"The world just needs love. So that's one way that I feel like community and my art are intertwined."
Here's a little glimpse into the amazing person Mcknnly is:
Who they are: I’m 22, an Aries, and from the Twin Cities but I’m now based in LA. I am a singer/songwriter, actor, dancer, producer, and instrumentalist who’s passionate about defying societal norms and pushing for the equality and equity of all people across all intersectionalities.
Where they find inspiration: I’d say, the human experience does. I’m very observant and not super outspoken so I kinda live life in the moment and tend to revisit my thoughts/observations and reflect on what I was going through, later. I pull inspiration not only from things I’ve gone through in my life, but seeing how my friends or community or people in general navigate through their lives and experiences and how that resonates with mine really inspires me and my art.
How 2020 shaped them as a creative person: With the state of the world in 2020 there was a lot of room for self isolation and deep soul searching for me. With the world kind of at a halt, I felt as though I had a lot of time to sit with myself and ponder on what it is that I’m actually here for, who I am, and what I have to bring to the table. I was able to really hone in on myself and through that I’ve simultaneously been able to really hone in on my craft as well. 2020 taught me as an artist, to be patient and to trust and appreciate every step of the process, even when life seems stagnant.
Favorite artists: Prince, James Blake, Brandy, Stevie Wonder, Sophie, Frank Ocean, Charli XCX, Marvin Gaye, 2pac, The Beatles and really anyone who’s so unapologetically themselves that they push the envelope for the sake of moving music, culture, and art in general, forward.
DECADENT: Hi Mcknnly! I am super excited to be talking with you today!
D: So I want to start off asking you about the start of your creative life. Have you always loved creating and performing?
M: So I would sing to everyone when I was little, probably like four or five. I don't even know what I would sing, probably just gibberish and bullshit. Looking back on it, it feels like even then I knew what I was supposed to be doing, you know what I mean.
D: Did the people around you encourage you to perform?
M: Yeah. My daycare lady definitely encouraged me. When I was seven, my music teacher pulled me aside and told me, "You should do this thing called the Metropolitan Boys Choir." It's this boys choir in Minneapolis. And my parents signed me up and I started learning like classical, professionally trained music and Latin and stuff like that when I was seven. Kids at my school, and adults at my school knew I was in this choir and they were always super supportive of me singing at talents shows and whatever.
D: Who were your first favorite artists and musicians?
M: I was raised really early on Celine Dion.
Me and my mom, we would just be in the car, my mom would have her Celine DVD in there and we would just be rocking out to "My Heart Will Go On" or whatever and I would just be belting it out.
So I feel like Celine was a really early influence for me. Michael Jackson as well, I really loved the dancing and would try to emulate that.
D: So you grew up in the Twin Cities?
M: Yeah, I was born and raised in East Saint Paul and when I moved out I moved to Minneapolis and now I've moved to L.A.
D: Can I ask where you went to school?
M: Yeah, so I went to school at Saint Paul Conservatory For Performing Artists.
D: How was it, going to school with that many performing artists?
M: It definitely had its moments. I saw a lot of different sides of the school. I did musical theater there for the last three years and worked my way from the bottom to the top, so I just saw every layer.
I've just been doing my own thing since high school.
D: Okay, so why did you move out to L.A.?
M: I just love the energy here, and the climate. It has beautiful nature: mountains and oceans and forests. Also, I feel like there is a lot more opportunity out here and a lot more going on. Maybe not so much with the pandemic but once it blows over, there will be more.
D: Are you outdoorsy? Do you like hiking and stuff?
M: I'm really in tune with nature.
D: Ooh, can we explore that a little more? Do you feel like your love of nature figures into your creative work?
M: I would say the energy of nature and the energy of music kind of intertwines...because we are nature.
I pull energy that keeps me going and that keeps my art going.
I pull energy from crystals and essential oils and things that are from nature that keep me grounded so I can continue making my art.
I haven't yet incorporated too much nature into my art, but I would eventually like to venture into fashion, sustainable fashion using recycled plastics and found clothing, but also making it accessible to people.
D: Okay, I definitely want to talk more about fashion in a minute, but first, can we talk a little more about this idea of taking energy from nature?
