INTERVIEW WITH KAILI KINNON
Kaili Kinnon is a Toronto-based singer.
Interview by Rebeccah Love
When did you realize that singing was something you really enjoyed? Did you take part in any extracurricular singing-related activities in your youth?
I think singing has always been synonymous with enjoyment for me. I grew up in a very musical family and I’d guess that I started singing along to music during long road trips as a very small child. So, there has just always been this deep love in my life for singing good music. I sang in choirs on and off throughout my childhood, sang with my extended family on many occasions, and was blessed to be at a musically rich high school where I got to make music of all kinds - everything from french Cabaret to Led Zeppelin covers. “Hey hey mamma, said the way you move…”
What music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to a little bit of everything. My parents’ love for each other had been solidified in their dating days when they realized that they had diverse but near-mirror record collections - every single record in duplicate when they married and merged their collections. So we grew up with an amazing blend of gospel, rock, soul, r&b and world music. Family favourites were definitely Peter Gabriel and The Police. I added the pop divas of the day to my personal collection - surreptitiously listening to the radio in my room, hitting record on the cassette tape when Destiny’s Child came on Kiss 92.5.
On April 5th, 2017, you released a single 'Fog' on Itunes. Can you share a little bit about the process of creating and sharing this piece of music with the world?
Absolutely! Fog was one of five songs I recorded live off the floor in a wild and wonderful and life affirming five hour studio session with some amazing musicians back in September of 2016. That studio day was the culmination of two years of writing songs every day and falling deeply in love with the process of music-creation.
Fog emerged as a song out of a short story I started writing one morning in a season when I was practicing “morning pages” - three pages free hand - first thing each day. I started writing about a woman who had been on an island for the summer, had fallen in love with a man and chosen to stay, only for him to leave her late in the fall. The story was set in a town on the island where a warning bell would ring when the fog was rolling in. I could see her in my head, at her kitchen window the morning he left, hearing the bell toll and seeing the fog coming, then pacing with her cup of coffee deciding what to do next. That afternoon, I sat down at the piano and struck an A minor chord. It sounded like the bell from the story. “Fog” came quickly after that.
Accompanying 'Fog' is an incredible black and white music video. Can you comment on the production process? How did you go about brainstorming the visual aspect of this project?
Thank-you! The visuals and video for Fog were a collaboration with my parents. I am blessed to have parents who have worked in tv and video production for over thirty years and who were game for a low-budget, outdoor shoot in the winter! We shot the video and took the promo photos on a -22C afternoon in March up in Sibbald Point Provincial Park and Sutton, Ontario. It was so cold that I was jumping back into the car between takes (taking care to remove my trench coat so as not to wrinkle it) and bundling up in wool blankets. We shot the video with the song at a sped up pace, so that it could be slowed down in post-production to give it that slightly slow-mo vibe.
For me, this project always had to have a throwback, french feel. I have been nicknamed the “queen of turtlenecks” partially because of this look (black turtleneck, trench coat) and partially because of my singer’s propensity for throat protection. We had aimed not to show the snow because the video was set for a spring release, but when the final cut was shown to me, I said to my dad “dad, in that last shot all you can see is snow and it’s so cold you can see my breath!” he replied “yes, its frozen, like your heart (at the end of the song)”. Dad jokes. To what extent is creative writing an important part of your life? What is your song-writing process like?
Writing - both reflective writing (as in journal writing) and creative writing - is an integral part of my life and craft. My songwriting process has evolved and shifted over the years - sometimes starting from a fully formed melody, sometimes starting from a single stanza of lyrics, or a single chord - but one common denominator has always been a daily practice of writing. A stretch of time when I was writing Morning Pages each day and another in which I was writing what I dubbed “protosos” (proto-sonnets) each morning were two of the most creatively rich and productive seasons of my life. I was laser focused on writing for two years, but now as I have shifted in the past few months to performing and releasing music, my morning practice has shifted to pre-production and production of music. When I do write these days, I am amazed by how pleasurable a process it is, how comforting and familiar. It’s the editing part that’s hard. Can I get an amen?
How does collaboration play a role in your music practice?
Music production and performance tends to be inherently communal. I wrote and recorded for several years with Kin and I grew and learned so much through that process. More recently, I have been enjoying doing one-off and regular songwriting sessions with other Toronto musicians. Two brains (or three or four) really are better than one sometimes. What non-musical art forms or ideas inspire you?
I am a huge consumer of novels and non-fiction. I am particularly fond of reading historical fiction and memoirs. Something about the “truth being stranger than fiction” and yet more mundane, always captivates me. I also get a dorky pleasure and a ton of inspiration (to sit down and do the work!) from reading what writers I admire have to say about their process. “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard is a favourite. Also, basically everything that is posted on brainpickings.org.
What are you listening to now?
I am currently listening to London Grammar’s new record (love them!) and a bunch of bits and pieces from the 70s and 90s.
What are some of your favourite neighbourhoods, buildings, businesses or public spaces in Toronto?
This is such a great city - its hard to pick! I feel like this city is full of unexpected gems where you step in off the street and into another world. Of course, now I can’t think of any to name here.
Here are some locations that popped into my head:
College and University first thing in the morning - there is so much glass that the whole concrete jungle is suffused with morning light.
Riverdale Park East at sunset - best skyline sunset (and best Americano at the Rooster Coffee House!)
Golden hour basically anywhere in this city.
What are you looking forward to?
Right now, I am working towards recording and releasing a four-song solo EP in October and so I am really excited to get the songs out of my head and hands and into the world. There is nothing quite like being in studio and collaborating with other musicians to make a song of yours come to life in their skilled hands - so doing that later this summer is something I am really looking forward to!