Kendra McKinley
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Kendra McKinley

San Francisco, CA | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

San Francisco, CA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Rock Pop

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Oct
16
Kendra McKinley @ Sweetwater Music Hall

Mill Valley, California, United States

Mill Valley, California, United States

Oct
09
Kendra McKinley @ Henry Miller Memorial Library

Big Sur, California, United States

Big Sur, California, United States

Sep
22
Kendra McKinley @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall

San Francisco, California, United States

San Francisco, California, United States

Music

Press


Kendra McKinley moved to San Francisco in January 2013. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter likes to explore different mediums with her music, and she performs as a front woman with a rotating cast of musicians.
She describes her songwriting as a fusion of “psychedelic chamber pop, bossa nova and Tin Pan Alley.”
Lineup: Kendra McKinley, guitar, vocals; Allison Kane, vocals; Sharon Litzky, vocals.
Was there a band you heard when you were young that inspired you to become a musician?
During my senior year of high school, I was recruited to perform “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” by (Fleet Foxes’) Robin Pecknold. It was my first time playing guitar and singing in front of an audience, despite many years of bedroom strumming, and I was instantly hooked. I decided that night that I wanted to pursue a career in music and haven’t turned back since.

How does living in the Bay Area affect your music?
It’s a fascinating place to be in terms of the cross section between technical and compositional innovation. Having exposure to how local and touring bands are utilizing new forms of technology to further their sonic exploration has made a monumental impact on how I organize and think about music.
What’s the most important aspect to putting on a live show?

The music. That might seem like an oversimplified response, but that, for me personally, is hands down the most important aspect. As performers we have a responsibility to gift the audience a memorable experience, and there are so many ways of achieving that. Stage choreography, costumes and stage banter are all examples of important performance elements that can truly augment the audience experience, but if the music isn’t solid, then the core element is missing.
Check it out: www.kendramckinley.com.
Next gig: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31. With the Hot Toddies, Rainbow Girls, the She’s. $19.50. The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F. (415) 346-3000. www.thefillmore.com. - San Francisco Chronicle


San Francisco’s 1960s rock scene helped put the city on the music map and was associated with a decade-long counterculture era that shook the nation. But while musicians sang songs about free love and equality, many familiar paradigms stayed in place. With the exception of a few bands that featured female vocals, like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, the industry mostly remained male dominated. Over the past 50 years, much has changed in the Bay Area’s music scene, and now female musicians are just as common as their male counterparts.

In the spirit of #yasqueen, The Bold Italic compiled a list of a few female Bay Area musicians who released EPs and albums this year. And while gender discrimination in the musical sphere isn’t as prevalent as it once was, we still salute these artists for being badass musicians who also happen to be ladies.

Kendra McKinley, a San Francisco-based singer/songwriter/guitarist, recently released a new single called “Fine as Vine.” Her 1960s chamber-pop sound and strong, undulating vocals—which slightly resembles St. Vincent (Annie Clark)—will make you feel like ditching work to skip through a field of sunflowers with your new lover.

Although she’s played throughout the Bay Area, she says that her favorite show was at the Fillmore this January, when she played with the string quartet Amaranth as part of the venue’s first all-female lineup. She might have torn it up on the all-female stage, but she hopes that her audience views her as a talented musician, regardless of her gender. “I’ve met so many interesting and talented people here in the Bay Area and appreciate them simply as creative people,” she said. “I look forward to the day when we just start referring to music makers as musicians.”

Don’t miss this badass chick perform at the Rickshaw Stop on August 22. - The Bold Italic


San Francisco - “I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t an important part of my life,” Kendra McKinley tells me at a small coffee shop/sci-fi bookstore in the Mission district of San Francisco. In between sips of green tea she continues, “It was always celebrated in my family and I was constantly exposed to new sounds throughout my childhood.”

It doesn’t take the words of a music blogger to realize that musicians are passionate about music. Duh, that’s why they’ve made the questionable life choice to pursue this elusive and ethereal art. But Kendra McKinley gets serious on the subject. Her voice – bright and vivacious in her music – becomes steady, practically solemn when discussing the brilliance of the Beatles’ Revolver or dissecting Joni Mitchell’s guitar technique in detail. She sounds more like a tenured college professor than average music geek. Not humorless, but consciously respectful, with word choices that are deliberate and resist the temptation to resort to easy labels or lazy generalizations. During our conversation it quickly becomes clear that music is something so special to Kendra that no adjectives are quite adequate, no mere words fully able to articulate the feeling a great song brings her.

