Strong Heart.
April 10, 2022

Inspiration from Daft Punk and Bad Art w/ Musician & Audio Engineer, Kenny Maness

Inspiration from Daft Punk and Bad Art w/ Musician & Audio Engineer, Kenny Maness

My special guest is my friend Kenny Maness. Kenny is a very talented audio engineer, musician, and web developer…most known for creating the music cover of "the Fairly Odd Parents" Cover Song “Shiny Teeth” which we unpack in today’s episode. He also edited this episode because he is just that good of a person.

Now, Rarely is the middle narrative discussed in the creative journey. Often, reading books come from people who have already reached the top and talk about their humble beginnings…but in this episode, we reverse it and talk about what it takes to be a person who can endure despite balancing different tasks, paying the bills, and having a dream they want to fulfill.

I met Kenny as a beginning and scared podcaster. In the ups of downs of this last year since knowing him, I’ve discovered him to be someone who continues to show his work…even with the hard task of staying patient.

3 Big Ideas We discuss:
1. Creating during Odd Hours & Theory Why Musicians have a burst to create -- [0:00:00] - [00:08:48]
2. How Kenny Made "Shiny Teeth" from what seems 'thin air' -- [00:08:48] - [00:15:13]
3. Doing Art Even when it's Hard ("The Messy Middle" of being a creative) --[00:15:13] -[00:36:54]

  1. Follow Kenny
    1. Kenny's Spotify
    2. Kenny's Soundcloud (My favorite!)
    3. Kenny's Instagram 
  2. Follow Helen
    1. Helen's Instagram
    2. Brain Krafty Website
    3. Buy Helen a Book

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[00:00:00] Helen: One of the things I've learned is that when you're a creative person, you try to find those moments of quiet so that you can create what you need to create. At least that's how I do it. But are you an idol?

[00:00:11] Kenny: Yeah, I've always had trouble sleeping my whole life. I've always been a night owl. It's been a, it's been a battle.

[00:00:17] It's been a struggle. I don't want to be nice. But I ended up getting really big creative bursts at night. For some reason. I don't, I don't decide when that happens. What is,

[00:00:28] Helen: what is creative burst mean to you? Cause I've been hearing that everywhere in every musician that I've interviewed, that's like a common theme that comes up.

[00:00:36] Like I'm just, I just have a burst of creativity. It's

[00:00:39] Kenny: difficult to explain, but things will just kind of come to things we'll just click, like when, when you're looking for something that you've lost, like, oh, I lost my car keys or my favorite scrunchie or whatever, and you keep looking for it and then you end up going to the same rooms over and over again.

[00:00:55] And she's just like, okay, you know what, forget it. I'm going to stop looking for it. And then you leave to go do something else. And then there it is. That's, that's what happens. Like if I'm writing a song or some piece of music, that'll just come to me when I'm trying to sleep, which is very rude, but I accept it for the sake of the art.

[00:01:14] Some of my favorite pieces that I've written have been basically in, in one go in one sitting speaking of creative bursts. I don't know if you go through the same thing, but I do this thing where I get so discouraged that I will sell my car. At guitar center and bias the worst

[00:01:35] place to sell it.

[00:01:37] Oh my gosh. It's like a game at game stop. Where should

[00:01:41] Helen: I sell it? Actually don't tell me

[00:01:44] Kenny: nowhere. Don't sell it. Put it somewhere where you'll forget about it and then forget about it. So you'll find it later. I've done that before though. A few years ago. I had started to buy and collect a lot of hardware gear because I wanted to build up a live setup to perform music, live a very specific kind of music too.

[00:02:07] I had a setup to perform live and it was going to be really fun. And I kind of got most of the bones put together for it. But the whole time I had kind of been in denial. I was like, I can't really do this yet. I'm not ready for this. And I had to. As I wiped a tear from my eye cell, all of that. But it helped me survive.

[00:02:32] I sold some of it to friends of mine. And so they, they went to good homes. I do know that, but I did sell some of them to a guitar center as I am loath to admit that's

[00:02:42] Helen: my self-sabotage technique.