M: Yeah, I would say that it is definitely spiritual. I don't really identify with any religion but I feel like I'm pretty in tune with the universe and I look to the universe and nature for my source of faith, in a way, but it's spiritual. I love the energies of everything around us.
D: There's something about a sensory experience of essential oils, for example, like you said, that can be so calming and grounding.
M: I also get that sensory experience when I'm out in the mountains or on hikes or hammocking in trees. It's very grounding. You're engulfed in something so much bigger that you. It's almost motivating to push yourself to be better than yourself.
D: Does that feeling of being a part of something that you get in nature at all relate to the feeling you get while performing on stage?
M: For sure. I feel like the goal of existence is to coexist and vibe with other people and other beings around you: animals, plants, crystals, stones, the water. And so it's definitely a similar experience but way different when you're on stage because then it's your art that you're creating. You're sharing that with other people and have the energy there and they're receiving your art.
D: So you had mentioned the importance that community has in your work, can you expand on that for me?
M: I like to touch on things in my music that we all go through, that we all feel. But it's still my experience, you know.
But when other people come up to me and say, "Hey, I really felt that song, it brought me to tears," I feel like that is building a community of people that are able to cope with certain things together.
I haven't really released music yet that is upbeat and fun, but I feel like love is something that any community can relate on. The world just needs love. So that's one way that I feel like community and my art are intertwined. Touching on things that I know other people are going through, and even if they're not, it's what I'm going through and it will draw life-energies to me or to my art.
D: I love the idea that your own personal experiences that you put into your music speak to other people. Do you have any examples of that?
M: Recently, I went on a trip with some friends and one of my friends in New Black City told me that song had moved her. New Black City is some people that are doing really tight shit in the Minneapolis community and to have somebody else in the community vibe with my art, to have that deeply touch them, I feel like that's so uniting, you know what I mean?
D: Yes, that is so special. How do you see community shaping the future of music?
M: I feel like the future of the music world will be way more accepting and anything will go. I feel like there's so much in mainstream media that is so avant garde. There are artists out there like Arca and SOPHIE that are just doing crazy things with music, and people that are doing crazy things with fashion. The things that people are being fed, people are getting used to. So things are just growing and expanding and I think that things are going to recycle but in a new kind of way.
D: Yeah, I feel like artists are the future. We are stuck in destructive systems and we definitely need more creative people. Like, we gotta save the Earth...which I guess is a good segue into sustainable fashion. Tell me more about what you want to do with that.
M: I guess I was influenced to a degree by SZA, she just released a line of sustainable clothing. And I had just seen posts on Instagram, just suggested things, that were like "t-shirts made out of plastic bottles". And I was like, how cool would it be to make fashion out of it and not just t-shirts?
D: Have you dabbled in clothes making at all yet?
M: I love thrifting and I love altering the clothes that I find to really make sure no one is rocking what I'm wearing.
D: Are there any designers, or a particular subculture that has influenced your own taste in fashion?
M: I really like streetwear and I really like Victorian era fashion, like what Prince wore: the frills and two layers of buttons...and also French Renaissance fashion.
D: Lots of frills and over-the-top? YES. I'm hoping that we see a lot of cool stuff in fashion after COVID.
M: Yes! To rejoice and be out and about and express yourself.
D: Exactly. You said that you were able to spend the pandemic really reflecting on who you are, so how do you feel about things gradually opening back up? Will it be a shock to the system to go out again?
M: I'm low-key kind of scared, maybe not even scared, it's just an anxiety of getting back to how things were. Life has been so chill and so uncertain. So to start getting some certainty back...it's like: well how do we know we're sure about any of that [now]? There is definitely some anxiety with it, but I am definitely excited to get back out into the world and just have fun and meet people and have experiences and make new connections. I will miss having my schedule so open but it will also be nice to grind and get back into studio spaces and stuff.
D: So where do you see your music going in the future? How has the past year and everything you've experienced influenced your work?
M: So I've been learning production. My music that I have out now has been pretty vocal and instrumental and I'd like to start using more vocal effects and be more experimental with the sounds that I'm using. I also want to make more fun music. I feel like the world is not in a great place and we need to have some time to just listen to some good music and just have some good vibes for a second.
Thank you so much, Mcknnly!!