The Vancouver-based alt-pop artist and explorative singer-songwriter Kenzie ponders past love with her recent refreshing single, "Just Ain't You."
The Kamloops-born artist spent her younger years in awe of bold, adventurous, and strong-minded female pop acts like Katy Perry, P!nk, and Kelly Clarkson. Also garnering inspiration from the hard-hitting sounds of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC led Kenzie to become an artist who feels more than free to express and embrace her rougher edges. Diving into her recent release, "Just Ain't You," Kenzie opened up and mentioned that the song's concept surrounds the attempt of getting back into the dating scene when thoughts of an ex continue to linger.
Co-written with JUNO Award Winner Ryan Stewart, it goes without saying that anyone can find a piece of themselves within the song's lyricism.
"Just Ain't You" begins with haunting background vocals and a tender piano melody. As Kenzie beings vocalizing her desire for someone to stick around for a while longer, she instantly swoons us with her delicate and emotional stylings that emphasize her tender message. While the sonics and instrumentals start to build with tight snares and heavy major piano chords, we drift into the hook where Kenzie lets her stacked vocals serenade us with their sweet falsetto.
We're more than impressed by Kenzie's vulnerability within this heartfelt piece, as she and her accompanying sonics soar through with the utmost emotion while allowing any listener to relate with her dreamy words. Reaching the song's end, we're left wanting more tender and romantic pop ballads like this, and we're more than excited to hear what Kenzie conjures up next.
Discover Kenzie's latest single, "Just Ain't You," on all streaming platforms, and let your heart sing along with each emotional and relatable lyric.
Hello Kenzie Cates and welcome to BuzzMusic. We admire the extensive vulnerability you've shown within your recent single, "Just Ain't You." What pushed and inspired you to write such a tender and emotional song like this?
Thank you so much! On the one hand, the song is quite literal: I had been going on a bunch of Tinder dates, including a date with this one guy—let’s call him Peter—which ended in a plan to go on a second date. In between our first and second date, though, I went out with this other guy—let’s call him Tyler—and it was amazing. One layer of the song is literally just me being on this date with Peter that I’d agreed to before meeting Tyler, and then spending the whole time just wishing I were with Tyler instead. But I think the vulnerability to which you’re referring in the song didn’t actually come out of that dynamic. The way Tyler treated me on that one date contrasted quite sharply with how I’d been treated in my previous relationships, which helped me realize for the first time that I hadn’t always been treated well. And while I wasn’t responsible for having been treated poorly, I was responsible for having accepted poor treatment in the past. It was emotional coming to terms with the fact that on some level, I had thought I deserved to be treated like that. Very emotional. Very tender. So in that respect, the song isn’t really about Peter or Tyler at all—it’s about refusing to settle. It’s a commitment to self-love.
What was your songwriting collaboration like with Ryan Stewart for "Just Ain't You?” How did he help bring your ideas to life?
Working with Ryan was a literal dream come true. I had wanted to work with him for years, but I was waiting until I had something that I was excited to share with him before booking anything. He’s so talented and has worked with so many pop artists I love, like Carly Rae Jepsen and Mike Ruby, so working with him felt like a very high-stakes opportunity, and I wanted us both to love whatever we made together. “Just Ain’t You” felt like a special song to me (and after reflecting on it above, I understand why), and about halfway through writing it, I decided I wanted to save it for Ryan so that we could finish it together. Ryan is smart both as a songwriter and a human—he understood what the song needed to bring it over the finish line very quickly, and he understood who I was as an artist quickly, too. I think that his acuity RE: both of those things allowed him to choose a direction for production that was aspirational (I was listening to a lot of SZA at the time) without wholly abandoning who I was as an artist (not SZA). He added so many things that seem small but were critical to the song’s integrity, IMO, like the “but he’ll be here in a minute” pre-chorus moment, and the post-chorus “ahs.” We have another session booked this month and I’m super excited to get to work with him again.
Did you work with any producers when formulating the dreamy sonics for "Just Ain't You?” Or was this a solo process?
It was far from a solo process! The initial idea was Ryan’s like I said, so he should get at least 50% credit for the dreamy sonics. The other 50% credit goes to my good friends and talented fellow artists, Kate and Lauren Kurdyak of Vox Rea, whose magical harmonies make up most of the dreamy sonics, and Will McBeath, my producer in Nashville who Skyped in to help us track vocals. Obviously, I couldn’t go to Nashville to record as would have been my preference because of the pandemic. Instead, I ended up reaching out to Kate to see if she could help me track vocals on a budget. She very generously invited me to her cabin in East Sooke where, along with her sister Lauren, we recorded all the song's vocal parts. I recall that weekend with such fondness. Lauren and Kate are insanely talented vocalists (and songwriters and musicians, for that matter), and they’re especially skilled at harmonies. Their voices, which are so distinct from mine and so gorgeous, along with Will’s direction, took the dreaminess to another level. I was so lucky to have them involved to the extent that they were.
Seeing as you've been writing and creating music for quite some time now, can you notice any growth or development within your sound over the past few years?
In some ways, sure. It doesn’t feel like my songwriting process has necessarily changed a lot, but I’d like to think that over the years, the gap between what I create and what I like has (hopefully) diminished. I also think that I am making fewer compromises in terms of collaborators—I’ve become more exacting about who I trust as co-writers and producers, and I think that has improved my sound. I make better things with them than I would be able to make without them. Working with people who inspire me so much has also pushed me to get better at writing and performing in general, too.