Innovation comes in many forms. Meet the creative minds inspiring others through art.

Kenya McGuire Johnson, known professionally as Kenya, is a jazz and soul-inspired songwriter, music business podcaster, and mother of two. Her first album My Own Skin took the #1 spot on the UK Soul charts for four consecutive weeks when it debuted in 2015. Before becoming a hit songwriter, she was a counselor and embarked on a spiritual journey, which led to her role as a music artist. See now how Kenya is captivating listeners through the soul of womanhood.

Your debut album My Own Skin is about the importance of being a woman and an artist. Can you explain what inspired that creative direction?

At the time that I began writing the songs for My Own Skin, I had decided to truly step into who I am fully as an artist, unapologetically. I was at a point creatively that I was feeling extremely certain and clear that pursuing music as a career was what I wanted. I also felt very comfortable with who I was becoming as a woman and soul.

What does National Women’s History Month mean to you?
Kenya McGuire Johnson wearing Stay Wild GREY t-shirt
Kenya wearing Stay Wild GREY t-shirt

March is extremely special and I’m always excited to learn more and more about the amazing things women have historically done and are currently doing. It’s a time to celebrate all that we do daily and I try hard to do something creative to honor women in the arts. This month I did my first show in Chicago for 2020 and I intentionally chose March to kick off performing.

Your father’s background as a drummer had a large impact on your musical style. What was it like growing up with him as an influence?

My father provided a backdrop for my sister and I to be creative on a daily basis. Not only musically, but we would also have spirited conversations, create games, read books, and so much more. Musically, he always pushed me to listen carefully, no matter what genre. Listening to all of the components of a song was sort of a game we would play. It really pushed my ear and has greatly influenced how I’m able to write and rearrange music.

“Wednesday Girl” and “Mirror” are perhaps your most experimental songs. What other sounds would you like to experiment with next?

I’m always open to experimenting with different sounds and genres of music as long as I keep the integrity of who I am in the music. On my new project, I actually collaborated with a hip hop producer and artist, so that will be my next “experiment.” I’m super excited to have listeners hear what we’ve created!

How did your time as a counselor affect you as an artist?

Being a counselor has and continues to greatly affect me as an artist. Both professions require and request healing and I recognize I am a healer to my core. They feed each other and it’s important for me to nurture both sides because they both allow me to be more present in my life and interests.

Can you tell me about the spiritual retreat you embarked on in Arizona? What sort of experiences did you have?

The spiritual retreat I had in Arizona literally changed my life. It was then that I took the leap of faith to pursue music with intention. My experiences included meeting with different holistic healers daily and exploring my purpose. Some activities I participated in included meditation in vortex locations, shamanic astrology reading, sound and breath work, and so much more. It was very intense, but so very special and life-changing.

What sparked the idea to create the Making Money in the Music Business podcast?
Vocalist and songwriter Kenya singing soul on stage
Vocalist and songwriter Kenya singing soul on stage

My co-host, Dr. William Smith, and I attended Howard University together and have known each other for 20 years. We regularly have conversations about being musicians and creatives and we decided more artists needed to hear the topics we were discussing because it can be so isolating as a developing independent artist. So we took the plunge and went for it! We love it and it has made me an even bigger music enthusiast.

Who is someone you would love to interview most?

There are a ton of guests we both want to interview. Quite frankly, we’ve already interviewed so many artists I never dreamed we would be able to interview. We realize the sky’s the limit and we’re looking forward to more and more amazing artists and music industry professionals. I think Stevie Wonder would be the epitome!

In addition to being a recording artist, you also do free music consultations. Why is it important to you to offer this for free?

Mentoring and being of service is very important to me. On top of that, I know that many developing artists don’t necessarily have the finances to hire a full-time coach and simply need a moment to regroup and get inspiration and direction. While I do offer coaching for hire, the free sessions are simply a way to connect and encourage other artists. In the future, I hope to be able to establish a non-profit artist development service so that more efforts can be made to assist independent artists.

What projects or events are you working on now? Is there a new album in the works?

I am nearing the completion of my new EP SHE.  I just released the first single “Back to Forever” and listeners can look forward to a music video very soon! I’m also in the process of booking shows in various cities. As far as events, I hope to make some announcements in the very near future. For now, my team and I are mostly focused on completing the EP and making sure we get everything released in an effective way for the masses to hear. I’m very excited about the new music!

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What is Kenya’s GREY Style?

This article originally published on GREY Journal.