By Danielle Reid
*Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU) first-year creative industries student Christina Kennedy wears many hats as a recording artist, writer, film director and actress. The 18-year-old Vancouver native is making the world her stage and holds nothing back in her new single “All Night” featuring Vancouver-based rapper Trewth, which was released at the end of September. Kennedy spoke with The Eyeopener about how she got her start in music, the message behind her songs and the atmosphere during her live shows.
Listen to the song while you read:
You’re from British Columbia! Born and raised?
No, I was actually born in China and my parents adopted me when I was nine months old and then I was raised in Vancouver my whole life. West Coast girlie!
How are you feeling now, after the song’s release?
It’s been almost 12 hours and I’m feeling good. It’s been a lot of love so far. Hopefully, it’ll just continue to be shared. I tend to not listen to my music after it’s been released. It’s one of those things like when you release a song, it’s no longer yours—it’s out in the world so you put it out there and then it’s no longer your business.
Do you feel like it’s the meaning of the song that’s no longer yours?
More so how it resonates with people. Now it’s out there for people to interpret it however they want to and it’s no longer for me, or my song. My interpretation of why I wrote the song is only one interpretation. Everyone has their own meaning, which is kind of cool.
What can you tell me about your single, “All Night”?
“All Night” is this sensual, R&B, indie-pop song. I honestly wrote it really quickly. I found this beat on YouTube and I was like ‘this is groovy,’ and I figured out the chords myself. When I get into writer’s block, I search up a funky beat that’s already made with the structured verse, pre-chorus, chorus just to get the structure. I take that and jumble them around and make it my own, inspired by the beat. That’s what I did for this song. I literally made it in half an hour.
I [played] it on piano and sent it to my producer at the time. I was originally not going to do this song, I had a different song in mind and I think we were struggling to finish it. Then I wrote this and said, “Hey I have this new idea, I just wrote it. What do you think?” And he was like, “Let’s do it”
Is that how most of your songs get written? Is your writing process a quick one and done thing, or does it take more time?
It honestly depends on the song. A lot of my best work [happens] when it just flows out [of me]. If I have something heavy on my head or my heart and I sit down and play one song and then I’m like ‘here’s the song.’
[When] it comes out in half an hour to an hour, that’s my best work and the best writing process. But sometimes you want to analyze it and you want to do more musical notations and arrangements. So, you do your writing process and then you come back and you revise it.
What got you into music?
I was five when I started. My parents put me in piano classes in the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) which is grade-based [training]. I went to grade four…I did not love that whole system, I was not very good at it, so I started doing vocals with my piano teacher. Then, I did RCM with vocals. It was a more classical repertoire and recitals. That’s my background in music.
As I got older I experimented with my own music and songwriting. In high school, I met this aspiring producer named Owen. He produced my first single, “A Dream Away.” It’s about reminiscing about someone that was close to you and seeing them in your memory and being close even though you’re far apart.
How would you describe your music style?
It’s pretty pop-based. Sad-pop? Ballad-pop? Pop-ballad-y since the piano is my main instrument. Honestly, it’s just pop with a lot of sadness. More like an authentic style of writing. I really like to be authentic in my writing, if it doesn’t hit hard for me, then to me, it is not good. I really aim to feel super authentic with my lyrics and feel something.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It’s usually from my life or what I’m feeling or what’s bothering me. It’s kind of like my journal entry. I do keep a journal but it’s messy—it’s not poetic!
What message are you trying to spread with your music?
I think I like to focus on making other people feel comforted and less lonely. Like, if they’re struggling with mental health, then feeling [like they can confide] in that. Something they can listen to before they can go to bed if they’re feeling down.
Who are you influenced by?
Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish. Also, recently, Lizzy McAlpine just because she has really [great] songwriting and great lyrics. I try to make songs as visceral as I can in terms of imagery and how it hits.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
Kind of random but, probably NF. He’s this authentic, Christian rapper. I wouldn’t say that’s his main niche but he’s just very authentic and soulful with his lyrics. I want to work with rappers. He’d be super cool to work with. I think it would be a great balance of storytelling and I love his sound. And, obviously, Billie Eilish.
Do you have a project you’re most proud of?
Yes, I do! My song “San Diego, CA” which I released back in May. I did a music video for it and I wanted to create something that took no money. So I decided to do this dance piece that I [performed and] directed. I didn’t choreograph it but I directed the layout of how I wanted it to feel. I’m most proud of that just because, [with] the budget that we had and the dedication of the crew, I’m so proud of how it all came together. We ended up painting a piano pink [for the video]. We got a free piano from Facebook Marketplace, painted it pink and hauled it all the way to the beach.
You’re a singer, songwriter, writer, director, actor and a student. How do you manage all of those roles?
How do I juggle it? I don’t even know. I’m so passionate about everything and then I feel like the more that I develop into each branch, [the more] I have to be selective. And I’m going to have to eventually prioritize what’s more important to me, which is music at the moment. [But] it’s pretty cohesive. Now, I’m able to direct my own music videos. Then, I get to be in it so I guess that’s the acting part.
What’s it like being up on stage?
Being on stage is super rewarding, I really like it. It feels super homey—I’ve been doing it for a while. I feel like I don’t even get nervous anymore, it’s kind of weird. It’s a good place to be in but I feel like when you get nervous you really do care about something. It makes after the show [feel] even more rewarding. I get more excited once I’m up there. It’s based on the crowd too. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing but the crowd’s energy is what feeds me.
What are your live shows like? What is the crowd most excited about?
Famous covers like “Hotel California,” they love that, especially the adults. I always start a set with “Mr. Brightside.” It’s almost like my warm up. It gets me pumped, it gets the audience pumped and that [sets] the energy and tone of the show. I do a Taylor Swift medley, it starts with “Style,” “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me.” I put those three songs together and every single time the song switches, the audience gets so hyped. They start little mosh-pits and it’s so cute.
What are you currently working on? And what can people expect for you?
There is an EP coming! I’m gonna be releasing singles for a little while and then the EP will be coming out. I’ve got a lot of songs queued up for the next year and a half, so stay tuned. You never know [what’s next], it all depends on who you meet which is really exciting.
Christina Kennedy’s music can be found on all streaming platforms: Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube under Christina Kennedy. You can find her on Instagram @_christinakennedy and keep updated on her projects at christinakennedy.ca.