Former Walking Dead actress Emily Kinney (spoiler alert: she dies) is coming to the Social on Friday, Nov. 20, to support her new album, This Is War.
Since 2011, she has released two EPs and two singles in advance of her full-length debut, which has been described by Rolling Stone as “emotive indie-pop.” Kinney joins the ranks of other Hollywood notables like Jared Leto, Zooey Deschanel and Jack Black who started their own bands despite budding acting careers.
Kinney got her big break in 2011 when she was cast as Beth Greene in The Walking Dead. Real life collided with fantasy for Kinney when her character contributed to the survival group by singing to boost morale (see below).
Tickets to see Kinney at the Social start at $17 and can be purchased here.
Actress discusses new indie-pop effort, ‘This Is War,’ as well as playing a “sex surrogate” on ‘Masters of Sex’
Toward the end of last year, a part of actress Emily Kinney died. For four seasons, she had played The Walking Dead’s Beth Greene — the wide-eyed, singing-prone, optimistic daughter of a veterinarian farmer — but as is the show’s wont, her character met its less-than-natural conclusion in November.
Now Kinney is focusing on new roles, with appearances slated on Masters of Sex and The Knick, and a new album. For the past four years, the actress has been recording and releasing albums of emotive indie-pop on her own and has a new one — This Is War — slated to come out on October 2nd. She made the album knowing full well that after her run on one of TV’s biggest recent hits, it would be reaching a wider audience, but she didn’t let expectations faze her. Today, she’s premiering a new tune from the upcoming LP, “Birthday Cake,” which continues in the autobiographical, relationship-themed mold of songs from her prior release, 2014’s Expired Love.
Soft and acoustic, “Birthday Cake” finds Kinney singing to a man she’s crushing on and tells of how they eventually attempt a long-distance relationship after a romantic encounter at her birthday party, moving from making out to making love by the time he visits her in New York City. Kinney tells Rolling Stone that the reason it sounds so sweet and hopeful is because it’s based on a true story.
“I wrote it after I’d gone on a date with this guy I liked and I said, ‘Well, come to my birthday party,” she says with a laugh. “He couldn’t come until late, after my friends and I had gone to this bar, but then later I lured him back to my friend’s apartment. I said, ‘You know, there’s still leftover birthday cake at the apartment, so you might want to…’ So he came over to have some birthday cake and then we fell in love.” She laughs and says that shortly thereafter she had to fly to Georgia to film The Walking Dead, so they tried out a long-distance relationship. When Rolling Stone asks if it worked out, she says with a laugh, “In some ways it worked.”
By her own admission, the tune is one of the more cheerful songs on This Is War. As she wrote the record — whose cover sports her face and the album title written on sticker-covered xylophone keys (“It’s, like, a cute war,” she says) — she constantly found herself in the middle of all sorts of situations, which led to tension in the songs. “The songs are me figuring stuff out,” she says. “The title is about stepping up and standing up for myself, in relationships and in my work. Between auditioning and music, it can be tough. There are a lot of ups and downs.”
Until her untimely death on last November’s mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, Beth Greene, portrayed by the actor and musician Emily Kinney, was one of the AMC zombie mega-show’s most prominent characters. Devoutly religious and optimistic if initially naive, Beth was such a fan favorite that the blogosphere exploded when she was killed off the show. Naturally, Kinney is not Beth. But don’t tell that to the countless fans who come to Kinney’s concerts; if it were up to them, she’d be Beth forever.
Yes, such are the consequences of moving between the worlds of acting and music. Kinney has been singing since her childhood, and she got her first big break in Spring Awakening on Broadway, but only in recent years has the multi-talented 29-year-old made a legitimate run at a music career. She’s released a pair of EPs, each showcasing the musings of a gentle singer-songwriter in the vein of Ingrid Michaelson. In the fall, Kinney releases her full-length debut album, This Is War. Kinney recently talked to us about her message-heavy LP, jumping from stage to screen, and how she has come to terms with her Beth persona.
People know you best for your acting. Tell us about your lifelong love of music.
I’ve been singing since I was really little. I was probably seven when I did my first talent show. Singing was definitely my in to performing more so than acting. Music definitely came first. As a little kid I was thinking that was the route I was going. And then I started to really fall in love with theater and I realized what I love about music is the stories and the words. I can actually remember someone coming up to me—’cause I used to sing a lot at church and stuff like that—”I love when you sing at church because I feel like I can feel the words.” That stuck with me. I was realizing there was something besides just the music. It was more about telling stories. So I started shifting my focus a bit.
You already know Emily Kinney’s singing from The Walking Dead. As Beth Greene, farmer’s daughter and zombie slayer, her character’s occasional musical interludes brought emotional depth and resonance to a frequently brutal television show. She talked with STACKEDD about her tour, geek culture, and her parents’ super rad taste in music.
CR: Your music is so much fun! How long have you been a songwriter?
EK: I’ve been writing poetry longer than songs, but I remember writing some of my first songs in high school.
CR: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
EK: I love a lot of artists, but most of my inspiration to write songs comes from my musician friends, or local Brooklyn bands I see around NYC. Jaymay, Bright Silence are a few….I also get inspiration from my romantic relationships or my friend’s relationships. Walking around NYC inspires me to write songs. And I get inspiration from my parents. My parents’ taste in music has definitely influenced me. We would listen to The Carpenters and John Lennon, Chicago, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Carole King, etc….the list goes on a bit. They have great taste in music I think. 🙂
CR: Which musicians would like to work with in the future? Do you have a dream collaboration?
