by Joey Spehar
Pittsburgh singer Kenny Stockard is a believer in the true spirit of Christmas. Don’t expect him to get you a gold watch for the holidays – he’d rather cook you dinner, cut you down a big tree, and top it off with one of his granny’s famous pies. “None Giftless” is a song about the savoring intangible gifts this holiday season.
Kenny Stockard spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar about leaning into his classical training and spending quality time with the family.
This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.
What’s your musical history up to this point?
I started at home/in church. And that was my training until college when I began to sing at school and then with Opera Birmingham for “Aida” and community theatre projects such as “The Color Purple”. With the Stillman College Choir I toured parts of the US performing and recorded music. After undergrad I took a gap year back home in St. Louis then I moved to Pittsburgh for grad school and began going to perform at open mic nights with my band Wayfaring Brothers which was a folk trio.
Later, I joined the Bachelor Boys wedding band which led to singing background for The Commonheart. After touring and recording with them I felt new inspiration to release my last project Chase Chance in April of 2022. Since, I have been performing all around the US (including NYC ((where I did my first LIVE recordings this summer)), LA, Austin, etc & all around Pittsburgh to support that release and continued to record new studio projects as well that are coming in 2023.
On Sunday 12/11/22. My Christmas EP A Very Kenny Christmas will be released. (12/11 is an important number to me, as it’s the address of my grandparents home where I grew up) that’s also the day “Big Tree” was released last year for the same reasoning. It’s my way of continuing to honor them.
How do you describe your sound?
My sound is still evolving. But it’s definitely soul, elements of musical theater, funk for sure & every now and then my classical technique comes out too! (That reminds me of a Spirituals concert series that I’m doing between MLK and through early March where I really lean into my classical techniques to take a deep dive outside of what I normally do in pursuit of respect to that materiel and it’s form)
I say if people stick around long enough we will all discover what my sound truly is together!
Tell us about “None Giftless.” What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?
“None Giftless” was written in 2018. I wanted to talk about gifts that aren’t material. Material things have their place but I’m personally not really into Christmas gifts, for myself, that you can wrap. You can’t put a bow on the things I really want & that’s time with my family. So that’s what really inspired the whole project. I also thought it was important to share because not everybody can afford physical gifts but that doesn’t mean they should be giftless. This song is my way of asking people to take inventory of the intangibles and realize just how abundant our lives are in love, friendship & fellowship.
What is your favorite holiday memory or tradition?
My favorite holiday memories involve cooking, big tree hunting and my family all coming to the same room to laugh, sing and eat!
When I think of Christmas I see my papa, granny, mama, siblings (blood and cousins) cause in black families your cousins are your siblings, honestly and we treat each other as such. I see their faces, I don’t even really remember what I got on Christmas as a kid. But I’ll never forget them or that sweet potato pie my granny made for everybody. She would make upward of 30 pies just for people to come pick up and take to their own gatherings. I can go on and on but you get the idea haha.
I also enjoy the looks on people’s faces when they realize someone saw them and met a need they had in the form of a gift. That’s my favorite gift, their reactions! I love the taste of a well put together dish because it says, “Hey, I love you enough to put some real effort into this bite of food you’re going to have on this very special day.” I love a good mimosa too?.
Which Pittsburgh artist(s) do you wish more people knew about?
I wish people knew more about Erika Denae J. She is an up and coming neo Soul artist in the city with a new project coming on 12/9 and I’ve heard it and it’s a fresh, original creation that we need right now!