Henry Miller Memorial Library Sessions

by Kendra McKinley

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1.
04:05
I am face to face with my childishness Wearing selfishness as a harness I want to show you flowers and fill my hours with progress I want to be a queen, refer to me as your highness. I'm as greedy as I'm giving Use my feelings to make a living I've been tethered to a self-induced tension Searching for tenderness inside my apprehension. I am face to face With a longing to belong to a place The taste is familiar in an unfamiliar way I'm chasing a current for reassurance And I've got so much farther to go Every second I grow older And my bed's just getting colder I'd lend a shoulder to any handsome soldier Who'd stay the night and give a light to this lonesome stoner I wanna bury my lies miles below my mattress And then I'll build me a home out of the ashes. I am face to face With a longing to belong to a place The taste is familiar in an unfamiliar way I'm chasing a current for reassurance And I've got so much farther to go
2.
Something's changed in me I've resolved my reasons for running far too far Now I'm sleeping and I'll wake when I want to, dear It's Sunday morning Smoke and alcohol Left my body burning My mind's a wilting flower that needs pruning I'll wake when I want to, dear It's Sunday morning Leave the world behind It will keep on turning around forever Just keep sleeping And wake when you want to dear It's Sunday morning.
3.
I can feel the current pulling me towards the Queen Towards her open hours and emerald Green I know I've arrived When the soles of my feet Are kissing golden hills And sandy streets I never feel alone Under the crown of trees That told me I was home And never had to leave Turn out all the lights A starry night is what I need A cloud made of flowers on fire Is all I wanna breathe Pour some ocean salt Into my anxiety I want to feel small and dissolve Into infinity Forever I'll float Along the water's seam And sing to the coast I never wanna leave When you meet her Now to her majesty And smile as her sighs Deliver you peace Remember she's a home Her heart has a beat And if you move slow You'll never wanna leave
4.
I was asleep so long in winter I held my breath and swallowed all my words I counted those melancholy mornings Waiting for those icy winds to turn I planted a seed where weeds are growing In shallow earth that's brittle from decay It's growing, but it won't see the sunlight 'Till those melancholy mornings go away The sound of the stillness makes me restless I'm searching for a distant remedy Good morning, melancholy morning Just how long until you let me be
5.
6.
04:28
Candlelit dinners by a plastic fireplace The embers they glow and lightly dance across your lovely face Below the chandelier we talk lightheartedly and embrace Like an old love song Our feet they beat upon the street like rubber metronomes Reminiscing, kissing, like two kids with ice cream cones But fainting winds replaced the sunny sky above our heads Just like they all said What can I do but marinate in the nearness of you? My heart see-saws, but never will it be the cause Of our demise, I'm trying so hard to be wise all the time. Afternoons in yellow Junes are easy 'cause you're there to please me I wake up and noon, and you'll be here soon But fainting winds replaced the sunny sky above our head Just like they all said What does it mean when grasses that once were green turn to brown? In the same patch of ground? I thought that I knew everything about you but I just couldn't see that the one that I didn't know was me But I can brush my baby teeth and give you back me smike And when I hear you coo, I'll make it worth your while. I can be your babysitter be your baby sister be your mother, too.

about

I spent 5 weeks living at the Henry Miller Memorial Library as the artist in residence. This was during the final weeks of the bridge closure, which essentially rendered that stretch of highway inaccessible for 8 months. I was living on the Library grounds in a tent, without cell reception or wifi. The kitchen was partially outdoors, and I’d prepare meals with two gas burners and whatever could survive in a cooler. All my clothes were washed by hand, and showers entailed boiling water on the stove and using a pitcher to bath oneself in a bamboo shower stall in the woods. Long story short, it was rustic.

My residency wasn’t based on an existing program, but rather I’d developed a relationship with that place from playing there and had been invited to use it as a writing space. I’d always had an affinity for Big Sur, and dreamt for years about an opportunity to disconnect from the daily hustle and really focus on music.

So given the circumstances, I was basically alone in a cabin on the edge of the Earth and was able to finally fully immerse myself in songwriting. I’d sell books to visiting patrons during the day, but mostly spend every waking moment glued to my instruments: mainly my acoustic guitar, and the janky, mouse-filled upright piano. I wrote many songs while there, many of which have been developed and are now being performed by my full band.

Recording an EP wasn’t my original intent, but the deeper I got into the experience, the more compelled I felt to capture it. My friend Scott McDowell, engineer from Hyde Street Studio C, drove down across the newly opened Pfeiffer Bridge at the culmination of my time there with a handful of microphones, a mixer, and an electric bass. Over the course of two and a half days (mostly at night when the Library was closed), he recorded me playing the first 4 songs on the EP. I played all the instruments, except the vibraslap on “Face to Face”, played by Scott. This was the first time that the Henry Miller Memorial Library had ever been used as a recording studio. We had to take frequent brakes to deal with the rodent activity in the walls. I’ll spare you the details.

Because of the limited time we had, most tracks were first takes, never exceeding 3. This challenge to abandon a sense of preciousness forced me to get out of my head and into the music, which was something that was challenging to me when recording TREAT. The songs I selected for that session reinforced that sense of vulnerability:

"Face to Face" was written in the Library and felt like the thesis of that experience. As magical as it was, the degree of introspection and isolation I experienced was often pretty uncomfortable. This song was an attempt to make peace with that discomfort.

“Sunday Morning” was a song I’d written the previous year, but captured a celebration of slowing down and simplifying that characterized the residency experience.

“Never Wanna Leave” was my valentine to Big Sur, which still remains my favorite place in the world. I wrote this song while the Library was open, the first time I’ve written music in front of others.

“Asleep In Winter” is the second song I ever wrote, as an angsty high school student having just declared a music major. To me, this song represented my “first take” at songwriting.

The remaining 2 songs were live takes from a session I did at Airship Laboratories Studios. I included them because the tape needed a side B. “Baby Teeth”, similar to “Asleep In Winter” was the first song I ever wrote for piano, back in college.

i think of this EP as a polaroid of this magical chapter of my life.
I wish more artists could have uninterrupted time to focus on their work. What comes up can be surprising, but I believe it’s important to acknowledge all the songs that live inside of you, so you can make room for new ideas to blossom.

And lastly, infinite thanks to the stellar humans of the Henry Miller Memorial Library for welcoming me into their humble community and sharing that delectable Nothingness. I will savor the five weeks of bliss I sent in your coastal kingdom for the rest of my life.

credits

released December 7, 2018

All music written and performed by Kendra McKinley*

Tracks 1-4:
Recorded and mixed by Scott McDowell
Mastered by Piper Payne (Neato Mastering)

Tracks 5-6:
Recorded by Nahuel Bronzini and Neil Godbole
Mixed and Mastered by Neil Godbole

Cover photo: Brittany Powers


*"I've Come A Long Way" written by Bobby Womack

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Kendra McKinley California

Kendra McKinley is a singer, songwriter and bandleader whose songs burst with color, wonder, sensuality and wit. Finger painting with the sounds of chamber pop, jazz, soul and psychedelia, McKinley's honeyed voice enacts a gravitational pull on all who hear it. ... more

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