Interview with Kim Jennett
By Paul Monkhouse
Kim Jennett is a force of nature. With a voice that rivals the power and feeling of Lzzy Hale, Glenn Hughes and Robert Plant matched with an utterly magnetic and feral stage presence she has been tipped as a stellar talent and someone destined to be absolutely huge. After blowing away audiences the length and breadth of the country fronting Voodoo Blood she’s about to fully step into the spotlight as a solo artist with a warm-up show at the Waterloo Music Bar in Blackpool before heading to the hallowed ground at the Download Festival the following weekend.
Whilst her work with Voodoo Blood was phenomenal, it has been her musical partnership with former Jagged Edge/Skin/Red White & Blues guitarist Myke Gray that has rocketed her into the stratosphere. A hugely talented guitarist and songwriter along with being one of the hardest working, experienced, driven and most well-respected professionals in the business, Gray spotted the raw talent therein after being sent a couple of video clips of Jennett and contacted her regarding some studio work. With the first of the dates debuting his titular band looming, he also offered Voodoo Blood the opening slot and it was this memorable evening at the Academy, Islington in early June 2018 that the public got to witness the two sharing the stage for the first time during an incendiary duet between Jennett and Phil Conalane, Gray’s vocalist. When Conalane was unable to make a support tour with Black Star Riders, Jennett was the first and clear choice as replacement and any who saw Myke Gray on that tour knows that the band blew the roof off, night after night after night, giving the headliners a real run for their money.
To call the results of the Gray/Jennett mix ‘alchemy’ would be wrong as it is much more akin to gold being purified and shaped into something exquisite by a master craftsman. Bringing to bear his vast skill, experience and depthless passion, Gray has certainly brought the best out of Jennett, refining her incredible vocal talent and stage craft with a real understanding of not only the talent but the person too, mentoring and driving her to heights she continues to exceed with each and every new release. The perfect pairing, committed to making the very best music they can, there seemingly is no limit to what they can achieve together. With the looming potential/probable headline-making appearance at the UK’s biggest and best rock festival, now seemed the ideal time to find out a bit more about the person behind the soon-to-be household name.
What initially got you into music?
From a young age I always enjoyed performing and I was always involved in school plays and drama clubs and things. I struggled to make friends or fit in when I was young (and now haha) so I used performing as my release and found it was the only time I felt myself and truly happy. I realised I could sing when I was involved in larger musicals in my mid-teens and then I picked up a guitar and it just snowballed from there really! I started writing my own songs to help me through some of the troubles I was going through at the time and it’s been my medicine ever since.
Who were your influences and inspirations?
Honestly my mum is my biggest inspiration. She isn’t a singer but she’s a creative and raised me as a single mother while pursuing a career in art, I think that’s really badass. She always just encouraged me to do what makes me happy and music makes me happy.
I have never set out to “be like” anyone else. From a young age I’ve always wanted to stand out as an individual as I think there is something incredibly awesome and inspiring about other people who do this. Stand-alone female artists like Lady Gaga, Jessie J and Beyoncé have that strong female energy that really gets me going and excites me! I also have a deep love for old-school blues artists like Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Howling Wolf and Etta James etc. There is something that just touches my soul with blues music, maybe because the music comes from a true place of pain and from that pain they created something beautiful. I find that era truly inspiring too as it shows that music can literally help change the world with the huge role blues had in the end of segregation. I just love how music brings people together.
There has been a big change from your earliest pub shows/gigs you did as a singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar until now…how did that develop?
I’m constantly evolving and changing as an artist, even if you look at the first song I did with Myke (‘Take Me Home’) to ‘Unbroken’ (the latest single) they‘re only a year apart but are completely different and I barely recognise myself in the first video now. There is something inside that drives me to always be better and be on top of my game. I Iove mixing things up and I’m always looking to improve myself and my art. However specifically I think I put the guitar down as I started to sing heavier music but, who knows, I may pick it back up for a few shows at some point again.
You created the Voodoo Woman persona with Voodoo Blood and seem to have really grown more into yourself as an artist away from that image. How does it feel to come out of that strong visual statement and really blossom into Kim Jennett, artist in her own right? Was it slightly scary to leave that mask behind or a testament to your personal growth?
I created the persona in a way because I was scared of being myself. As I grow and shed a lot of the things that were bringing me down, I become less angry and more grateful for where I am and who I am now. I am not afraid of standing on my own two feet as just me, Kim Jennett, and I don’t need to hide behind a mask anymore.
You’re projecting such a positive and strong image as a woman in rock. Do you feel that things are positively changing regarding how women are viewed now in the music industry?
Thank you! My gender isn’t a disadvantage and I am proud to be a woman. I would like to think I’m a strong person, but women are very strong, we go through so much shit and pain (Every month in fact haha). I am just here doing my thing as many other female artists are and there are so many women out there at the moment absolutely killing it, it’s very inspiring to me and I want to inspire other girls too. I want those girls to know they can stand on their own two feet; they don’t have to take shit from anyone and they shouldn’t be afraid of going out there and being themselves. ‘Kim Jennett’ as a standalone artist is the embodiment of me saying “fuck you I’m going to just be myself and that’s all I need to be”. As I said before I really look up to strong female artists in the industry and now I’m here I feel empowered to stand alongside them. Hopefully I will inspire other women (or people who identify as women) that have faced some of the same struggles as I have in this weird time we are in.
