Emily Kinney Goes Beyond the Screen on ‘The Supporting Character’

Following the death of friend, actor Scott Wilson in 2018, Emily Kinney had just cut her Oh Jonathan tour short, and began penning “I Went Looking For You” as a tribute to her on-screen father on The Walking Dead. Marking the onset of deeper reflections into her own life, and career, Kinney unraveled it all on her fourth album The Supporting Character (Jullian Records).

“From that point, I started coming up with this whole concept,” shares Kinney. “I had sort of been reestablishing my connections with a higher power and God. I was also thinking about Scott and how much of his life was shaped by his dedication to his career, so, I just started coming up with this concept of the album, the reflections of my life through the scope of being an actor.”

Rooted in her more public roles, The Supporting Character goes deeper into the person, revealing a storyteller’s life behind, and beyond, the screen. Produced by Benjamin Greenspan, The Supporting Character spans grief and loss, and a deeper struggle juggling a career and time with family and friends. Kinney’s bare deliverance penetrates from the opening folk-driven “Omaha Hotel,” tackling regrets and reevaluating her career’s direction, and written following the funeral of her uncle when she returned to her home state of Nebraska.

“When The Midnight Fireworks Start” is a heartfelt reveal of all the hangups and comparisons that come with living in Los Angeles and her own personal growth. “I still have a feeling that I’m on the right path,” says Kinney of the track, “and something special is going to happen with my creative endeavors in the future.” 

At her most vulnerable and telling, Kinney isn’t reading from a script on The Supporting Character. She’s telling real-life stories, from the duality of “Easy,” which comes off as a heartbreak song but addresses being an easy co-worker and not the “difficult one,” through “Cadillac” about a friend laser focused on success and not confronting deeper issues. On “Skinny,” Kinney confronts the struggle to look a certain way in Hollywood and that she’s doing her worst, emotionally, when she’s at her skinniest, then revisits heartache on “Fifteen Minutes,” her own recount of balancing love and career, which ultimately ended in breakup.

Maneuvering through more familial tales is the more uptempo “Genetic Makeup” and title track, the latter written while Kinney was spending a weekend with her father in San Diego, around the time of Wilson’s funeral. As she drove back home along the 5, ruminating on her career and how time moves so swiftly, in its words I don’t know as much about the world as I thought I did / The puzzle pieces of this masterpiece couldn’t possibly fit / And can feeling my body breaking where it used to grow strong / Statements are questions / Where I turned right, I might have been wrong, “The Supporting Character” shaped the entire album.

“‘The Supporting Character’ kind of sums it up, looking at my life through the lens of my experiences as an actor,” says Kinney, “and then through this new reconnection with my life.”

Also a star in ABCs Ten Days In The Valley and Showtimes Masters of Sex, Kinney says she’s open to new roles, while embracing this new batch of music, she already has another album in the works. Kinney’s direction has also shifted, tapping into more Americana and country since her 2018 release Oh Jonathan, an album she says was centered more around a specific goal. “This time the goal is less present,” says Kinney. “I’m more focused on what I think is cool and serving the actual song. I collect everything now, voice memos, phrases… You never know when it will be useful. I’m also thinking less about whether things are good or bad anymore.” 

Now, 10 years since releasing her first single “Blue Toothbrush” and following up Oh Jonathan, The Supporting Character finds a more intrepid songwriter, capturing more contentment, and comfort, in each story. I reveal the things about me in my art that I don’t show in life,” says Kinney. “Even if it’s slightly different subject matter, I still feel like my songs are my chance to tell my side of the story and even reveal parts of me that aren’t that visible otherwise.”

Kinney adds, “This album represents a lot about who I am right now, being connected to something bigger than our selves.”

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