I will, however, attempt to articulate the feelings her songs bring me. Her latest full band release “Fine As A Vine” looks like this in my mind: an explosion of colors, mostly oranges and yellows, an atomic bomb filled with sunflowers and daffodils, probably the same images floating through Van Gogh’s head as he was painting Wheat Fields. Any other description would simply be too earthly, too mundane for a piece of music that so triumphantly transcends the everyday. But I’ll bring it back down from the stratosphere for a minute to humor the unimaginative: “Fine As A Vine” is filled with gorgeous, layered harmonies and vocal lines that gracefully weave around the main hook, a stadium-shattering guitar solo. It has a breakdown full of serene, swirling vocal melodies, a miniature hymn of Brian Wilson magnitude smack in the middle of a high energy rock song.



From the amount of expertise and confidence she exudes on the track, you would think McKinley has been creating these epic productions for years, but it is only very recently that she has made the jump from jazzy, singer-songwriter troubadour to rock n’ roll bandleader. Infatuated with the performing arts as an adolescent, McKinley naturally assumed she would pursue a career in theatre. Music blossomed as a passion in high school, but it wasn’t until her days at UC Santa Cruz that she began to write her own original material. And even then, her compositions remained distinctly solo pieces.

“Once I came to San Francisco, I finally had access to the types of players who understood what I was trying to produce,” she explains, “I reached the point where I could now fully realize the music in my head.”

That’s no small task either. McKinley is seemingly always in the process of composing, whether she’s humming the latest hook or constantly tweaking what she calls each song’s “character.”

Kendra McKinley by Etta Jaffe

“I start with a melodic kernel, record it, listen to it on repeat and then spend some time getting to know it,” she says. “On ‘Fine As A Vine,’ for example, I knew what I wanted it to sound like, the harmonic texture, the musicality of the language, the colorful landscape I wanted to present…Translating it into a living, breathing entity was the hard part. But when my band started interpreting this idea that once only existed in my head, it was like an epiphany. I felt like I had finally found my place as an artist in this community and with this music.”

“Fine As A Vine” is merely a hint of what is to come on a debut LP slated for release this fall. McKinley promises a unique experience with each track. The soon-to-be-released follow-up single entitled “Canyon Canon,” in her telling, resides on a whole different side of the color spectrum, less yellow/orange and more “deep purple.” That statement has me all kinds of excited.

During our talk which probably could’ve lasted for hours and covered everything from the acidic humor of Father John Misty to the theatricality of St. Vincent’s live show, I started searching for the perfect line to succinctly sum up the music of Kendra McKinley. That was not an easy task but, luckily for me, she provided a fitting quote. “I just want to write music people will want to sing,” she says smiling. That’s one thing she won’t have to worry about accomplishing. The only difficulty will be getting us to stop.

You can download “Fine As A Vine” here along with McKinley’s previous recordings. Her debut album is set to drop late this year. - Best New Bands


In The Studio is a new series dedicated to detailing the creative processes of Bay Area artists, a behind-the-scenes look at the myriad personalities that make up our music community. This week features Kendra McKinley recording her upcoming LP Treat at Tiny Telephone.
I’m facing Kendra McKinley in an echo chamber as we’re about to record some foot stomps and hand claps for the rhythm track to her song “Sadie,” but as she demonstrates the particular pattern in time with the metronome, the only thought screaming through my skull is, “PLEASE DON’T SCREW THIS UP PLEASE DON’T SCREW THIS UP.” Because after four full days spent at San Francisco’s renowned Tiny Telephone Studios, hours of hard work clocked, and countless takes performed, I want to be the last thing that could potentially slow this process down, to possibly be that annoying, unforeseen element that makes this song a little less great than it, in all likelihood, will be. Not to mention the creeping realization that I, the humble music blogger, may have crossed some sort of journalistic integrity line here by becoming actively involved in the recording process, a kind of hipster Serpico getting too deeply embedded in the story.

What worried me most was Kendra’s emphasis on perfection, on getting her physical recordings to sound exactly like the metaphysical creations blossoming in her head. Like the great songwriters of a bygone era, she obsesses over the seemingly minute details — a barely discernible missed note here, a slight vocal quaver there — because the larger vision is ever-present. Kendra knows exactly how her upcoming LP, Treat, is supposed to sound — recording is just a tedious and inevitable necessity towards realizing that vision.

