Emily Kinney talks ‘Oh Jonathan,’ ‘Same Mistakes’ Tour and More (Interview)

We recently got to speak with Emily Kinney, former star of The Walking Dead and now in the midst of her career as a singer and musician.

She wrote the entirety of her latest album, Oh, Jonathan and will actually be going on a 40-date tour starting this month performing a large number of songs from the album. It is officially known as the “Same Mistakes” tour.

Here’s what she had to say about the album, the tour, The Walking Dead and so much more!

SH: One song from Oh, Jonathan that’s receiving a lot of attention is Loser. Could you tell me a little bit about that song and its background?

EK: That song I wrote in a hotel room in Shoreditch London and I was just feeling really down. I do a lot of writing that I don’t think will become songs I actually release into the world, sometimes I call them practice songs. They’re just kind of free writing and I had written that song and not really necessarily planned to share it. Then, as I was putting together this album and just sort of collecting any poems and any songs I had written about the relationship,

I showed that song to my friend Ben. He really encouraged me to include it in the album and to record it, and now it’s one of my favorite songs. I love the trumpet solo. I love that people are having such strong reactions: positive and negative. I feel like when something really gets in there, you feel like you’ve made some sort of connection.

SH: How do you think your “studio versions” of songs compare to what they sound like when performed live with different instruments?

EK: For me on this album, they were created in the studio, so I think it’s gonna be fun to play them live and have a little bit different version. There were real drums, as well as program drums in the recording. I think as we rehearse them, we’ll kind of do more of interpreting the program drums, but making them real and making them live. I always also like to sing some songs strip-down, maybe just a capella, or me and guitar. So I always think it’s fun to hear the songs in new ways. When live, you’re definitely going to get a different version.

SH: I notice that you have a total of nine songs on Oh, Jonathan. Is there a particular song that kind of brings the rest of the album together and sums it up, or do you think each track brings its own unique story and qualities to the album?

I definitely feel each song is really important. I feel like nine songs isn’t a ton of material. I definitely have written way more and teared it down and really specifically picked those songs as they show the ups and downs and the way that a relationship can change. From first getting to know someone and being excited dreamy about them, to the let down, to when maybe you decide “Well, we’ll try this again,”. And then, to acceptance of the relationship being over and nostalgia for it. So, I definitely feel like they all play a very specific piece in the album.

The reason that I named the album Oh Jonathan is because of one line in particular, and that is in the song, Jonathan: “I’ll never light the world the same without windy whispers of his name, Oh, Jonathan”. I feel like this relationship had a significant impact on me and how I was sort of viewing the world at the time that I was in a relationship with him, and continued to. I think when you meet different people in your life, even if they don’t become your soulmate or the love of your life or something, they can have an impact in the way that you just start to see the world just a tiny bit differently.

SH: How does the acting process for an upcoming movie or TV show compare to the writing/recording process of an album?

The biggest thing that makes them different is the words. I feel like when I’m an actor, I’m given the script and especially in theatre or movies-the script doesn’t change a lot. In TV, the script will change day to day and you can give a suggestion like, “Hey, I feel like my character would say ‘Hi’ instead of ‘Hey’”. You have a tiny bit of influence in the script, but, for the most part, you are learning the lines, and internalizing them and interpreting them as best you can and becoming that character.

I do go into my own life, and experiences saying “Ok, now where does my life and my experiences match up with the character?” “Where does my imagination fill in the gaps? “Where does my research about this kind of person fill in the gaps?” “Who in my life is like this person that I’m trying to portray?” So I do try as much as I can to bring my own experiences into the character, and that’s my own way that music and songwriting are the same-where I bring in my own experiences and my imagination. The words are my own in my songs and in my music, they’re words that I picked and how I would phrase things.

In Oh, Jonathan, there’s lots of phrases that I feel are how the object of my affection in the album would phrase things, and it’s my choice. If I want to change the words, I can. If I’m an actor, I’ve always been taught in theatre, “my job is to serve the script and serve the story,” but in my music, I’m creating the script and creating the story from the ground up.

