There’s some fresh blood in the field of soul music. Don’t let her appearance fool you because she can be as tough as concrete, which is a reference to the title of her debut single on the Wax Poetics record label.
I had an opportunity a couple of months back to meet Kendra Morris and watch her perform a stripped-down version of the tenaciously-melodic “Concrete Waves”. Days later, the music video dropped and offers an interesting perspective of a girl in a relationship with an overbearing boyfriend, to say the least. Check out the vid below!
Additionally, Kendra agreed to answer some poignant questions for our UPL readers about her association to hip-hop heavyweights like DJ Premier and Jeremy Page as well as those inevitable Amy Winehouse comparisons. Based on her responses, there’s no telling what the future holds for such a promising talent on the brink of becoming a serious headliner. Enjoy!
UPL: Who is Kendra Morris?
Kendra: I have a lot of layers to my onion. I have an ear for melodies, voice for expressing, hand for storytelling, and an eye for collecting.
UPL: How would your mom describe you as a person to one of her friends?
Kendra: My mom would describe me as a quirky girl with a big voice, even bigger heart and a very dry sense of humor.
UPL: When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a professional singing career?
Kendra: I have always been a singer. One of my earliest memories is being at a party my parents were throwing, selling tickets to their guests and asking whether they wanted to hear my little voice or my big voice. It has always been the number one thing in my life. In high school I knew I wanted to be a professional singer and it took me a long time to really discover who I was. I was singing in a theme park to singing in coffee houses on the beach to writing vocal hooks for a college rap/rock band I would jump up on stage and sing with, to drum circle jam bands… this list goes on and on. I would try anything and everything just to get up on that stage and sing. That’s a big reason to how i got my chops.. never saying no and taking what I could from every experience. I don’t think there is such thing as failures.. just lessons.
UPL: Who has influenced you musically and what contemporary artists inspire you today?
Kendra: I have been heavily influenced by a lot of timeless soul heavyweights such as Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, The Spinners, Earth Wind and Fire, WAR, Ike and Tina Turner, Lee Moses, Gladys Knight, Wendy Rene, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin to classic heroes such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, The Zombies, The Association, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, then into some early to mid 90′s R&B, and recently been in love with Charles Bradley, Frank Ocean, The Black Keys, Gary Clark Jr, Little Dragon, Citizen Cope, Bon Iver to name a few..
UPL: You have some hip-hop heavyweights like DJ Premier and Jeremy Page in support of your career. How did you meet them?
Kendra: I met both of them through what i like to describe as acts of fate. Jeremy Page I met through Godforbid, the singer of That Handsome Devil, a band Jeremy plays guitar in, co-writes and produces. I was still playing out of a boombox at the time and my music was sounding pretty rough. I exchanged numbers and emails with Jeremy and we began to work on a series of demos. Over the next two years we developed a solid producer/artist relationship, but things really clicked when we began writing together.
DJ Premier and I met in a bar after a show I played early last year. One of his friends had attended my show and introduced us. This was just after I had gotten the green light on singing with the legendary Motown funk brother Dennis Coffey at SXSW 2011. When I mentioned this to Premier he was blown away being a huge fan of Coffey himself. A little tidbit for you.. Dennis Coffey is one of the most sampled artists in hip hop music. We exchanged phone numbers and emails and a friendship began.. I ended up running into him at SXSW out of nowhere and saw it as another sign to work together. We talked about ways to work together, and when he wanted to remix Concrete Waves, all the pieces came together.
UPL: Your debut single “Concrete Waves” as well as other songs like “Pity, Pity” depict you as somewhat conniving. Are the waves of your love really as tough as concrete?
Kendra: I am as warm as a sleeping bag when it comes to relationships.. but I am vicious when it comes to a nasty breakup. I will slay you with my words and if you’re lucky you’ll end up in a song.
UPL: Ratio-wise, how many times have you had your heart broken versus the amount of hearts you’ve broken yourself?
Kendra: I have been crushed before but i have let a few fellas down as well.
UPL: If you could have a conversation with your strongest demon, what would it try to convince you to do?
Kendra: It would try to convince me to believe every negative word I’ve ever come up against. Haters never prosper.
UPL: Regarding the inventive video for “Concrete Waves”, would you seriously remain that calm if you were kidnapped by a crazed lover?
Kendra: I would. I don’t want to waste time thinking about my imminent doom and miss the opportunity I have to turn the pages on the poor bastard.
UPL: Finally, what do you say to critics about their inevitable Amy Winehouse comparisons?
Kendra: I’ve been writing music and singing all my life. From the time I was young, I had a huge attachment and love for R&B and soul, and I think she and I, and countless others, shared the love for that music and are inspired by it.
Kendra’s debut album is due this spring 2012.
- @Uhkeem on Twitter