Interview: Singer-Songwriter Emily Kinney discusses her beautiful new album, ‘Oh, Jonathan’

Photo by Chad Kamenshine

Emily Kinney’s introspective new album, Oh, Jonathan is a bit of a departure from the singer-songwriter’s previous work. It’s a collection of cinematically inspired songs about love, relationships and metaphor.

Produced by friend and collaborator, Ben Greenspan, Kinney’s album is a poetic and visceral stamp of the artist’s thought process and life. Songs like the infectious “Boy Band Hero” draw from the idea of high school daydream, while deeper tracks like “Jonathan,” “Mortal” and “Soda Glass” are as much autobiographical as they are hook-laden. The use of synth elements is also widely prevalent on Oh, Jonathan. Giving the album a mature, cohesive quality.

Widely known for her stint as Beth Greene on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (where her music and singing were often featured), Kinney has successfully balanced the role of both musician and actor. And with Oh Jonathan, she’s also succeeded in creating an atmospheric and relatable album. Whether it’s that special place in your heart for unrequited love or the feeling of never being exactly sure of what it is you want. Kinney’s music fills that space. Your imagination will fill in the gaps.

AXS recently spoke with Kinney about Oh, Jonathan and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How would you describe Oh, Jonathan in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of your previous work?

Emily Kinney: When I was approaching this project, I wanted to see a little more of an atmospheric and sonic landscape. I wanted it to have a little more air and space. It led me to using more synths and less guitars. I also started experimenting with different producers and eventually found Ben Greenspan. He influenced a lot of the different instrumentation on this album.

AXS: Has your approach to songwriting changed much over the years?

EK: I still write the same way. It usually starts with something I want to say and then figuring out a way to say it in a phrase or little poem. All of these songs relate and chronicle the on and off relationships I’ve had. The other thing I usually do is just play around on the guitar. “Popsicles” is a song where I came up with a simple guitar riff and wrote the poem over that riff. “Mermaid” is that way too. I found a riff and laid the words out over it.

AXS: What inspired the song, “Boy Band Hero”?

EK: I was in a relationship that had ended and came up with the idea of feeling like a lot of it was all made up in my head. I thought about another song on the album, “Jonathan,” where I’m drawing him, tracing his face and making him into someone he might not be. Now that I was so far removed from this relationship, it felt like it was all just a daydream and I had imagined in all. That line, “just a daydream” kept going on in my head. I thought back to high school and when my imagination would just run away with itself. The whole idea of being in class and imagining things is how it all began.

AXS: What can you tell me about the song, “Mortal”?

EK: “Mortal” is one of my favorites. That song reflects on a time when everything was so magical. It was inspired by an evening when there was an eclipse and the moon turned pink and red. I remember we went up on the roof on a building downtown. We had pizza and just sat and watched. All of these songs describe real moments.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Emily Kinney by Clicking Here!

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