That vision is as grand as the word implies. During my relatively brief time in the studio, I witnessed Kendra polishing her mini-rock opera, “The Bitter Suite,” the planned concluding song on the album. The 10-plus minute epic is stocked with layers of vocal tracks, mounds of auxiliary percussion and Brian May-esque guitar work —courtesy of big brother AJ McKinley, her creative partner-in-crime on this musical odyssey. Together, they speak a language that, seemingly, only blood-related artistic eccentrics can understand, leaving even engineer Andy Freeman in the dark as to the complete sonic picture. I was just going along for the ride, taking fascinated delight in seeing this dense melodic skein unravel itself, not completely believing the siblings when they cautioned that the song may contain around 70 tracks on its own. Of course it didn’t. It contained 72.

The suite may be too ambitious for the typical pop song, yet too catchy to really be considered anything else. Featuring quirky lyrics, a lounge-rock-in-outer-space vibe, and instrumental arrangements that will take as many listens as there are tracks to fully comprehend, “The Bitter Suite” indelibly signals Kendra’s transformation from solo jazzy troubadour to a grandiose band leader who cheerfully defies any genre constraints that threaten to keep her oversized ideas in the realm of mundane reality.

But the recording of it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Though I felt she nailed the main vocal on the first try, it also didn’t surprise me when she responded to the question of how she felt about the take, “Great. Can I do it again?” A quote even as succinct as this one perfectly captures her mindset about the recording process and characterizes her as, to use her own words, “an obnoxious perfectionist.”

That being said, Kendra is also probably the most effusive and charming perfectionist you will ever meet. She tackles the work with gleeful abandon, making the process less “work” and more a celebratory joy in the creation of music. Under her care, the glorified warehouse that is Tiny Telephone becomes a wonderland where she one-ups Rumpelstiltskin by spinning gold without even the need for thread, just her imagination. The monotonous grind of recording loses some of its stress-inducing edge, replacing anxiety with ceaseless enthusiasm for the final product, even if that product does only materialize in small increments: take by take, track by track, beat by beat. I was only present for one day, but I could easily imagine Kendra keeping the excitement strong for all four.



During snatches of free time, I was able to pry a bit into what makes makes the long hours and constant work so bearable besides sheer adrenaline and green tea. “It’s so liberating hearing something that only lived in your head come to life,” she says, “It’s something I had to do. These songs were taking up space in my mind. I had to get them out to make room for new ideas.”

I completely believe this. I do think she sees making music as an artistic duty; an unshakable obligation to her own creative drive. Even though I didn’t witness it, I also believe it when she says she started “tearing up” while hearing her brother’s harmonic guitar line earlier. I don’t, however, believe her when she says she would be satisfied if only her friends heard and enjoyed this album. With all the ambition inherent in these songs, with her incessant focus on perfection, I don’t believe she will settle for just the respect of her peers. I respectfully disagree: she wants the world to hear these songs. They’re certainly big enough to go around.

For all her positive energy and abhorrence of self-deprecation, there was one particular moment that revealed a chink in her armor of optimism. As the sun set and the San Francisco nighttime chill started to seep through the walls, she attempted a song called “Telling Truth,” a composition strikingly bare by her standards, consisting of nothing but her voice and a keyboard. It’s a soulful tune that has more in common with the blues than the psych-pop permeating much of her other work. There’s melancholy instead of mirth on this one, and it digs out the beauty in sorrow like every great blues jam should.

She performs it well, albeit with some strain in her voice — to be expected after a full day of vocal work. Something about the take, however, is bothering her. Can I do it again? The line is a refrain at this point. So she does it again. And again. And again. Andy is patient and gentle in his recommendations and guidance. He urges her to keep at it, sensing that she’s got something really special going here. But each take fails to completely satisfy, and doubt is starting to encroach upon her words. Sighs of restrained disappointment escape her mouth.

Maybe it’s merely fatigue catching up to her at this point, or maybe the vision in her head truly isn’t matching up with the physical performance. But it’s clear that this song is dangerously close to being shelved, and that would be a shame. I like the relative rawness of the song. I like the hints of doubt and disappointment. I like the fact that all this emotion is being expressed with nothing but a voice and a keyboard. Her aspirations of perfection are admirable, but I believe it is this vulnerability that makes her music genuinely affecting. The 72-track epics are certainly impressive, but if you can strip 71 of those tracks away and still recognize her tremendous talent, then you’ve got a truly incredible artist on your hands. - The Bay Bridged


Kendra McKinley‘s debut LP, Chestnut Street, is a blatantly beautiful collection of whimsical folk and scat melodies as showcased on the track “Canyon Canon” which started as a one-line poem (by her friend Claire Williams) and turned into an Appalachian canon recorded live on a looping pedal.