[00:02:45] Kenny: Selling your gear to guitar center.

[00:02:48] Helen: I dunno. I was just thinking about, it cause we met through the clubhouse and I was thinking about just your career in music.

[00:02:54] You're making money off of music. You're making money off of podcasts editing, but there's probably, I'm assuming some part of you that like wakes up every day and thinks like, who do I think I am?

[00:03:05] Kenny: Oh my gosh, we're going right into that. Aren't we. No. You're so

[00:03:09] Helen: right though, I feel like I've known you long enough where you are very talented, but I feel like it's a common thread with a lot of creatives.

[00:03:17] Like we're just afraid to jump the gun with what we love because we're scared.

[00:03:22] Kenny: Yeah. Yeah. It is scary. That kind of leap we want to grab hold of this. But we're not sure of what we need to let go of first. Can we swing on it like a vine where we're still holding onto the thing before it, when we're grabbing on to the thing we want, or do we have to just drop it's?

[00:03:41] It's weird. I think about that a lot too, with my music and. And the work that I do, editing podcasts, most of my income comes from my work, and a significant portion does come from music royalties, just from the one song that I did for context, for those of you who don't know, I made a cover of shiny teeth from fairly odd Paris.

[00:04:02] And that saves you a lot of money. And that's the only thing that I ever talk about at parties nowadays, but it's new music coming out, Kenny. Oh gosh. I've been asking myself that for a while. I've been slowly but surely getting some progress done. I know what I want to do, and I know how I want to do it.

[00:04:23] And I've, I've known that for a while. Yeah, but it goes back to that leap to actually get it done. It would take that kind of a leap. And I feel that I want to be very calculated in how I do it. It's a very delicate process because I am making enough money with my work now to get by. And the royalties I make from my music that's out already is helping that a lot.

[00:04:51] And. I keep telling myself who, if I just had two or three more of those songs that are as successful as that one song, then I could drop all the work I'm doing and break even, which is a weird thing to think about. Yeah. I

[00:05:05] Helen: think you're sharing a narrative that a lot of people, especially in the music business, struggle with, it's like, I want to do this full time, but I also have to think smart and tactically about how I want to go about this, because I want to survive.

[00:05:18] I want to be alive to do what I want

[00:05:20] Kenny: to do. Yeah. Yeah. Because what I did there with that one song almost feels like lightning in a bottle. I worked for about eight months on that one side. I didn't know who that from start to finish. Yeah. It took me a long time, a very long time and it didn't just, it wasn't just me too.

[00:05:35] I had a few other people on it working together with me. The guy who did the guitar solo, Jacob Baxter, he was great. He came into. Home studio that I had, I don't live in that home anymore and lay down the guitar over the course of like a few hours. And then my best friend, Nathan, who is in the two of us have had a band together called voyage for, well over a decade.

[00:06:00] Now we've been making music together. He helped me with the mixing and mastering, but everything else was. Me. And so it took me, I was working full-time at the time as a security officer and just doing that on my downtime, because it wasn't really doing anything else with my time. And so eight months of that, and then I had that and I didn't market it or promote it or do anything.

[00:06:21] I just made it because I wanted to make it and set it loose and said, you're free now go. And then after several months it started to generate some royalties. And then I got my first royalty check and it was like $10. I was like, holy crap. I did. I just make money off of my music. Oh my gosh. And I was like, wait a second.

[00:06:42] Okay. And then I just kinda let it sit there. And then $10 turned into 20, turned into 50, turned into a hundred. And suddenly now I'm making hundreds and hundreds of dollars every month from just this one song, which may seem like a lot, or may seem like a little, depending on who you are and what you're doing.

[00:06:58] To me at this point to this day, it's not a little, it helps pay the bills around here. My cost of living isn't extremely high. Needless to say, I wake up more often than not thinking to myself. If I had a few more of those, then I could, I could do this. It was basically like, prove to me like, Hey, this is the universe telling you, you can actually do this and make money off of it and you know how to do it.

