INTERVIEW: Hadley Kennary

Photo credit: Jason Lee Denton

Hadley Kennary is a gem — either discovered if you already know her music, or still-to-be-discovered if you are just learning about her right now. Her earnest, gorgeous vocals feel both gentle and empowering, and her lyrical depth reveals an artist who works especially hard at her craft.  The music wears many faces, dipping toes into shimmery indie-pop, haunting singer-songwriter folk, and modern rootsy rock, all of which seem to suit Kennary and suit many different listener moods.  She’s got a little something for everyone among the five songs on her brand new EP, “Crooked Roots.”

Vents Magazine sat down with Kennary to talk about her new EP, and we took a dive into the title track, “Crooked Roots.” We chatted about bucking genre labels, the importance of Nashville to her development as an artist, and the artistic need for creation for creation’s sake.

Hi Hadley, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi there! I’ve been doing alright, thanks for asking. Finally getting back into safely playing shows again, slowly doing in-person sessions again…getting used to the next version of normal!

You have an amazing new EP that just came out. What can you tell us about it? How did you come to gather this collection of songs together?

I’m so excited that my new EP “Crooked Roots” came out October 29. I’ve been steadily working on my music as an artist with my two producers, Collin Pastore and Jake Finch, for the past few years. Some of those songs ended up on my 2019 release “Habits,” and some were better suited for this upcoming project. With “Crooked Roots” as a concept, I wanted songs that explored some of my personal roots: defining “home” for myself, taking responsibility for my actions and my own healing process, and letting go of control, to name a few. The roots are varied, but they’re mine, and I’m so excited to share them in this collection of songs.

One of the singles from your new EP, the title track “Crooked Roots,” is really special and caught my attention right away. It’s a great listen. Can you talk to us more about this song? How did you come to write it? What was the inspiration behind it?

Thank you so much for the kind words! “Crooked Roots” is a really precious song to me. I grew up moving around a lot, and the definition of “home” in the geographical, house-I-grew-up-in sense was always a little bit of a moving target. I wrote this song after my parents moved out of Chicago, the place where I’d lived the longest and returned to often. I wanted to write a song that both acknowledged the effects moving had on me growing up, and celebrated the notion that it’s a beautiful thing to call several different places home. I’m really proud of how it turned out!

How was the recording process for that song? Any great stories from the studio?

I recorded “Crooked Roots” with my trusted collaborators, Collin Pastore and Jake Finch. I’ve been working with both of them for years, and I knew I wanted to bring this song to them as soon as I wrote it. We went into Trace Horse Studios in Nashville to record “Crooked Roots” and a couple of other songs for the EP one day in November 2019. I was dealing with allergies, and I was still pretty congested that day. I remember being incredibly frustrated because I wasn’t singing the way I wanted to sound early on in the day. I got up to the mic a few different times throughout the session, but it just wasn’t happening. My producers assured me we had plenty of other boxes to check during our time in the studio, so we carried on. Then, in the eleventh hour at the very end of the day – running on a little too much caffeine – I finally got the vocal take. It was a somewhat stressful road to get there, trying to beat the clock and congestion, but overall I’m so happy with what we got.

Your lyrics are top-notch, and you are a wordsmith. Do you have a favorite lyric line or two in this song? What about those words really works for you or speaks to you?

I’m really proud of this song. One of my favorites is in the first verse: “I’ve been rooting for the home team, but it never really felt like mine, young ambition chasing old dreams, me and my manifested pride.” It’s about trying to adapt but never really feeling that bond that only roots and time can build. In this circumstance I’m referring to sports – a pastime I’ve never really latched onto, but one that comes up as soon as I answer the “Where are you from?” question. I wanted a way to nod to that and how much a part of a city’s identity it can be, and simultaneously highlight my separation from it.

What do you hope listeners get from hearing the song?

I hope listeners hear the honesty in my own crooked journey to define home. This song wasn’t a “here’s a problem and now I’ve solved it by the end of the chorus” type of narrative. It’s more of a reframe – a shift in perspective. I hope people hear this and allow themselves the same grace in their own narratives. 

Your sound mixes up retro-pop, roots-rock, a tiny bit of Americana, some singer-songwriter folk with an indie-pop sheen to it, and tops it off with a modern sensibility, so the music sounds totally classic but also really fresh at the same time. How did you settle upon the “Hadley Kennary sound”? And how would you describe your sound, using one sentence?

I think the most important thing for me when focusing on the sound for a record has been just following what feels right. I’m less concerned with the genre or the brand consistency, and more focused on what sonic colors I get excited about. I know I’ll never regret making something that felt right at the time. I would describe my song as a shade of contemporary singer-songwriter: the song is the canvas, and the colors can change based on what the song calls for.

You live in Nashville now, but according to your press materials, you moved around a lot growing up. How have the places you’ve lived impacted your sound and your music overall? How is the music scene in Nashville right now with things opening back up a bit? How does it feel to be part of the “new Nashville” movement?

I think, on some level, we’re a product of our environment – I especially felt this way growing up. To adapt is human, it’s what we do to survive. Each place I lived growing up is a part of me and a part of my story, and I’m incredibly grateful for the journey I’ve had. I’ve lived in Nashville for the longest out of all of my homes (seven years now!), and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. Nashville, like every other city, has been doing what it can to settle into the next version of normal. I’m really grateful for venues and the mindfulness of my peers who are taking proper precautions so we can safely play shows and have in-person sessions again. I’m really proud to be a part of the “New Nashville” community, and I think one of the most important aspects of being a part of it is to allow it to keep changing. With more people comes a more diverse music scene, and I’m so excited to see what the next chapters here bring.

What else is happening next for you?

I’m playing my next headlining show in Nashville in November! I’m so excited to cap the year at one of my favorite venues with my band. Other than that, I’m stoked to go back into creative input mode. I love sharing my music with the world and playing songs live, but I’m hungry to return to a creation-for-creation’s-sake pace. That’s my plan for the rest of the year, anyway. I don’t know what’s going to come after that, but I’m getting more comfortable with that not knowing. More music will come. I’m not sure exactly in what form at the moment, and I’m ok with it.


About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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