“Flipped a canyon upside down and all I got was a dripping mountain.”


Two years later, The Mission-based songstress reinterpreted the song as “heavy metal witch seance” for its equally eerie music video of color gels, kaleidoscope lenses, gold tempera paint, and a fog machine –as directed by Chelsea Nobbs (of Van Wave) and Estevan Padilla.



McKinley is currently recording her sophomore LP at Tiny Telephone Studios with her older brother AJ McKinley (of Battlehooch) as producer. - Free Bike Valet


Santa Cruz has a fascinating connection to Americana and roots music, and for decades many of the biggest bands here (the Devil Makes Three, Blackbird Raum, Camper Van Beethoven) have been influenced by folk, bluegrass and other traditional American genres.

Even for Santa Cruz, however, this is a particularly fertile time for Americana, and its recent explosion over the last year has been well documented in Santa Cruz Weekly.

But just on the fringe of that phenomenon has arisen one of the local music scene’s most interesting artists, 23-year-old Santa Cruz native Kendra McKinley. Having played her first show only a year and a half ago, her profile has been raised as the roots scene accepted her as a sort of honorary member—in fact, her first show was with bluegrass locals the North Pacific String Band, who urged her to open for them at the Crepe Place. But aside from her acoustic, singer-songwriter style, she doesn’t fit neatly into any traditional notion of Americana—or anything else.

“She has a grander vision than a lot of songwriters do. She thinks and writes in a larger context than a lot of songwriters do. She’s well-versed in a lot of different music, and it comes through—not just in some of the choices she makes musically, but the confidence that she writes and plays with,” says Jeff Kissell, bassist for the Marty O’Reilly Old Soul orchestra, and occasional bassist for McKinley. “There have been a lot of pop musicians that have done that, but there aren’t a lot now. There’s certainly not many in Santa Cruz.”

McKinley’s music contains elements of folk, jazz, blues, baroque and chamber-pop. What ties it all together is its theatricality—and her rich musical knowledge, which she uses to texture her ideas. She doesn’t just casually listen to and pay homage to old jazz, she knows how to play hundreds of Tin Pan Alley jazz tunes, and her music demonstrates a depth of knowledge and experience far beyond her years.

Even with just her acoustic guitar and vocals, McKinley creates gorgeous, nuanced arrangements that could function as surreal soundtracks to a 1950s children’s cartoon, or romantic Tim Burton montages. Her songs are filled with both wide-eyed wonder and meticulously calculated composition, and her voice is a cross between Ella Fitzgerald and Joanna Newsom.



Rite of Passage

Only about eight months after her first show at the Crepe Place, McKinley was headlining the Kuumbwa Jazz Center to celebrate the CD release of her debut album, Chestnut Street, which she recorded with Kickstarter contributions earlier that summer.

For a lot of locals, playing the Kuumbwa is a rite of passage that takes years to work up to. It came to McKinley much quicker. Not only was the venue filled with friends, family and fans anxious to see her perform, but she would be playing on stage alone for the hour-and-20-minute set.

“That was really exciting, and intimidating, especially playing the freaking piano at the Kuumbwa. I was thinking, oh no, McCoy Tyner’s played this and I’m going to play it. Better not fuck up,” McKinley says.

During the course of the set, McKinley rotated between several different instruments—acoustic guitar, piano, ukulele—and she did some with just vocal looping (a process of using an effects pedal to record and layer vocal lines).

McKinley may have just started performing, but she didn’t just start playing music. As a young kid she was in love with the Beatles, and sang and played their songs to an almost obsessive level. But she never took it upon herself to actually write music. When she turned 18, she wanted to study theater, but wasn’t accepted into any of the programs, so she switched gears and ended up studying music at UCSC.

“I was always so much more interested in music. For some reason, that light bulb didn’t go off until very late,” she admits. “It did—and I’m happy that it did.”

She studied music intensely, but much of what she learned in school were things that she already knew.

“I had always relied so heavily on my ear. Since I was little, I would dissect what I heard musically into all the separate parts, which I learned that not everyone does. If I sang a melody, I could hear the entire thing realized in a four-part texture. That was just the way that my brain processed music. So it was exciting to learn theory, because I learned the names for all the things that I was hearing,” McKinley says.