[00:07:26] And you've done it. You have experience and Ooh, it, the feeling is electric. Like, wow. Okay. I could actually do this. It's really reassuring and affirming. And then people tell me I'm like so talented and I'm like, wait, I am wow. They're right.

[00:07:43] Helen: You are really talented. And I see that back into my old Instagram.

[00:07:47] I remember going alive. And then you showed me like the 40 tracks underneath just the main tracks. I remember that. Yeah,

[00:07:56] Kenny: it's a lot. It was

[00:07:57] Helen: a lot, but it was so good. You should put your stuff on YouTube. Like you should talk about your process on YouTube and then just like share the work. That could be fun.

[00:08:07] I think that, I don't know. I think so many people try to be inspirational, but we never show the work that goes into what we do. And you do a lot of work for the things that you, the audio podcasts, you produce, the [00:08:20] music that you produce. It's a lot of work in collaboration. And I think that you're such an example of someone that just did it because they loved it.

[00:08:27] And not because they felt an obligation. To make money off of it, regardless if you made money off of it, you'd still be doing what you're

[00:08:34] Kenny: doing. Yeah. That's I mean, that is a separate thing. I still would be doing that at least in my spare time, if I wasn't making money off of it, because yeah, you're right.

[00:08:41] I made it because I loved it. I made it because it was something that I wanted to hear that I couldn't go out and find.

[00:08:48] Helen: I love that you said that it was lightning in a bottle. How did you even think of recreating that song? Shiny teeth in me. What went into that?

[00:08:56] Kenny: Well, I, on a whim one day wanted to listen to the song.

[00:09:00] I was thinking about the show and. I was like, Hey, I remember that song. It was a good song. I wonder if there's an official release, like how they do it. The songs from SpongeBob, another Nickelodeon show, they have like a whole album of all the songs from the show because there's a lot of them on SpongeBob, but there's only a few like a handful and fairly odd parent.

[00:09:19] One of which was shiny teeth. And so I couldn't find it. I couldn't find any official release from Nickelodeon. There was just some YouTube video of like some guy who ripped the audio from the show, which was nothing basically. So you could listen to it online from like some guy who put the audio on like a windows movie maker file and like uploaded it in for ADP.

[00:09:44] Tens of millions of views and it wasn't on any streaming services or iTunes or anything like that. You couldn't buy the song like the original, but there were plenty of covers. And so I was like, okay, well, the next best thing could be a cover who, who did a cover. And there's like a ocean of. Web cameras with ukuleles who did covers, which is fine.

[00:10:04] Great. You learn how to play the chords and sing it into your webcam. That's awesome. Go. You that's great. And they should be proud of themselves, but that wasn't really what I was looking for. And I found a couple of actual, fully produced covers. One of them was by Nate, wants to ban. I mean, he is a powerhouse for cover songs from cartoons and anime and video games and stuff.

[00:10:29] And shiny teeth was just one of the ones that he did. And he was like a hard rock version and it was really, really cool. And it was very well done, excellently done, but it wasn't the one that I was looking for. It was a wildly different interpretation of that once. And I, I forget if there even were any other fully produced covers, but what I, what I wanted to hear was the original, the studio recording of the song.

[00:10:57] And I realized that, oh, it just wasn't out there. So I was like, okay, well, Why don't I just make it, so I did, and it took me, like I said, about eight months. It was very much just on a whim, like, well, I could do it. Okay. So I just kinda started it. I didn't really expect to finish it because I had at the time, a lot of other unfinished songs that I had been quote, unquote, working on.

[00:11:23] Still aren't finished. Mostly just like little goof around songs and things that I wasn't really serious about, but for one reason or another, I was just really serious about this one. It's like, wow, I could actually really make it. And it was a lot easier for me to get into that mindset because I didn't have to write it.

[00:11:42] I didn't have to compose it. I think it was the first actual cover song that I fully dived into. As far as actually producing and recording. And I really took to it because I had been making music for almost a decade at that point. And I had never done a cover song. The process to me, looked like a lot different in writing and composing.

