll play some chords on the guitar and see how they fit in. Conrad Korsch produced one of the tracks—"Masterpiece". Caleb Shreve, who has produced for a bunch of different people, produced the other ones. They both had listened to the songs and had their ideas too. They helped shape the songs for sure.
What ties Expired Love together for you? Is there a thread throughout all of them?
There is a thread for me because I can remember where I was when I thought of the idea or I remember what inspired the songs. When I decided to name it Expired Love, I thought of a few things. One of the main lines in "Masterpiece" is about "a masterpiece made in the rain meant to wash away". Sometimes, we do have these great relationships where you fall in love, but they're not going to be there forever. That's like most things in life. Expired Love is what happens when that's over? Where do you put that love? Does it just disappear? Do you have to work through it in some way? "Doctor" is a fun song like, "Oh, let me be your doctor". It's also saying, "You're heartbroken. I've been there too. How can we get through this? Let's have fun! Let's drink" [Laughs]. All of the songs deal with that a little bit. What happens after that?
What's the story behind "Masterpiece"?
I came up with the chorus first. I wrote almost the whole thing in a couple of hours. It had been a story building up. What inspired me was just that idea in Washington Square Park on a really sunny day someone will do these amazing chalk drawings. I remember walking past them and thinking about how the next day there might be a rain storm and the drawings will be completely gone or someone will come through and clean them all off. There are so many things like that in New York. You'll walk by a little band playing. You really have to enjoy the moment you're in. Sometimes, there are unique people you have this amazing connection, but they're not going to be in your life forever. That's what has inspired me. Sometimes, you have these beautiful days in New York, but they only last a day. Or, you'll have this amazing connection with someone you meet that you weren't expecting like on a plane or something like that. It's not something that will be in your life in a real permanent, solid way. It sticks with you. I guess writing the song was a way to try to make it stick with me.
It feels like you preserve a lot of moments throughout the EP especially on "Kids"?
I'm in my twenties, but I'm always cast to play a teenager or college age. That's where the inspiration for that came from. So many of my friends are the same way. I did this show called Spring Awakening, and so many of us were playing teenagers, but we were all around the same age. I end up becoming friends with and dating other people who are tapping into that part of their lives—even if they're a little bit ahead in real life. One of the stories I tell at shows is when I met my last boyfriend he said to me, "We have the same disease". He wasn't talking about something bad [Laughs]. However, we're both mistaken for kids a lot even when we're out with people. We'll hear, "How's high school?" That was one way we related to each other.
Do acting and music come from different places creatively for you? Or, do they entwine at all?
I think they do affect each other. Especially lately when I'm writing songs, I'll think, "Huh, why is that coming up for me so much?" Maybe it's something my character has been through. They both feed each other in a certain way. Performing live on stage is very helpful for theater. They do come from different places. With acting, a lot of times, you're hired by someone else to do the job. You fall in love with the script. I love taking on someone else's life, imagining what it's like to be them, and wondering what I would do in the same situation. I still bring a lot of myself, but it's still serving the writing and the character. In my own material, I'm the driver. I write it. I decide when the shows are going to be. I write the lyrics and the music. Lots of times, I use a lot of my life to inspire it or a friend's life. It's satisfying in that way. I think one reason I started writing a lot was you do have these moments in your acting career where you're not working. Between shows, especially before The Walking Dead, if I had a couple of months where I wasn't working on something or there were no auditions that week, I'm still a creative person. I wanted to be performing, and writing my own songs is a way to do that.
If you were to compare the Expired Love EP to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Oh wow…gosh, that's so hard. You know what movie comes to mind, and it's sort of random? Have you ever seen that movie P.S. I Love You? In that film, Hilary Swank is really dealing with a lot of grief. That movie is so sad. I remember watching it for the first time with my older sister. Maybe I'm just a crybaby, but I remember being really dramatic [Laughs]. Even though I had been out of a relationship for a while with this person but had been doing a lot of the back and forth, watching that movie was how I felt. It was like, "This is completely over". No, this person hasn't died like the guy in the movie [Laughs]. However, he was this really important person, and the relationship was so far gone and over to me. That movie deals with a lot of that too. She has all of these memories and doesn't know where to place them. Then, she tries to date someone else. That's the first thing that comes to mind for some reason. I haven't seen that movie for a while. Nellie McKay is in that movie. She's a great songwriter. I like her stuff too.
What artists shaped you?
When I was a kid, I was in Nebraska, and I listened to Casey Kasem's Top 40 so I loved Mariah Carey [Laughs]. I remember loving Aerosmith. I loved all female singers. I loved Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and TLC. Now, I listen to so much music. So much of what I'm listening to is influenced by the music scene in New York. Once I moved to New York City, I started going to Rockwood and Bar4. It's how I met my first friends, and that's the music I started listening to. Now, I listen to Bright Silence, Lowry, and Frightened Rabbit. Of course I love Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson. It's a huge range of music. Of course, I love musical theater too. I feel like I'm influenced quite a bit by my friends who are musicians.
What's next for you?
Right now, I'm still working on The Walking Dead. We're not done with Season 4 until the last week of November. I do have a couple of gigs in Atlanta coming up. They have this convention called "Walker Stalker Con" in a few weekends. A bunch of people from the show is coming, but my band is also coming down from New York and we're going to play. I'm also playing other shows too. I already have ideas for recording again too [Laughs]. I want to try writing with more people. I'll be doing a lot more shows.
Have you heard Emily Kinney yet?
Photo: King Perez de Tagle