Making a Joyful Noise
Nashville experience shapes teen’s third album
The Chippewa Valley is full of bright and talented musicians (even a few big names), but one rising star from Menomonie is starting to shine brighter and reach beyond Wisconsin.
Singer-songwriter Kenzie Joy Newkirk recently released her third album, which was recorded in a Nashville studio. Now the Menomonie teen is planning on trying out for the NBC singing competition The Voice this summer in New York.
Kenzie Joy, as she is known on her albums, has been singing since she was about six years old. “I actually started playing Guitar Hero, and then for my 13th birthday I asked for a guitar,” Kenzie explained. “Ever since then I started writing songs and writing music and singing at live shows and stuff and (it) just kind of worked itself out.”
“The last two albums were really more folky and really mellow and this one is kind of more on the pop-rock side.” – Singer-songwriter Kenzie Joy on her new album, Prove Me Wrong
And it has worked for her: Kenzie recorded her first and second albums at age 13 and 14. Her most recent album, Prove Me Wrong, was released in March, one year after she traveled to Nashville’s 16 Ton Studio to record it. Kenzie celebrated her 16th birthday in Music City, then spent nine days in the studio.
“The first three days were recording the music, and that was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “These men have so much talent and experience I couldn’t believe it. And all of them look alike. They all wore plaid Western shirts unbuttoned a few to show off their chest, curly hair down to their shoulders, and great Southern accents. And all of them towered over me by a few feet.”
After three days bringing her compositions to life with the help of studio musicians, Kenzie spent three days recording her vocal tracks and several more days mixing and editing. As with her two previous efforts, Prove Me Wrong has nine original songs and one cover tune, but Kenzie says it has a different sound entirely.
“The last two albums were really more folky and really mellow and this one is kind of more on the pop-rock side,” she said. The album is diverse: Kenzie said there was a lot of experimenting, so in addition to the pop-rock, the album ended up with some jazzy sounds and even a little blues mixed in.
Before taking the production down to Tennessee, Kenzie said she went to a studio in Menomonie owned by John Richardson. “I played him a few of my songs and we sat down in the studio and he said, ‘I think this is bigger than Menomonie,’ ” she said.
Richardson, who owns Drum Farm Studio in Menomonie, has a few friends in Nashville so he was able to help her contact the right people to work on her album there. “I think she is a really driven artist and has a fantastic voice, a good songwriter, and I think she will go far,” Richardson said.
Kenzie’s drive is what has helped her produce three albums by the age of 17 and given her a chance to work with some talented people. Her latest album includes bass players who worked with John Mayer and Johnny Cash. Richardson, who has been a member of the bands Badfinger and Gin Blossoms, played drums on the album as well.
Kenzie said she hopes people will enjoy listening to her music and she wants to continue to put herself out there and see where music takes her. You can catch her playing during the opening singer-songwriter set at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series at 6pm Thursday, July 18, in Phoenix Park.
Kenzie Joy’s latest album, Prove Me Wrong, is available on CD and vinyl at The Local Store at Volume One World Headquarters, 205 N. Dewey St. You can also hear tracks from the album at soundcloud.com/kenziejoy.