Kenya Hall was born in Canton, Ohio, and moved to central Maine in 2001. Since that time she’s established herself as a premiere vocalist, a budding songwriter and seasoned performer. In fact, one of her most recent gigs took place at the State Theatre on New Year’s Eve when she presented her eighth annual Stevie Wonder tribute show. Back on Dec. 20, I called Hall to chat with her about another performance she had scheduled, a Feb. 5 show at Slates in Hallowell, part of the venue’s Monday Night Concert Series.

I began by asking her if she had anything new coming out that she was supporting with her trip to Hallowell.

Hall: I have all kinds of new music coming out. We started this past year on it, all the stuff that we were writing, so this will be all new material. This won’t be anything that anyone’s heard there before. For this past year I’ve been trying to travel and play with it. We have gone into the studio and recorded some down so that we can get videos made and things like that, we’re in the process of doing all that. I’m not exactly sure when I’m going back in the studio. I think that this time I want to focus just more on playing and getting it out there. And also the internet/social media aspect of things, which I’ve always neglected, is something you can’t neglect. You have to pay as much attention to (that) as anything else nowadays. A lot of times that is the bigger help with promoting your music which is weird and a little backwards to me. And it’s not my favorite thing, but it is definitely a necessary thing.

Q: Now musically speaking, will you have a backing band at this show or will it be a solo gig?

Hall: There will be a backing band and this band is also different for me. In the past, with all my original music, I’ve always had a pretty big band, horns and stuff like that. When I’ve played Slates before I haven’t always brought my full band and that will be the case this time, as well.

Q: What is this new band like?

Hall: Well, I’m not using horns with this project right now. I don’t have a drummer, he plays an MPC (Music Production Center) instead of a full drum kit, which is an interesting sound. I grew up in the golden era of hip-hop, I’m a huge fan of hip-hop, so to be using an MPC, which is just a way to bring out electronic drums — I really like the sound of that. So, that type of drum and that type of drumbeat has been more incorporated with what I’m writing now. And I have, with those drums, a bass player and two guitars. Now people don’t think of guitar with soul music, they think of keys, so to have two guitars, which is more of a rock aesthetic, it’s a nice, different blend of instruments to play soul music. Soul and funk is what I’m singing, but this is just a different way of presenting it, and a different instrumental format for it. I like the sound of it. It gives it an edge so it’s not so much of your classic R&B that you hear because it just has a little different element in it.

Q: This will be what you’re bringing to Slates, then?

Hall: Every time I’ve played there, and I think I’ve been there five or six times, I’ve altered the band. So what I’ll be bringing for the Slates’ show is the MPC drums, a bass player and one guitar player that will be playing keys, because I’ve got to bring it down a little for Slates. And a guitar doesn’t always cover everything that you need. Luckily the one guitar player I’m bringing is extremely multi-talented, he could play the drums, the keys or the guitar.

Q: Do you have albums out?

Hall: I’ve had one CD release before and some original songs that have ended up on other compilations that weren’t my own. So I have been writing plenty, but this is just a different type of writing style for me. And eventually I will put out a new CD, a new record. I’ve even thought about just putting out maybe digital releases of the songs that I have already mixed and mastered. I think I’d better hurry up and decide on that, but I really don’t think it’s a must. Sometimes people bring out new music but they weren’t out shopping for it before hand, then their CD sales are lower than they could be if they were out just playing the songs first. Now my first record, “Learning for Miles, Vol. 1,” which I still like, doesn’t sound like what I’m doing now so it’s not a good representation of what I’m trying to put out there now. It’s still soul music, it’s still funk, it’s still that, but it’s a little different. I feel like, if I do say so myself, I’m a better writer now than I was then, and I’m less afraid to say the things that are really on my mind.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Hall: I’m happy to come home and be playing music where I’ve grown up. I left Ohio right when I turned 21, but I’ll always consider that I grew up in Hallowell.

Lucky Clark has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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