EK: I don’t know. There are so many great artists out there. I already feel lucky to have gotten to work with some awesome musicians on this album, like Caleb Shreve, Elliot Jacobsen, and Simon Kafka, who are also good people and good friends. But I do have a fantasy about Nicki Minaj doing a remix of one of my songs. So maybe someday that call will come. haha.
CR: How has the transition from working on The Walking Dead to focusing on music been for you?
EK: It’s been non-stop since leaving The Walking Dead because I have been trying to really take advantage of the momentum in both my acting and music career. The Walking Dead became a home base, an anchor for a few years, so now I’ve been trying to find that anchor again in my life. So some days I feel a little scattered. The family that has developed within the band through touring is beginning to feel like an anchor. I think I want to tour more after the album comes out.
CR: The episodes of The Walking Dead featuring you singing were some of the more emotionally resonant episodes. Was it exciting for you to be able to sing on the show? How did that come about?
EK: Of course, it was exciting! I love singing and I love that the audience was able to connect with Beth through music. It was just something added to the campfire moment in Season 3 and then it was established that Beth liked singing. It was the showrunner’s idea.
CR: What did you learn about geek culture from working on a cult show like The Walking Dead? How do you feel about how women are treated in geek culture?
EK: I’m not sure I totally know specifically who you are referring to when you say “geek culture”, but I love the Walking Dead fans and I do meet a lot of comic book/ superhero/horror film fans when I go to conventions. They are loyal and fun and positive and supportive people in my experience. To be an artist with a listening audience like The Walking Dead has is quite a fortunate thing.
CR: Tell us about your upcoming acting projects.
EK: I’ll be appearing in the second season of The Knick, and I have few other things in the works, but right now as I’m writing this interview I’m on the road with my band!
Emily Kinney is known for her role as Beth Greene from the hit series The Walking Dead, but she has much more under her belt than that one show. She’s been in numerous television and film spots, as well as on Broadway in Spring Awakening and August: Osage County. Kinney has also been busy with a budding music career, and we’re eagerly awaiting a new album from her this year, titled This Is War. I got to talk to Emily about her upcoming tour, album, and how acting and music have worked together in her life:
A lot of people know you from The Walking Dead, but you’re also an accomplished musician. Did acting come first, or was music/acting a joint venture for you?
Music in some ways came first as far as like, when I was little […] I loved music and the radio and singing and singing for people and even just starting when I was seven, I was singing in talent shows and at church. But then, as I grew up, I started getting involved in theater and musical theater and the TV shows I watched, I would think, “Oh, that’s kinda what I’m looking for.” […] They both have been a part of my life for quite a while, I would say music kinda got me in.
When I moved to New York, I was definitely moving to pursue acting and music was just something I’d always do no matter what. I started singing backup for bands, I went to go see a lot of music, started writing my own songs. It took me a second to start deciding to actually record my own music. I guess professionally, acting came first, but what hooked me into performance was my music.
Your music has a very playful nature to it. Even with your songs that take a more serious tone, there’s still this, I want to say ‘innocence’ to it. Do you find it easier to write your music that way?
I do think that it’s very playful and happy, like a lot of people will tell me, “Your songs sound so happy, but then when I really listen close to the words, they suddenly are very sad.” I just tend to think about the actual words themselves, and I think for me, music or writing music is a way for me to feel better and work out what I’m going through, so I don’t know if that becomes part of the process, it starts out trying to be really honest about what I want to say, and saying those things in a very honest way, but then when I sing them wanting them to feel happy and feel like a release.
So I think that’s why they might come out in that way. I also think my sense of humor comes across a little bit in my songs, and even if I’m upset about something, I do tend to make fun of the thing I’m upset about, and I don’t think that any of my problems are maybe all that awful. Usually, most of the issues I’m writing about are things like boyfriends and love and really things that I’m lucky to have had in my life. Sometimes, I try to find a way to sort of make fun of the problem.
Fans of Emily Kinney know her for her “melodic, quirky, and confessional pop,” highly personal songwriting, and “honest style,” all of which will be featured on her debut full length album, ‘This Is War’ (8.11). Kinney’s narrative on the album is empowering and confident as she openly speaks her mind to those who have doubted her and those she loves – a departure from the roller coaster love story captured on her ‘Expired Love’ EP.
On the album’s percussion-driven opener and title track, Kinney directly addresses someone who expressed doubt in her career, using her arsenal of strong lyricism and songwriting to prove she’s “a fighter.” All ten tracks on the album share the common theme of taking ownership of your life and leaving nothing unsaid. “I would feel motivated to write songs after I had conversations where I didn’t feel like I could say the things I wanted to say,” explains Kinney. That isn’t to say that the whole album is about disagreements – “Never Leave LA,” a song Kinney says was inspired by a close friend’s story, is about fighting and taking chances for love. The song features the glockenspiel, a xylophone-like instrument that Kinney used throughout the album to contrast with the confrontational songwriting topics. On the album’s closing track, “Weapons,” Kinney details her escape into the sunset as she lays down her guard, surrounds herself with people who treat her right, and remembers that living well is often the best revenge.
Kinney doesn’t shy away from naming names and details about the people involved in her songs, making her lyrics feel like they’ve leapt from the pages of her diary. Her “heartfelt, emotional indie rock” (Rolling Stone) has earned her comparisons to Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson, and is the reason that PopCrush proclaims she “is ready to make her official foray into the music world.”
Listen to the title track “This is War” on SPIN.com: http://www.spin.com/2015/04/emily-kinney-this-is-war-new-song-the-walking-dead-stream/