Pennsylvania native Kendal Conrad is one of the most unique up-and-coming country artists out there. Her self-written bio on her website oozes a truth normally expressed in personal journals. She doesn’t fit the sweet bubble-gum country girl mold but rather one that was smashed to dust right after she took her first breath. And while she does love glitter, she also loves coffee at midnight. Much like her honest bio, this amazing songsmith’s lyrics don’t hold back either, as shown in her latest release “Better On.”
We caught up with Kendal to talk about her musical journey.
What influenced you to be a singer-songwriter?
Ever since I was a little kid, I found it hard to talk to people. I have always been reserved and quiet, and I think music gave me a voice. When I spoke, I felt like no one listened. But when I sang? I could hold the attention of every person in the room. It was powerful and thrilling. I loved getting up on stage and entertaining people. It was strange though: I loved singing Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion. I was a kid singing these adult love songs. So later in high school, I realized I could write my own songs in my own words about my life. I could “talk” about myself in song, and people would listen. So I really became a singer-songwriter to connect with people and share my stories.
What is your creative process like? How do you start writing a music piece? How do you begin your creative process?
My phone is full of lyrics and titles that I’ve texted myself when they pop into my head. That makes it easier when I want to sit down to write. I go through my phone and see which idea I feel like working on. Usually, there is something there that applies to an emotion or an experience I’ve had and want to write about. Most likely I have a little melody in my head for the line as well, and I work the rest of the song around that. Sometimes not! With “Leader of the Pack,” all I had was the lyric but knew it was something I wanted to say.
Do you do any demo recordings at home by yourself?
I have some rough iPhone recordings, and there is a great program called Audacity that I use to record cleaner sounding work tapes. But I would love to learn how to create demos and how to produce songs. It really is an art.
Were the drums in your songs sampled or played live?
It depends on the song! With “Come to Your Senses,” the producer actually had a drummer play on the track, and I didn’t like it. So we put the beats back in — it just fits the vibe of that song better. On the other hand, “Leader of the Pack” is a combination of beats and live drums. Country music typically has drums played live, but I wanted to be different.
Who has been your biggest songwriting influence and why?
Taylor Swift! I’ve been following her since her debut album, and she inspired me to be a songwriter when I was in high school. I love that her lyrics read like poetic journal entries. It makes me feel like I know her. Like I said earlier, I am naturally shy, so the idea of sharing myself and my stories through song is really appealing.
If you could see any artist performing live who would you go to see and see and why?
If I could see ANYONE, I would see Whitney Houston. I’ve watched her old concerts on Youtube, DVD, etc. so many times, I am continuously mesmerized. I love to watch the sheer joy on her face when she sings because that’s how I feel when I perform. I also listen very closely to her runs and how she improvised the same song differently from show-to-show. Her voice was (and still is) magical.
How has covid changed your career? And how do you cope with this?
My goal has always been to tour. I have big dreams of playing sold-out stadium shows, but for now, I would love to be tour support. COVID really changed all of that, and it’s been difficult trying to get my footing in this new landscape. I’ve been focusing on aspects of my career that I can control: building my social media numbers, playing virtual shows, and posting more content online. I also started a food blog on Instagram! www.instagram.com/kendalsbites
What situations and/or experiences give you inspiration for writing songs and why?
It’s ironic: for me, the most painful parts of my life gave me my favorite song, “Leader of the Pack.” I wrote “Bodyguard” about being disappointed in someone who promised to be there for me. “Come to Your Senses” talks about my frustrations with dating. “Better On” is about a toxic relationship that for some reason feels really good. All of my songs are me coping with parts of my life that I struggled with, situations I couldn’t control, and people who hurt me. I feel like I gain some kind of power over these things by writing about them, a power I didn’t have in real life.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so what techniques do you use to get past it?
Whenever I have writer’s block, it’s because I don’t know what to say or I don’t know what part comes next in the story of the song. If that happens, I walk away from the song and do something else. Make a cup of coffee, take a walk, talk to my mom. I find reading novels and watching movies especially stimulating because every writer has their own perspective. Sometimes something will resonate with me and make me think about my own life in a way I haven’t before.
What is the most trouble you have ever gotten into (may or may not be music or performance related)?
This trouble was not mischief-related — I’m a perfectionist and a goody-goody, so I don’t get into trouble ha! But last year I opened for Chris Lane in Iowa, and I have a bunch of instrumental tracks that I play off of my iPod. We flew into Minneapolis, drove about 2 hours to get to the venue, make it to soundcheck, and… MY IPOD DOESN’T WORK. The audio jack is completely messed up, the sound tech is trying to help, and I’m in a panic. So I go back to my hotel room, find all of the instrumental tracks that I miraculously emailed myself months before, and transfer all of the music to my phone. I could have played the whole show acoustically, but my sound really hinges upon a heavy bass, which I knew I couldn’t get without those tracks. Moral of the story: be prepared!
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