[00:12:06] You had to put it together to make it from nothing. But this one was just like a Lego set with instructions. And I, I took to it almost ravenously and I built all the tracks. I was like, okay. I was basically just copying it down by ear, learning the chords and then playing them on guitar and then recording the guitar, learning the baseline, doing the same thing there.

[00:12:27] The drums are sampled. I didn't actually play the drums there, but just copying down the drum parts and making the song I wanted to hear. I wanted to fully realize the song in the spirit of what it was in the show and it didn't end up fully that way either. I did end up kind of giving my own spin to it, which I guess.

[00:12:47] I realize now is kind of inevitable, even when you're making cover songs with the goal that I had had at the time, which was to basically just do a one for one. I think it's not fully possible for an artist. Who's making a cover song, but. I did. I ended up changing up some things, added a guitar solo because I felt the song was too short.

[00:13:11] It was just two minutes. I was like, I need something else. I brought in my friend, Jacob. He absolutely crushed it. That guitar solo that you hear is actually three different guitar solos that I spliced up together. How did you do that? While we recorded, we, we miked up his guitar amp. I just played it on a loop and said, just go for it.

[00:13:31] And he just twiddled away on his guitar several times. So I had a few different takes to work with. I was like, okay, great. And then I just, I cut it into some pieces and put it together and. Flow and a disguised it pretty well. It hides in the mix pretty well. That's one of my better jobs at finagling audio.

[00:13:54] I wouldn't have to say

[00:13:55] Helen: one of the things I think that makes you really good is that you're such an amazing editor. I mean, that's what you do for a job, but I also think that, you know, that's a skill that a lot of musicians don't have. Some people it takes decades to get there, but the fact that you can take.

[00:14:10] Not a perfect solo, something that is in your words, like pieces of something that people have taken and weave it into a song, I think is so beautiful.

[00:14:21] Kenny: I never thought of it that way. Yeah. That for me, actually, that does make a lot of sense. Yeah. I guess today's all about revelations.

[00:14:29] Helen: It is, it is about revelations, but I also think that, like, I look at people who are making it big now.

[00:14:37] And if you think, even think of like the productivity minimalist expert, like Matt de Avella, it's not that he's an amazing filmmaker it's that he can take pieces of inspiration, break it down and edit it in a way that makes sense. And I think that you're just somebody that sees something that needs to be done by.

[00:14:55] And you can make it better. There are some people who are visionaries and there are people who take execution. I think one of the biggest things about being a visionary is that you can't always execute on every idea. And so you need certain people who are able to see the vision and fill in the gaps and find improvement in it.

[00:15:13] And I think that's what you saw with shiny teeth. And I think that's what you continue to see in the music that you.

[00:15:19] Kenny: It's nice to hear that kind of workflow and style fits really well with musicians as a whole, I think because of how much of a collaborative process it always is, but come to think of it.

[00:15:34] Yeah. With me specifically, that makes so much sense. I'm looking at all my CDs on my shelf right now. And I see the big, huge space with all of my daft punk CDs. And I'm like, yeah. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. The way I see pieces of something and see where to put them, to make something new out of them.

[00:15:55] I've been adaptive punk fan for most of my life. If anyone who knows me to any degree. Ask someone else. What my favorite band is, they'll already know the answer. What daft punk did with music is just. Really inspirational to me. They're just my idols, the way they took, not only in the way that they make their music, which is very much in that same vein of sampling, especially in their early work, they would take disco songs and other types of music and just chop them up and make them into something completely new.

[00:16:30] They pioneered so much of electronic music, not only. But the way they reinvented themselves into doing that as well before they were doing that, [00:16:40] they were in a cover band called darlin with another one of their friends who was the two of them who would eventually go on to be daft punk. And then a third guy in like the early nineties.

[00:16:51] They made a beach boys covers and they had no singer. They just, they just did instrumental beach boys covers and they were reviewed in a magazine and it was like a pretty hand-wavy bad review. And it said they sounded like a bunch of daft punky threat. And so they're like, well, this isn't working out.

[00:17:11] Maybe we could sort of reinvent ourselves. So the two of them without the third guy were like, okay, let's just do something completely different. And they started going to clubs and hop, skip, and a jump later, here we are.

