Singer-songwriter Emily Kinney might be best known for portraying Beth on the popular AMC show The Walking Dead,
but she actually started singing before she began acting.
“I performed at my first talent show was when I was 7,” she says via phone from an Orlando tour stop. She plays with opener Paul McDonald at 8 p.m. on Sunday at the Beachland Ballroom
. “I would do Mariah Carey songs and musical theater songs. I sang at church. That eventually led to acting. I loved stories and connecting with people and being on stage. They were both a big part of my life.”
When she was a child, Kinney’s parents introduced her to classic singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. She also learned to sing along to Carpenters records she’d play on the family turntable.
“As I got older, I loved all the female pop singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey,” she says. “I also loved pop-punk and bands like Paramore. Then, when I got into college, that was the time of MySpace music. I was finding music via the internet, and that opened up my whole world too. I was finding stuff that wasn’t necessarily Top 40. From there, what really influenced a lot of my songwriting is the people I met in New York City. There was a whole [indie rock] scene there that included bands like Lowry and Bright Silence. That started to influence my songwriting a lot.”
She recorded her debut, 2011’s Blue Toothbrush,
with friend Conrad Korsch, who helped her with the arrangements. Since she had a backlog of songs at the time, it wasn’t difficult to find enough tracks to fill the album.
“It was easy to record that album because at that point I had a lot of songs written,” she says. “I used to write poems, and then, Conrad was great at arranging. My first stuff was jazzier and more like musical theater because that’s what I was singing all the time. After that, as I started to work with other producers, I started to realize what options I had for sound. That’s when my music started to lean toward what you hear now.”
Kinney says the songs for her latest effort, Oh, Jonathan
, began to come together just as her last tour come to an end. The album commences with the cloying “Same Mistakes,” a tune that features humming synthesizers and upper-register vocals as Kinney sings, “I cleaned every bit of dirt from my nails but the soil seeped into my blood.” The songs all focus on a topsy turvy relationship.
Initially, she had a different concept for the album in mind.
“Then, I looked at all the songs, and I realized there was this great narrative of an off-and-on relationship,” she says. “I could pick older and newer songs and tell this story.”
She cut most of the tunes at a friend’s studio and also cut some tracks at New Monkey Studio, where the late Elliott Smith used to record.
“I love that spot,” Kinney says of New Monkey. “It has a great vibe.”
Kinney says she’s already started thinking about her next studio release and says she might jumpstart her side project the Sweetheart Deal.
In the meantime, she’s excited about the tour that brings her to the Beachland.
“Compared to my last show, this one is more synth heavy, and there’s cool programmed drum sounds,” she says. “There are moments when I can talk to the audience. It’s mostly new songs and some of old songs that I feel like are favorites of mine or favorites of the fans. There’s another guitar player and a synth, bass and keys player and there’s a drummer. It’s a four-piece, and it’s really fun.”