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Meet Mo Kenney, SOCAN Songwriting Prize winner and Halifax’s next big thing

Mo Kenney, a Halifax-based singer-songwriter, is the winner of the English version of this year’s SOCAN Songwriting Prize.

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.

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"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

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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?

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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

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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