[00:17:25] Helen: How do you think you got to where you are with music? Like daft punk obviously played a really big influence in how you view chopping pieces up seeing the Lego parts and knowing that you.

[00:17:38] You can build it yourself in a way that you you'd like to, but what other musical influences helped you like create in the way

[00:17:46] Kenny: that. A lot of influence I've been able to take is from Adam Young, actually of Al city complete left turn from daft punk, but it is in high school. I started making music with Nathan Bozart as voyage together.

[00:18:04] The two of us who started making electronic music together on his Mac book in garage band. He approached me one day and he's like, Hey I want to make this song for this girl. But I can't sing. So could you write some vocals and sing it to the laptop mic for me? And I said, okay.

[00:18:23] And I, and so I did that and we made just the worst song. It's just so bad. And it is like baby's first garage band song. And he put the, he put the laptop on the sofa and I kneeled over and put in some earbuds and sang into the laptop mic. Just straight into garage band and we made it and we finished it and I was like, wow, this is really fun.

[00:18:48] Let's let's do, let's do more. And so we did a few more and we're like, wait, we're a band. Wow. Okay. So he came up with the name voyage and released those things. We met in garage band on an EAP and put it up for sale on iTunes. And we're like, Hey, we're. And then we're like, wow, this is fun. Let's actually keep doing this, like for real.

[00:19:06] And so we invested in some software and bought a Yeti and 2010 Yetis

[00:19:15] Helen: prejudice

[00:19:16] Kenny: against Yetis. Oh, I I'm. I'm sure. I'm sure everybody is. But I still have the idiots right there in 2022. Oh my gosh. Yeah, it's served me well, but that Yeti's been around for what, 12 years now. But we got, we got an actual mic and we bought logic and stepped our game up and released a full length album.

[00:19:40] It took us about a year to make it. And we made it and it was a blast. Some of my favorite songs I've ever written are from that album. And then we made another album pretty quickly in 2012 before I left to go live in Sweden for a couple of years. And we wrote back and forth when I was living overseas.

[00:19:59] And when I got back to the states, we took all the stuff we'd written and put it into another album called from Stockholm to Seattle because he had lived in Seattle at the time. That's awesome. It's sort of our Magnum Opus and we have more music in the works, but just like my other music, it's, it's sitting a bit dormant right now, but we, we are going to release another album at some point, but this album from Stockland to Seattle is pretty much our best work.

[00:20:26] There are some of the songs on, there are ones that I wrote in one go in one of those wild creative outbursts. And some of them are ones that I labored over for months on end until I finally got it just right. It's

[00:20:41] Helen: like, it has to start somewhere. You know, you had a friend ask you to like, do a song and then it was fun.

[00:20:47] And then have you read the book? Like it's all in your head by Russ the wrapper. It reminds me of your story because he talks about how he had like a couple of friends that just loved rapping and then asked him to like, create a beat for them, literally from his mouth, he would just create beats from his mouth.

[00:21:05] And then he was like, I love this song. And he just stayed with it. And there were years where he was like, dead, bro. In his mom's house, just like producing music, couldn't create anything that would get people's attention. And then one day he releases one song and he goes from making $600 in one year to 103,000 the next year.

[00:21:26] Oh wow. And he talks about how the same people he went to school with were better than him from the start. He now has like millions of dollars in the bank, but those same people who are better than him, we just kind of gave up and burned out. 'cause they didn't think they were good enough. And he was even saying, it's not people that are good that make it.

[00:21:46] It's people that keep doing the work day in and day out, no matter how hard it is that succeed. And I just hear you talking about. Just like how hard music is, because you don't always get the glorification from people. You know what I mean? Like you release multiple things and you, it's not yours anymore.

[00:22:06] It's like, it's what people receive from the work that you're doing. And so you never know what's going to be a hit. Oh,

[00:22:11] Kenny: you really don't though. Oh my gosh. I have 50 plus songs that I worked really hard on. And then, you know, it's a silly song about teeth that pays.

[00:22:25] And it's the only one. I actually haven't written myself either.

