Canadian indie-pop artist Kenzie Cates recently talked to ai love music about her musical career, her inspirations, and the release of her new single “Just Ain’t You”. Originally from Kamloops, Kenzie Cates started showing an aptitude for music at a young age, she received a full-ride scholarship to KISSM, where she wrote and recorded her first song when she was 11. At 15, Kenzie teamed up with local producer and musician Kris Ruston and recorded “Either Way,” releasing it on SoundCloud for friends and family. Through word of mouth, the track spread, racking up thousands of plays and leading to it being picked up by a local radio station 97.5 The River.
Continue to read on to find out what is the message featured in the song and why listeners have called it a “self-love anthem”. Don’t forget to read about how Kenzie Cates and others created the song, it is really fascinating!
Make sure to check out “Just Ain’t You” by Kenzie Cates down below and let me know what you think in the comments!
First of all, can you please introduce yourself?
Thank you so much for having me! My name is Kenzie Cates and I’m a Canadian artist writing about relationships, mostly. I listen to music to help me process my emotions and I write music to do the same thing.
How did you get into music? What has your musical journey been like?
Growing up, I always felt like I had all these big, overwhelming feelings, and I needed outlets to express myself. When I was quite young (like 6 or 7 years old), I would often take artists’ songs and rewrite the lyrics to express something I was feeling as a way of coping.
As I got older, I started experimenting with my own melodies, too, while continuing to rely on songwriting as a coping mechanism for the trials and tribulations of growing up, almost as if I were keeping a diary. Anytime I was in pain—if somebody did something hurtful to me, or I felt left out—I was comforted knowing that I would be able to transmute that pain into a song later. I guess I just never really broke that habit of using songs to process my feelings, so I’m still at it to this day. The main difference is that now, I get to call that habit “being an artist,” which is cool.
What artists and musical genres inspire you?
I love singer-songwriters who make bangers—JP Saxe, Ashe, Julia Michaels, James Bay. Some of my favourite artists also happen to be friends of mine, like Michaela Slinger and Vox Rea.
Let’s talk about your latest single “Just Ain’t You”. What is it about?
I wrote the song after I went on an amazing date with this amazing person who made me realize many of the people I’d dated in the past didn’t always treat me well. This song is about me being with somebody on a date and thinking about this other guy instead. I was wondering why I was out with somebody who was only ok and who only treated me ok when I could have been with that other guy instead. I think in a lot of ways the song is me deciding not to settle. Somebody described it as a “self-love” anthem recently, and I really loved that some people interpreted the song that way.
How was creating the song? What was the process like? Were there any challenges?
I actually started writing the song in March 2019 and demoed it in November 2019 with Ryan Stewart. I met my producer, Will McBeath, in April 2020 (right after they officially declared the pandemic). Will is Nashville-based and once I realized I wasn’t going to be back in town anytime soon, we decided to just make the thing remotely. He did most of the track in one go.
Once he sent me the instrumentals, I asked my good friend Kate Kurdyak and her sister Lauren Kurdyak (of Vox Rea) if they could help. They invited me out to their amazing cabin in Sooke. They set up a little vocal booth and we got to track all the vocals for the song, including the backups (courtesy of Vox Rea) while overlooking the ocean. It was honestly such a special weekend. I feel so happy when I listen to the song and hear their voices in it now—they’re quite pronounced in the post-chorus “ahs”.
Anyway, it was mostly smooth sailing except finding the right cable for this dumb interface we got. Aside from that, the biggest challenge must have been trying to choose 80 or so takes out of over 600 (or something crazy like that) to send to Will. I didn’t trust myself to know which ones were the best, so it was a challenging and valuable exercise.
What is the main focus of the song? Is it the instruments, the lyrics, the story, or something else?
For me, the song is really about the lyrics and the melody. I write on an acoustic guitar and so the song is always about the story at its most naked. But I think it would be a mistake to think of the instrumentation/production as being incidental. The production and the instruments tell their own story, too, and it can be tricky trying to get them to tell the same story that the song is telling, or at least a supporting story.
The music video for the single is very interesting. What is the story behind it and how was creating it?
It was so much fun getting to create a music video with my friends Miranda MacDougall and eastcherry. Miranda is a visionary—I brought the song to her and she immediately had a vision for the whole thing. She wanted to explore the objectification of the male form. The video is sort of documenting my impassivity towards any man that isn’t the man I’m singing the song to —even the “perfect” man, represented by the statue of David.
What are your future plans?
I’m releasing some more songs over the summer, applying for some grants, going to LA in the fall (pandemic permitting), and hopefully Berlin at some point to meet up with people who are making music I love to make more music I like in case others like it too.
In your music, what is the most important thing you want listeners to take away?
I hope they feel like they’re not alone in what they’re going through, whatever it is. I want people to feel like we’re at a sleepover talking about our secrets. From this song, in particular, I hope people take away the belief that they are worthy of being treated well. Perhaps most aspirationally, I want women to feel like their stories and voices matter, and that they deserve respect in general, and for their experiences to be honoured.