New talent in town
An artist on the move for most of her life, KennaDee has landed in Ocala to perform tunes from her new album, “Gypsy Soul.”
KennaDee relocated to Ocala in the past year and plays weekly at local venues. [Courtesy of KennaDee]
For every Billy Joel or Billie Eilish, thousands of equally spirited singer-songwriters belt out tunes, tickle the ole’ ivories and strum their hearts out in restaurants and pubs around the world, often to rooms of people talking over them, oblivious to the heart and soul effusing from the featured performer a few feet away.
And then there are those who have the vocal chops and stage presence that silences the chatter and stop patrons in mid-sip.
One such singer, KennaDee, just relocated to Ocala seven months ago and has begun to make a name for herself in the local scene and beyond.
With formidable vocal range and a disarming stage presence, Kenna Saunders, born Kenna Dawn Perkins, emerges from the background with a howling alto like Bonnie Raitt, a bluesy mezzo soprano like Janis Joplin and even, at times, a delicate lilting soprano on par with Olivia Newton- John or Karen Carpenter.
A U.S. Navy vet, she said she had to sing the National Anthem more times than she’d care to mention.
On her new album, “Gypsy Soul,” she reveals a knack for storytelling and intimate lyrics. “Ruby in the Rough,” for example, pays tribute to her grandmother.
“My grandma was a bluegrass music musician from Alabama,” the singer shared. “We had just returned from Germany, the first time I remember her. … She lived in the middle of the country. …I just remember being very scared because it was so dark. She grabbed my hand and she was like, ‘You know, just look out the window,’ and I looked out the window, and there was like a million fireflies just like buzzing around, and she said, ‘Just look at the light.’”
KennaDee’s vocal and musical styles are varied and should appeal to fans of Sheryl Crow, Carole King or Lucinda Williams. Performing covers and her self-penned original tunes, she performs gigs throughout Ocala/Marion County just about every weekend.
Her album’s title, “Gypsy Soul,” reflects KennaDee’s restless spirit and imagination. She grew up an “Air Force brat” and got used to moving around. Born in Alabama, where her family is from, she spent some time there in her teens, but she also lived in cities across the U.S. and in Germany. She raised her two children, now adults, in upstate New York.
The 51-year-old artist’s spirit of exploration kicks into high gear while she is composing songs. A poet before she became a songwriter, she sets her metaphors and imagery to lyric sheets to express her thoughts and feelings.
“When I started thinking about writing songs, I had all these poems just laying around,” she said. “So, I’m like, ‘Oh, let’s make songs out of ‚em.’”
Genre-wise, KennaDee knows no bounds, borrowing from blues, country, folk, soul, and hard rock. She mentioned that Eilish is one of her favorites of today and, like her, she’d like to experiment with electronic arrangements.
“People are surprised that I even listen to heavy metal, like Metallica,” she said. “ The other day I was cleaning my house and blasting dubstep.”
KennaDee performs on March 4 & 13 at Cody’s Roadhouse, 8169 SW State Road 200, Ocala, and March 13 & 19 at Flying Boat Tap Room, 9672 SE 56th Ave., Belleview. To find out more, visit kennadee.com.