Singer-Songwriter-Actress Emily Kinney Dishes On Her New Album, Fall Tour & Netflix Drama ‘Messiah’

Emily KinneyPhoto Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

Emily Kinney has just about done it all when it comes to entertainment. You may know the singer-songwriter-actress as a musician from her previous albums like “This is War,” “Expired Love” or “Blue Toothbrush,” or perhaps from her role on TV as Beth Greene on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Last month, Kinney released her latest album, “Oh, Jonathan,” is wrapping up filming for Netflix‘s “Messiah” over the next few days, is currently on tour and doesn’t have any plans of slowing down soon.

Kinney is on tour now through November 16, stopping in Boston on October 10. We caught up recently with her to discuss her latest album, fall tour, upcoming Netflix series and how she balances it all.

Emily Kinney Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

Tell us a little about “Oh, Jonathan,” which is somewhat of a departure from your previous music and how it differs from your other albums.

Most of the songs are about things that have inspired me at different points in my life. “Oh, Jonathan” chronicles an on and off-again relationship I had through the years. The instrumentation on this album is very different. Instead of more Americana folk in previous years, this has a more atmospheric feel and less guitar heavy. We made this album primarily in LA instead of New York like the others, so you will hear references to West Hollywood and the beach.

Can you talk about the process of working with Benjamin Greenspan to produce this album?

These songs were created in the studio before we would bring them live. We would bring in players for certain parts, but for the most part it was me and Ben playing the instruments ourselves. This album is different than years past where we would play the songs live before bringing them into the studio. Once we honed in on what we wanted the album to be about, it became music from just me and Ben.

How would you say your approach to songwriting has evolved over the years?

I still kind of come back to the way I write songs, but I know more about songwriting and the artists I want to collaborate with now. It’s more that I know more tricks now that I have done more songwriting sessions, but the way I write is still the same, drawing from my life and my friends’ lives. When I am writing a song, I use my imagination and keep coming back to a phrase I want to say.

Emily KinneyPhoto Credit: Shorefire Media

The album talks about an on and off-again relationship. What was the inspiration behind the song “Boy Band Hero?”

“Boy Band Hero” was the last song I wrote for the album and I wrote it last year. I was looking back on the relationship and thinking it was really me on my own. I wondered if a lot was in my imagination, guessing why someone didn’t respond the way I thought they would, and I came up with the concept that I was imagining this. I remember back in high school sitting at my desk and playing through things in my head talking to a boy if I liked him. I played on that idea in this song.

You have said previously you wanted this album to have more “air and space.” How did you achieve that?

A lot of the songs I have written had words that really needed to be digested. If you notice in “Popsicles,” there is a whole musical break. I made a conscious effort to put in breaks like that. I wanted to make a sonic landscape of sound and tried to keep this in mind for this album.


Emily KinneyPhoto Credit: Shorefire Media

How did “The Sweetheart Deal” (a musical collaboration with boyfriend Paul McDonald) come about?

The Sweetheart Deal came about because Paul and I are dating (laughs) We had been set up by a BMI rep. Both of us like working and writing songs so we started singing together, playing sets and writing together. Both of us have solo projects we are working on at the moment so we are focused on promoting those now.

Tell us about your new Netflix project “Messiah.”

I just have a couple days left filming it. It won’t come out until next year, but it’s a pretty serious drama about the second coming of Christ. People start following him and my character has a daughter who has cancer, so he is really her last hope. When I was filming it, I knew this was going to be something special.

How do you balance being an actor and musician?

Every day is different. I look at things as projects. When I am cast in a show or if I am working on music or ready to plan a tour, that’s a project. Different ones become the priority. I do find that they really feed each other. When you are an actor, there are some weeks with no auditions. What do you do if you are a creative person? I can play a show. Every time I am in a new environment, it sparks new ideas for songs. It’s really a lot of fun for me.

Emily Kinney Photo Credit: Chad Kamenshine