FOTR 2022: How two months grounded shaped Dartmouth’s Mo Kenney
When singer-songwriter Mo Kenney joins Joel Plaskett on-stage at Folk on the Rocks 2022, it’s likely to be one of the big moments of this summer’s festival.
Plaskett and Kenney go back a long way but, while this year marks a return to Yellowknife for Folk veteran Plaskett, it’ll be the first time in town for Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based Kenney.
The 31-year-old joined Mornings at the Cabin to preview the festival – and explain why two months grounded set them on the road to a career in music and friendship with Plaskett.
Plus, we provided bathing suit tips.
Read a lightly edited transcript of the conversation below. Get the Mornings at the Cabin podcast each day for more conversations with a range of this year’s Folk on the Rocks acts.
Scott Letkeman: What can we expect from a Mo Kenney show?
Mo Kenney: I can’t wait to come out. I’ve never been to Yellowknife before and I’m really excited to come hang out for a few days. I’m going to be doing my own solo thing, so it’ll just be me and my guitar playing a bunch of my songs. I think I have a few sets there. And I’m all going to be joining my good friend Joel Plaskett on stage to play with him during his set. So I’ve got a full few days.
You have a special relationship with Joel Plaskett.
I’ve known Joel for quite a while now. We met for the first time when I was still a teenager and just starting to write songs. I was recording some demos in Halifax and he came in and chatted with us one day about music. He let us play him some of our songs, and that’s how he and I linked up. We collaborated on my first record, I recorded it at his studio in Dartmouth, and we’ve been working together ever since. He’s been instrumental in helping me with my music career and we’ve been friends for a long time now.
AJ Goodwin: This sounds very similar to a Maggie Rogers, Pharrell Williams situation.
(Maggie wowed Pharrell when he came to visit her university class, a moment captured in a 2016 video.)
Yeah, totally. It’s like the East Coast version of that.
I was doing a little reading on your Wikipedia page. It mentions you started writing songs when you were 16 years old and you found yourself grounded for two months. Any comment on that?
Ohh yeah. I was a bad teenager. I was always getting in trouble. And I think, that summer, my mom had finally had enough and she was like, ‘You know what? We’re just gonna lock you up.’
That is a big punishment.
Yeah, I was… I was really bad. She just wanted to keep me around, to keep her eye on me, because nothing was really working. I was just… I just did whatever I wanted. But it was good because I just started writing all the time. I didn’t have anything else to do. And I think that’s when I really found a bit of a groove with writing because I was doing it all the time. It really opened up a whole new world for me, creatively, just having all that time. So thanks, ma.
Good message for the kids out there. Cause a lot of trouble. Get grounded for two months and you could be an incredible artist one day.
Would you recommend that for young parents out there?
I think there is definitely a gentler way of cultivating their creativity. But sure, whatever works.
We’re seeing artist lineups launched across the country. What would you say is your favourite music festival you’ve played so far?
I remember having a really, really nice time at the Cambridge Folk Fest over in the UK. I played Mariposa, that was a really great festival. Music festivals in general have a really nice vibe – they’re in the summer, people are really happy to be there. Vancouver Folk Fest was great. Winnipeg Folk Fest was great. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad time at a music festival.
Have you ever played a music festival with a beautiful lake as the backdrop?
Is that what I’m in for?
That’s what you’re in for.
Oh man, I am excited. Should I bring my bathing suit? Is that what you’re telling me?
You should absolutely bring your bathing suit.
Also don’t wear white. It’s a very dirty place at times.
Good to know. Great tips.
Can’t wait to have you there.
Thanks so much, you guys. I can’t wait to come over and play.
Early-bird tickets for Folk on the Rocks are available until May 9. Cabin Radio will air 30 hours’ live coverage of this summer’s festival, including every act on our own Cabin Stage.