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How I Wrote "Sucker"

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MO KENNEY
Mo Kenney

UPDATE: Mo Kenney's "Sucker" was named the winner of the 2013 SOCAN Songwriting Prize. After almost 14,000 votes were cast, the East Coaster took home $5000, a Gibson Les Paul and $3000 in Roland gear. Here, Kenney tells us the genesis of the song she "wrote in my first apartment in Halifax after getting dumped."

Hello. I am writing to you live from my songwriting cave where I have made myself a hermit. Garageband, notepads and instruments -- this is how I write songs. I lock myself away and spew out everything in my brain and just try to make it sound nice/make some sense.

I've just recently invested in a MacBook and have been playing around on Garageband for the first time. I like being able to get weird with sounds and figure some production ideas out before even hitting the studio. It's a good way to feel out the vibe of a song and know where I need to go in and change things that don't flow. I've always written songs in my room. It's where I feel most comfortable being creative.

When I wrote "Sucker" I had come up with the main guitar bit a while before the song actually came together. I had just moved into my first apartment and was feeling sorry for myself, because I'd just gotten dumped and had two crappy jobs. I was in my room playing that guitar part and the song just kind of came together.

That's how it generally happens. I'll have a guitar part for a while and then one day it'll just work with whatever is going on in my brain. I like to sit down and play guitar parts to see which one suits my mood I guess. They all have their own vibe and feeling to them, it's sort of like I'm matching what I'm feeling with the appropriate guitar bit. I like to think of it as a puzzle coming together, because that's what it feels like. Now you know.

I really started getting into writing when I was 15. I watched the movie "The Royal Tenenbaums" for the first time and was introduced to Elliott Smith. It was love at first listen, his music really resonated with me. His style of guitar playing inspired me to do some finger picking of my own. When I write I almost always finger pick, or at least it'll start out that way and maybe morph into something different later on.

Right now I'm listening to a lot of The Strokes, Sharon Van Etten, Rachel Sermanni, Mac Demarco, Grizzly Bear, Frank Ocean, and Magic Sam. I usually have a rotation of different CDs going on and then switch it up when I've had enough. That's my rotation right now. I love finding new music that I love, I find that very inspiring. I also bought a fiddle the other day that I'm excited to play around with. It's nice to pick up different instruments sometimes and try incorporating them into my writing. Keeps things fresh and interesting for me.

Mo Kenney's "Sucker" was one of five songs nominated for the 2013 SOCAN Songwriting Prize, honouring the best independent music by Canadian songwriters as voted by the public. Here are all five nominated songs.

SOCAN Songwriting Prize 2013
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