During her years in college, she did start to write some music, but still not much. It wasn’t until her first show at the Crepe Place that the floodgates opened.

In no time, she had enough music to fill her debut album Chestnut Street, which she recorded only a few months later. By December, she had enough material to play that hour and twenty minutes of mostly original songs at the Kuumbwa for her CD release show.

“The most terrifying thing about writing songs is [the fear that] you’re going to be expressing all your deepest darkest feelings and that no one’s going to like it. Once I started gaining positive reactions, I felt more comfortable with whatever instincts I had, and just sort of gave myself permission at last to just write what I heard in my head. Now I’m always thinking of five songs at a time,” McKinley says.



Fully Formed

When she did debut her music in a public forum, unlike most musicians, she was already a refined performer with a unique voice and a unique sound, not to mention her actual singing voice and musicianship was well beyond musicians with decades more experience.

“She had a pretty clear sense of what she wanted to do even before she knew exactly how to do it. She has a clear vision of her music,” Kissell says.

On “Chestnut Street,” the album’s title track, she creates an orchestra of sound using only her voice. She builds wordless vocal arpeggios one at a time (an effect she does flawlessly live, using her looping pedal), giving it the gentle bounce of classic jazz combined with late ’60s chamber-pop. About a minute and a half in, she begins singing actual words on top of it. (“I can hear the pitter patter of the rain/and I’m watching all the cars imitating shooting stars out my window.”) The two lines repeat through the remainder of the song.

The album gets its name from a house she was living in on Chestnut Street while she wrote most of the material. The title song, like others on the album, evokes very specific sensory and emotional experiences from the time she spent there.

McKinley recorded almost everything on Chestnut Street completely on her own (with the exception of “An Ode to John Hartford’s ‘In Tall Buildings,’” which also has Jeff Wilson on the banjo). Most of the songs are just McKinley and her acoustic guitar, and a couple are just her and her vocal looping pedal.

As complex and nuanced as her songs end up, they generally just begin as these wordless repeating melodies which she struggles to make sense out of.

“I’ll hear the melody, and I instantly run home and record it. I want to save it. I want to coddle it and help it grow. I keep singing it over and over again until I run upstairs and record it. It happens all the time, which makes it hard to listen to other music sometimes. My brain feels full,” McKinley says.



Building a Band

Even though the Kuumbwa CD release show was an introduction of McKinley's work to many, it also marked the end of her time as an exclusively solo performer—not that she hasn’t still performed alone on stage since then, but she has also embarked on the process of collaborating with other musicians, which she finds herself more and more drawn to.

In April, she played as part of the Club Kuumbwa series, and at the Do It Ourselves Festival, which she helped organize. For both shows, she brought a band that included Jan Purat (violin), Alex Bice (drums, vocals), Jack O’Brien (upright bass), Emily Meehan (backing vocals) and Rob Marshall (backing vocals).

“At this point in my life, I am so much more interested in music as collaboration. I really like the idea of working with a number of different people, and hearing their interpretations. You make a bigger sound that features more people. That’s what I’m most interested in, not having the spotlight, not being the superstar, but just making music with other people that want to make music for people that want to hear that music being made,” McKinley says.

One of the songs she debuted at the Kuumbwa the second time around was quite different than anything on Chestnut Street. Titled “Bitter Suite,” it is a 12-minute Duke Ellington-esque composition separated into three movements. On it, she plays the piano and sings throughout, and is accompanied by her band. The first movement is called “I’m Going to Buy You a Boat.” It has the swagger of a 1940s striptease tune, but the complexity of the Beatles’ Abbey Road. The second movement, “Baby Dynamite,” has a light bossanova groove to it and a strong pop chord structuring. The final movement, “So Long,” is a romantic orchestral ballad done in the fashion of a musical theater closer, a la “Memories” in Cats.

It’s an astonishing display of advanced musical talent. If she seemed like she was already quite skilled only a year earlier, when she first performed at the Crepe Place, she had quickly jumped leaps and bounds.

She then left the band behind for an already planned trip to Europe. For the front end of the trip, she had landed an unusual gig of playing on an eight-day cruise through parts of the Mediterranean Sea. It was an unusual cruise, in that there were only about 100 passengers, and there were several musicians recruited as performers.

“A lot of the passengers, even if they weren’t recruited as musicians, brought their instruments as well, or borrowed other people’s instruments. There was a lot of collaboration throughout the trip,” McKinley says.