SH: Does it feel the same performing no matter what song you’re singing, or do you have different feelings about different songs?

Performing is always different, night to night. I have different feelings about performing because of the day I had. Some days, performing is something I have to amp up for and get myself ready. Some days, performing is a relief from my day. It’s sort of like “Oh my god, I can’t wait to get onstage so that I can stop dealing with all these other things and be in this safe space of getting to just be with the audience and performing songs.” Every day is different as far as that goes, and as far as every song. Every song kind of requires a little bit of a different thing. I feel like songs take on different interpretations the more you perform them. So it’s kind of a constantly changing thing. As much as you try to have a set list and make it as consistent as possible, every night is always gonna be a little bit different.

SH: It’s likely that our readers at Fan Fest know you as Beth from The Walking Dead, do fans of the show still greet you saying that they know you from it?

EK: Of course. That show has probably the biggest audience of anything I’ve ever worked on. So, it’s really cool. And also, what was cool about working on The Walking Dead, was that Beth was also a singer, so a lot of people did get an introduction to my music through Beth. They saw Beth singing on TV and then looked up that song online and found my music. So, it was such a gift to have that as an intro, and to have that crossover with that character. That was such a big part of Beth and a part of me that was the same, our love of singing and music.

SH: You’re currently filming a Netflix series, Messiah. Could you tell me a little bit about that series/role?

EK: I’ll still be filming it a little bit between tour dates, which will be busy and fun! So basically, there’s this guy that people believe could be the second coming of Christ, and seems to be performing certain miracles. People start to follow him hoping that he’ll help them. I’m a mom of this girl who has cancer, and I’m trying to find any cure I can, and that’s why I’m kind of led to this person, hoping for a miracle.

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I’m definitely attending one of Emily Kinney’s tour dates and I hope you are too! What cities will you be going to? Check out all of them below.

Tuesday, September 25th: Dr Phillips – Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater in Orlando, Florida
Wednesday, September 26th: Ruth Eckerd Hall – Murray Studio Theatre in Clearwater, Florida
Thursday, September 27th: Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville, Florida
Friday, September 28th: Imogene Theatre in Milton, Florida
Sunday, September 30th: 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville Tennessee
Monday, October 1st: Grey Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina
Tuesday, October 2nd: Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina
Wednesday, October 3rd: Cat’s Cradle Back Room in Carborro, North Carolina
Thursday, October 4th: Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House in Richmond, Virginia
Sunday, October 7th: Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio
Tuesday, October 9th: Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia
Wednesday, October 10th: The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Thursday, October 11th: Public Arts in New York, New York
Friday, October 12th: MilkBoy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, October 16th: Rumba Cafe in Columbus, Ohio
Thursday, October 18th: SPACE in Chicago, Illinois
Friday, October 19th: Amsterdam in Saint Paul, Minnesota
Saturday, October 20th: Gabe’s in Iowa City, Iowa
Sunday, October 21st: Shank Hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Monday, October 22nd: The Shelter in Detroit, Michigan
Wednesday, October 24th: Blueberry Hill Duck Room in Saint Louis, Missouri
Sunday, October 28th: Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta, Georgia
Tuesday, October 30th: HOB – Bronze Peacock in Houston, Texas
Wednesday, October 31st: HOB – Cambridge Room in Dallas, Texas
Thursday, November 1st: Vanguard in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Friday, November 2nd: Encore at Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Missouri
Sunday, November 4th: The Waiting Room in Omaha, Nebraska
Monday, November 5th: Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska
Wednesday, November 7th: Globe Hall in Denver, Colorado
Saturday, November 10th: Kilby Court in Salt Lake City, Utah
Monday, November 12th: Hob VooDoo Room in San Diego, California
Tuesday, November 13th: Teragram in Los Angeles, California
Thursday, November 15th: Goldfield in Sacramento, California
Friday, November 16th: Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco, California