You’ve been working with Myke for just over a year now, firstly in the studio and then more and more live. What’s he like to work with and what is the song writing process?
To be honest meeting and working with Myke saved me from going down a very dark path. He’s been super inspiring and I am truly grateful for everything he has done for me. He’s relentlessly driven and completely passionate about what he does. It’s essential for me to work with people who match up to my intensity about things. He’s taught me that my intensity is a positive thing rather than being scared by it like a lot of people may have been in the past and have tried to drag me down for it. With mine and Myke’s work ethic I think we are an unstoppable team.
Myke has produced and written the album, he lives and breathes it and has tailored each song around me, I have never worked with anyone in my life that believes in me as much and works as hard as he does.
How would you describe the last year?
The last year has been like… Getting pushed off a mountain by the people you thought were your best friends but then you land in a giant bowl of ice cream.
How do you feel about the reception you have received, from the times fronting Voodoo Blood and onto the shows you’ve done with Myke? The reviews have been pretty phenomenal.
I play music because I love playing music, I love the power it has to unite people, I live and breathe it. I think that comes across in my performances and when I see rooms of people enjoying themselves as much as I am, that’s the best feeling in the world.
How did you feel when you got the call from Myke to do the Black Star Riders tour as his singer? It must have been a special moment.
As a singer going on tour is an absolute dream so being asked to do a tour with a band like BSR was just crazy. I’ve always been a fan of Thin Lizzy and I remember stealing my dad’s mp3 player and getting told off in school for listening to them in class haha. They were a dream to tour with and really amazing guys. It was an amazing experience going on tour with people who are complete professionals. Ricky Warwick said I had a killer set of pipes and Scott Gorham said to me before we went on “don’t be too good” haha, as you can imagine the school girl in me was screaming and I thank her for listening to Thin Lizzy rather than doing division, it paid off.
You’re currently working on your first solo album. What can people expect from it?
It’s a roller-coaster (a bit like my life) and a real mixed bag so I think there is something for everyone. We have some slower songs that are really emotional, some straight up killer sexy rock songs and even some heavier stuff. The thing I love about working with Myke is that he’s written the songs for me and to show the strengths of my voice, the more he’s gotten to know me the more “me” the songs are becoming and I’m so buzzing for everyone to hear it! Each song shows a different side of my personality.
Your latest release, ‘Unbroken’, seems like an incredibly personal track. Is there a story behind it?
You will have to ask Myke about that one but what I take from it is: finding your true strength and passion from reaching rock bottom, the times when you feel like you are at your lowest point (and I’ve been there, times were you feel like there is no way out) you either let it break you or find your wings.
What’s been the best gig you’ve done thus far in your career?
Every gig is a blessing. I just love performing, from gigs I’ve done in small towns in sweaty clubs to the BSR tour where we were performing in front of two thousand people a night. Obviously the larger the audience the better though.
You’re just about to head towards the biggest gig of your life thus far. How does it feel knowing you’re playing under your own name at Download? It must be mind-blowing seeing your name on the line-up poster, know that it will appear on thousands of event t-shirts and that Andy Copping himself is touting you as one of THE new acts to see this year.
I mean it’s a dream come true. I’ve worked hard for this though, relentlessly for many years and my feet are planted firmly on the ground. As incredible as it all is, I still have a long way to go and a journey ahead of me! Although it’s my name on the poster I couldn’t do any of this without the amazing team I have behind me. Myke especially who has worked so hard to get us to this point. I’m just looking forward to the future now and seeing what’s next for us.
If you could work with anyone in the future (in addition to Myke) who would it be? Any dream tour partners band-wise or duet partners?
I’m happy with who I am working with at the moment but, if had to choose, Halestorm would be amazing! Lzzy Hale is another huge inspiration to me and she’s one of the reasons I got into rock music. At a time in uni where I was struggling a lot with my mental health I discovered Halestorm and hearing how powerful Lzzy was, really made me feel strong again. I taught myself how to scream so I could sing ‘Love Bites’ at a uni end of term gig and then the music I wrote got heavier too. I rambled a bit there haha… basically it would be a dream to duet ‘Love Bites’ with Lzzy Hale. It’s the kind of thing I fantasise about on the bus.
When is the album coming out?
When we have finished recording it! In Myke’s words it needs to be a record people will be listening to in years to come and it can’t be rushed but it is on its way!!
Being two perfectionists who want to create the best album possible, you and Myke are (rightly) taking your time with it and want it to be something that you want to be proud of. Has it seemed a very long process despite that?
Myke gets shit done. It feels like we’re smashing through it really. We only met about a year ago and we already have 4 singles out and an album on the way. It can’t be rushed though and you’re right we’re both massive perfectionists.
What’s next for Kim Jennett?
World domination… hopefully… I’ll probably just make a coffee first though and do some yoga.
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