Toronto’s rising R&B songstress Kennedy Rd. takes advantage of 2020 by finding and amplifying her voice with her latest release. The vocalist moves at her own pace and impresses with her second major single this year, “Back Again.” Kennedy’s vocals easily glide over the beat-driven back-drop, as she sings, “Got love for you, but these days I love me too.”
Speaking to her realized growth this last year, the singer/songwriter shares that music is an extension of who she is and what her values are – describing her sound as free-flowing and airy with a blend of nature. In the grand scheme of things, Kennedy explains that music is the one thing she can do in her life without anyone else. “I don’t even need an instrument to make music,” she says, “I just have my voice. I don’t need the internet. I can just go out on the street, you know, if I just really needed to be heard by people or whatever.”
Kennedy’s recording journey started when she was in university, yet on the verge of dropping out. She relays that her friends would hear her perform at high school talent shows and ask her, “What are you doing with your life? How come you’re not making music?” The aforementioned friends were also creating music in high school, and Kennedy explains that they eventually convinced her to go into the studio too.
“The first studio session I ever did, I was like terrified. I was crying. Literally most people would not imagine how painfully shy I used to be and can tend to be, sometimes still. I remember we sat at the piano and it was just so hard to get the notes out. It was crazy. I don’t know if there’s something about being in a recording studio, or whatever, that heightens the nerves just a little bit,” she shares. Since then, Kennedy has grown into approaching songs with a free flow. She explains that she constructs her free flows at home and then bring them to the studio, in turn leaving her more prepared.
The “Back Again” singer’s newfound success and sense of self did not come without its’ trials and tribulations. “It’s been hard to find my place in this music industry because of the person that I am. And to be honest, it hasn’t been until 2020 that I feel like okay, yeah, there’s really a place for me where people can actually conceptualize, and accept, and kind of understand,” she reasons.
“I firmly believe that the music business is a capitalistic sort of thing, and when you are under that capitalistic framework in anything that you’re doing, the GOD that you’re serving is money. And I’m not that way, that’s not the GOD I serve. So it’s been hard to find, first that about myself and be able to stand on it, and then articulate it to other people. Then to find the people that have that same mentality, and can accept that I don’t do this for the same reasons that most people do. That doesn’t mean that I love music any more or any less than anybody else, it’s just I have a different set of values,” she concludes.
With 2020 setting the stage with a global pandemic and widespread racial injustice, the artist explains that she felt like there was a heightened sense of responsibility. In turn, she did not want to put out music that didn’t have a correlating message. “In any type of leadership, or any type of messaging or anything, you’re not supposed to be just throwing your message down people’s throats. You’ve got to lead by example. So the most important thing that I’m realizing is that you’ve just got to be present when you’re creating, be who you are entirely, and your message will naturally come through. It took me a while to wrap my head around that,” she reflects.
Another adversity that the rising talent had to deal with, was navigating the music industry as a woman. She shares, “Just being a young female, I got taken advantage of left right and centre. And for some reason guys will always try you, like always, it’s a given. So that was a lesson that I had to learn pretty early on. That was challenging, especially because I was so shy. I didn’t have a voice, you know. I didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself, so I dealt with a lot of shit where people would always steal my vocals or they would take the song that I sang in the studio and give it to their girlfriends to sing. And then I hear is somewhere else. I just dealt with a lot of shit like that – like never sending stems, and just the whole run around. That got better as I went to LA and shit got real. I really had to learn how to get a voice, because now I’m in a circle with people who came up under Dre and Eminem. And that’s tough love, this is like some of the toughest love in the industry.”
Learning from her new surroundings, she realized that the difficulties she’s faced on her journey so far only gave her the voice that she wasn’t able to find for herself in Toronto. However, she expands, “I love Toronto that’s my city. It’s like a rock to me. For some reason people have this conception about Toronto, like people are assholes and they don’t support. And I still hear that talk all the time. When I was in LA, truthfully, I was worried a little bit because I picked the name Kennedy Rd. and (assumed) people in Toronto were going to roast me. But people fuck with it, they actually love it. There’s so much love, and there’s so much support. I’m surprised, because I believed what everybody said about how fucked-up Toronto supporters can be, but I don’t think that’s true at all. Toronto – they ride for you. There’s nowhere in the world like Toronto. I grew up in Leslieville, so we have a Little India, Little China, all these different places. These little nooks. So I’m surrounded by these different cultures. I wouldn’t be who I was if it wasn’t for Toronto.”
Kennedy’s new release, “Back Again” is described as a different kind of vibe from her usual sound, that doesn’t have a set genre. The experimental aspect of the song made Kennedy nervous before the release, but her feelings quickly changed due to how well the record has been received. She relays, “I do have this weird opportunity. I see it as an opportunity – that I’m still becoming known and like growing and building. I can actually be experimental. I can try new things. I can really just have fun with it. There’s no pressure, so that’s really what “Back Again” was, but the song itself is a relationship type of song.”
“Back Again” was written in January, and the singer/songwriter was reluctant to put it out because she didn’t want to come across as spiteful. “At the end of the day, I wrote that. That’s how I felt at the time I wrote it, so it’s like, I’ve got to honour that,” she affirms. The song was produced by Nxghts a previous collaborator who’s from Ottawa, and Normanstansfield who is from Poland. Nxghts also contributed production on Kennedy’s popular releases, “King of Hearts” and “Thinking About You.”
With a promising career in music ahead of her, Kennedy Rd. is championing working at her own pace as she continues to build up anticipation for her future drops. She concludes our interview by sharing, “2020 is a great opportunity to just be kind of experimental, so I’ve got a few vibes that I don’t think people are expecting to hear from me, like this one. I’m not an artist that has a whole strategy laid out months in advance and things like that, but I really like to just go with the flow. So yeah the songs are there, how they’re going to come out and everything is still somewhat of a mystery that will unfold very soon.”
Listen to Kennedy’s new single “Back Again” and follow the artist on Instagram to keep up with her future releases.
Photography by AVRNDWNY