“Love is found in many different places, and I believe that love is what can make us better and help the world go around,” offers Kenna. “We all need each other in this very confusing, meaningful, challenging, unpredictable and beautiful life.”
When writing her new song “Upside Down,” the Nashville-based singer-songwriter extracted the uncertainty from her own life of a long-distance relationship with her girlfriend. Feelings of unease weave together with unconditional love, alighting upon a shimmering beacon of hope. I’m here for you, even when we’re upside down, she sings, gliding across a Betty Who sparkle.
“I had recently found out that my girlfriend was going to be moving to Boston for medical school. I knew I had to stay in Nashville to keep chasing my dreams in the music industry. We both had never done long distance before and were incredibly scared of what the future would hold,” Kenna tells American Songwriter. “We were staring down the barrel of four years of long distance, and it felt really scary. I knew she was the one for me, and that in the end it would be worth it.
“Now, we are two years into the long distance, and we have a little under two years left,” she continues. “‘Upside Down’ has become an ode to going to the ends of the earth for someone you love and supporting them even in the tough times─whether that’s a partner or a friend, a family member or anyone that you care deeply about. Now, we could’ve never even imagined how deeply the meaning of this song could resonate. After everything that’s happened in the last year─COVID-19 and all the loss, sadness, and grief that has come along with it─more than ever, we all have just needed someone to love, see us and lean on.”
Originally from Baltimore, Kenna finds her work flowing best when she has prioritized “my mental health and writing from an authentic and true place in my heart. Over the years, I’ve learned how important it is to rest and rejuvenate in order to show up as my best self in my life and in my creative endeavors,” she says. “I’m constantly unlearning hustle culture and learning how to show up for myself so I can better show up for others. It’s crucial in a creative field, such as music and in this kind of culture we live in where ‘grinding’ is glorified, to rest and take time for ourselves─which, so often, is a privilege. I hope one day that can change.”
With collaboration her favorite component of the songwriting process, Kenna first engages with the conversation that stems from a co-writer bringing an idea into the room. Then, creativity will surely follow. “I find the best songs come from authentic conversation, human to human─or, in the case of the pandemic, it was a Zoom room online.”
Kenna and producer Jared Anderson went into the studio one day way back in 2019. Long-standing collaborators (nearly a decade now), the duo struck upon a “pretty seamless” creative pursuit. “When I write with Jared, it feels like I’m writing solo because the back and forth is so smooth. The way each song starts is always different. Sometimes, it starts with a melodic hook, an instrumental lick, or a lyrical/hook idea. I absolutely love the process of creating, whether it’s alone or with collaborators. And I love the beauty that occurs when multiple people with different experiences and souls come together in a room to create magic.
“Most of what I write about is within the themes of growth, uncertainty, hope, love, change, being human, and everything that comes along with it,” she adds. “We’re all just trying to figure it out. What helps me figure it all out, in my own life, is connection with other humans. I’ve learned it’s important to ask for help and to be there for others when they need help; it’s a give and take.”
Listen to “Upside Down” below.