Next month, Santa Cruz will bid adieu to one of its most promising singer/songwriters, Kendra McKinley, when she graduates from the music program at UC Santa Cruz. Once school is over, the 21-year-old Aptos native will set off on a sailboat adventure to Mexico with two of her friends, before moving to Boulder County, Colo., where the three women intend to start performing as a band. Santa Cruz won’t be left empty-handed, however. McKinley leaves behind her recently released debut album, Chestnut Street—an impressive collection of poetic and autobiographical songs she wrote while attending UCSC and performing at local venues.
Like a seasoned musician twice her age, McKinley sings with a sultry voice that soars high into delicate peaks, climbing and dipping with the twang of exotic, steely chords resonating from her acoustic guitar. Like a young Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald, McKinley manipulates the phrasing and tempo of her songs with aplomb. Asked about the autobiographical nature of her songs, McKinley said, “I felt that that was the most effective way to reach your audience, and also the most fulfilling material for the artist to do.” On the album’s title song, “Chestnut Street,” McKinley uses a looping pedal to layer her voice into complex harmonies, a common technique employed by the talented artist. The song is a powerful multi-toned homage to the big yellow house and the people she lived with on the tree-lined side street in Downtown Santa Cruz. It describes McKinley’s view of the world in motion from her bedside window—the city buzzing and the seasons changing. She sings, “I can hear the pitter patter of the rain and I’m watching all the cars imitating shooting stars out my window.” Colorado may become her new home, but Santa Cruz should be proud to call this shooting star one of its own.
INFO: For more info about McKinley and her music, visit kendramckinley.com. PHOTO CREDIT: Poppy de Garmo
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