As excited as she was about playing on the cruise and traveling in Europe, she wasn’t that happy about being a solo artist again.

“It made it frustrating when I would get these ideas for a fully realized song that could be played by my band in particular, and knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to realize it until I don’t even know what date,” McKinley says. “But it’s also a challenge when you’re writing a song for one performer so see how much you can pack into one song, how potent you can make it. I appreciate that challenge.”

She met up with her backup singer Meehan later in Europe, and the two of them travelled throughout the continent, hitting Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria and Italy. McKinley picked up gigs in every one of those countries, sometimes at clubs, but often at parties or just busking on the street. The trip opened up new possibilities.

“Traveling and playing music is ultimately what I want to do with my life. Any opportunity to combine the two is all right by me,” McKinley says. “Traveling with a guitar is a really nice way to make friends, because it sparks up a lot of conversations. Then you end up being asked to prove yourself as a musician. That was essentially what I did.”



Next Big Thing

When she arrived back in Santa Cruz in August, she reunited with her band, with the exception of her bass player, who left to study music at Berklee College in Boston (she’s been using substitutes to take his place).

Just as she seems poised for big things, she’s leaving Santa Cruz, planning to relocate to San Francisco this year, with the hopes that it will help her advance her musical career.

“I love the City. While traveling, I was always thinking in the back of my mind that I was going to have to figure out where to go once I returned to the States. San Francisco felt like the right place. So now I am going to give it a shot,” McKinley says.

She has plans to continue playing with her band, but she really wants to branch out as much as possible to really expand her musical repertoire. In fact, she recently started a trip-hop side project called Whizbang Operations with Oliver Whitcroft. He plays an Akai MPC (midi sequencer, sampler, drum machine) and McKinley plays the looping pedal.

“I really hope to engage in some more collaborative songwriting in the coming year,” McKinley says. “I also look forward to actually naming the group. I am not the biggest fan of calling ourselves the Kendra McKinley Group, because I want to be representative of all members. All these people have interesting ideas to contribute.” - Santa Cruz Weekly


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Kendra McKinley is a musician for the new millennium. Her compositions possess the vibrancy and imagination of 1960's psychedelic pop whilst still reflecting the sonic explorations of her contemporaries, creating a sound that commands not only your ears but your feet.

In a vivid childhood memory of her introduction to storytelling, she recalls asking her father, an illustrator, what music to listen to while drawing a picture of koi fish. He put on "Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel.
But it wasn't just her father's artistic influence that made the McKinley household a creatively stimulating environment. Her brother A.J. was inspired to share the music he loved with his little sister. As he guided her through his record collection, she learned the foundations of classic pop, and discovered what was to become an unconditional love for The Beatles.

Kendra devoted many hours to listening, learning the language of harmony. Her time spent singing Beatles songs in a youth theater production of "Cinderella" (she was the Fairy Godmother) solidified her love of music and performing. By age seven, her musical calling was becoming clear.

In High School, the four walls of her room could no longer contain her and she announced her intention to study abroad. Her parents knew better than to doubt their daughter's ambition. She was placed with a family of four in Mantova, Italy for her junior year not knowing a single word in Italian. Within the year she was fluent and performing with Teatro Campogaliani, the local theater company. She has returned to Mantova three times and considers it a second home.

Returning to the US, she studied music - with an emphasis in classical guitar - and formed strong ties with fellow classmates leading to the creation of the "Do It Ourselves" Festival. Kendra headlines every year.

In 2014 she relocated to San Francisco. Three days after her move, she reconnected with an old friend who had become a Lyft driver. The next day, completely at random, one of his passengers was the producer Andy Freeman (Manchester Orchestra, Eisley). The driver insisted Andy listen to Kendra's music and Andy instantly became her biggest fan. He immediately ushered her into San Francisco's music scene renaissance, namely Balanced Breakfast, where her talent, intensity, and personality were welcomed with open arms. Kendra has since taken the San Francisco music scene by storm having performed at The Fillmore, The Independent, Noise Pop's San Francisco Street Food Festival, SXSW, DIO Fest and more.

Kendra is currently recording her sophomore album - TREAT - at Tiny Telephone Recording Studios in a production trio that includes Andy Freeman and her older brother, AJ McKinley (Battlehooch). Listeners will be led on a tour of musical genres ranging from harmony-rich pop, to pensive chamber music, to funky dance music, and even a heavy metal witch séance--all connected by a voice that is as sweet as it is versatile.

Band Members