Singer-songwriter Kenzi aims for stardomWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The song is named “Down To An Art.” A country/pop tune, it has a light and bouncy beat with a little sting of brass. The singer — Kenzi is her name — has a solid voice which carries both youth and a feel of worldly experience. Her voice is the backbone of the track.
The tune would not feel out of place on any modern country station, and indeed, that’s where it is — “Down To An Art” is currently getting play on Fox stations nationwide. And its singer would fit right in with current songsters like Carrie Underwood. That is also appropriate, since Kenzi has considered Underwood one of her heroes since she started branching into pop music when she was 12.
Three years ago.
That’s right, the voice behind “Art” is only 15 years old — 16 in a few more days — but already, Kenzi O’Connor’s ability as a performer shines through as she aims for stardom.
Kenzi — calling from her home in South Florida — said that she’s understood for years that music was going to be a big part of her life. “I’ve known forever, but I grew up in a relatively musical family, and we were introduced to music at a young age,” Kenzi said.
“We were forced to play piano when we were little,” she said with a laugh. “We were immersed in all musical aspects since we were really young, and I just grew to love voice in particular.”
Kenzi’s mother, Toledo native Jennifer O’Connor, said her passion for performance was clear even from some of her earliest days.
“I think even as early as 2 years of age, my grandmother, who was very dear to me and to Kenzi, said from the get-go — I mean, she used to put her up on a stool in this diner in Golconda, Ill … and she would make Kenzi sing ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and songs from ‘Annie,’” Jennifer said.
“And this kid would just stand up there, and Kenzi’s a relatively shy person by nature, and sort of quiet and very introspective. But when she gets up to sing, I mean, even as young as like 2 or 3, she would just beam. And my grandmother used to say, ‘There’s just something special about her voice’.”
Kenzi’s first real passion was musical theater, following somewhat in her mother’s footsteps — Jennifer trained in classical singing in college. “It wasn’t until she was about 11 years old that she really started begging, ‘Please, Mom, can I have voice lessons?’ And I said, ‘Kenz, it’s a little early, keep playing the piano,’” Jennifer said with a laugh.
Both mother and daughter insist that this isn’t some old show business cliché — Jennifer hasn’t been pressuring Kenzi to follow dreams that aren’t her own. “If anything, she tried to shelter me away from the business, because she didn’t want to see me get hurt or anything,” Kenzi said.
Kenzi’s efforts to make a name for herself led her to audition for numerous talent shows and so forth — and it was at one of those where she was discovered by music manager Jason Davis.
“Davis has really been the one who launched her, who took an interest and said, ‘Let’s develop this kid.’ And we have a sort-of strategy — the strategy changes as things change — but basically it’s building a bubble, attracting people to it and seeing what sticks,” Jennifer said.
Davis provided connections to many in the music business, including Keith Follese, a songwriter with numerous chart-toppers to his credit. Follese soon began co-writing songs with Kenzi and record tracks with her in Nashville, including “Down to an Art.”
Kenzi said that while her lyrics are not strictly autobiographical, she does take advantage of her ability to emotionally connect with an audience through her music.
And as Kenzi stands before a bright but uncertain future, she is sure of one thing above all —that no matter what happens, music will always be a part of her.
“Even if this doesn’t work out, I think I will continue to pursue music until I can no longer pursue it,” she said, adding that she’s still pursuing higher education, as well. “I’m interested in the sciences and medicine, that I’d also like to work with. But on the side, I think I’d still continue singing no matter what.”
“Down To An Art” and other songs by Kenzi are available on iTunes. For more information, visit www.kenzilive.com.