Mo Kenney, the Halifax-based singer-songwriter, talks about Sucker, a melancholic, fingerpicked and droning composition which captured the English version of this year's SOCAN Songwriting Prize (presented annually by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada). The song is off Kenney's self-titled debut album, which was produced by Juno-winning musician Joel Plaskett, who also performed on the recording.
"I wrote it when I was 19, which was four years ago. I was living in an apartment, for the first time away from home. I was working a pair of unfulfilling jobs – one in a dollar store, the other making pizzas for Sobeys. And I had just gotten dumped. So, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was in my room alone, having a drink. I began writing this song.
"It's not like a standard pop song. There's a verse, and then a chorus comes in, followed by a little refrain, and then the chorus again. It's almost back-to-back choruses in the middle of the song.
"I wrote it on an acoustic Seagull, I think. Or maybe I wrote it on my Les Paul. I had a big amplifier then, but I blew the speaker since. On the recording there are a couple of electric parts. Joel Plaskett has a '79 Gibson hollow body. For the acoustic parts, we used my Hensel parlour guitar.
"I play it in a drop-D tuning, capoed at the fourth fret, in the key of F. The guitar part presented a specific melody, which was new for me. It sounded hooky to me.
"I'm not sure if the subject of the song knows it's about them. But it's not for them, really. It's for me, you know? So, I don't think I'd ever tell them."
Mo Kenney plays the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, July 20 and 21; Harmony Bazaar Festival of Women and Song, Lockport, N.S., July 26 and 27; Natal Day, Dartmouth, N.S., Aug. 3; Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival, St. John's, Aug. 9; Bang's Falls, N.S., Aug. 10; Eaglewood Folk Festival, Pefferlaw, Ont., Aug. 23 to 25.
Sucker, written by Mo Kenney
Hey, I'm a sucker for your face
clear as a portrait in a frame
I thought I saw you yesterday
in your car across the lake
Before you left me in this place
you gave me a look that I could taste
Why'd you leave me in this place?
Why'd you have to go away?
Through the door and to the glass
your eyes fixed on the sun at last
And now you're just a memory
of everything I'd hoped you'd be
Your eyes are like a big black hole
the more I look the less I know
So tell me what you learned from me
No shut your mouth cause talk is cheap
Well I stood in an empty street today
carving your name into the clay
Why'd you have to go away?
Why'd you leave me in this way?
I'm a sucker for your face