[00:22:29] Helen: Isn't that crazy, but I think that it's like, that's where the work is. It's just, you just have to be faithful to the muse inside of you to keep creating. Cause there was a part of you that kind of knew that this was the song that you had to work on and it's almost like your catapult song, you

[00:22:46] Kenny: know?

[00:22:46] Yeah. I'd have to agree with that. There, there was a part of me that knew that I had to work on this well, because that was the same part of me that really, really wanted to hear it. And I think part of the reason why it is as successful as it is, is because there were a lot of other people who had that same desire.

[00:23:05] They wanted to hear that too. And they couldn't just like me. So I'm really not any different from them. I just, I guess I was just the one who did it and it can still be done to someone else can make a. Their version of that in the same way. And it would just be different in a way I'm not going to say better or worse or anything like that.

[00:23:25] But it's part of the beauty of it really is that there's always more room, you know, you think about, there's only so many chords, there's only so many notes in a scale there's only so many things that can be done with music. There's only so many songs that can be written, any words in the English language or any other language really.

[00:23:44] But people are still making music. People are still making new songs and sure. A lot of them sound very similar. It's going to happen. But I guess in that one instance, there was that desire in me that kind of broke through that. It's like, yeah, well, everything's been done already, but to me, for me, nothing's been done.

[00:24:06] I've only done this so far. I want to do it.

[00:24:09] Helen: Yeah. Yeah. But I, I think that you're kinda like you're being a little bit more humble than I think you're giving yourself credit

[00:24:17] Kenny: for. Oh, I'm so humble. I am the best at being humble. I'm way more humble than you Helen. Oh my gosh,

[00:24:27] Helen: Kenny, I think that here's what I think. I think that to do what you do, you have to have extreme patience and a ton of receptive. Ears to understand that like music takes a lot of time work and effort. Like you can't always produce a new song every day, but you have to be open to the creative side of yourself.

[00:24:49] That's going to wake you up at midnight or a certain time of the day. Oh, for sure. I think that, like, it's not just this song, like I've listened to your other songs and I don't know, some of them just kind of [00:25:00] put me at ease, especially that I think it was like the sleep song. I think it was are you really.

[00:25:06] An album where it was like Sonic musings about like sleep and stuff. Let me pull

[00:25:11] Kenny: it. Oh, you're talking about Samana. Yes. Yeah. It's an EAP of ambient music that I released for me to help me go to sleep. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:25:19] Helen: And I think that's what, not a lot of people talk about. It's like making music that you want to hear.

[00:25:25] Oh. And they go-to bed single too. Oh, that

[00:25:27] Kenny: one. Yeah. That one. Would be really good to bring up deconstructing music and putting it back together. That's what we were talking about before because that is literally all that song is that song. I made that in a single day, I was on my way to work, listening to do you believe in love by Huey Lewis and the news?

[00:25:49] And there's this one part after the saxophone solo or the backup singers saying I used to have you in a photograph. And when they sing the word photograph, they hold it out for a little bit longer. And the chord that they sing was just really, it just tickled me. It was unexpected. There was a little bit of flavor to it that I hadn't heard in the song up until that point.

[00:26:08] I was like, Ooh. And so I rewound it again and just listened to that one little part again, where this thing food. And it just kept running through my head and I was like, oh, okay. I hear something here. And so when I got home from work, I took the song and I chopped it up and I turned it into that. So they're not saying go to bed, they're saying photograph in the song, but it sounds like they're saying go to bed.

[00:26:28] So I call it, go to bed and I just put a kick drum on it and compressed the heck out of it. I blasted it through a side chain compression and just basically ruined it. I destroyed it. Smooth it over and put some Polish on it and dumped it onto Spotify.

[00:26:46] Helen: I love that. You're not like other musicians where you just kind of come up with the words first.

[00:26:52] You have to hear something to make you think of an idea. How do you do that? Like, how does your brain work? Can you explain how you see things through music or how you develop music? Like.

[00:27:04] Kenny: I do. Sometimes I come up with the words first, sometimes, especially in my songs for a voyage in the songs I made with Nathan on three albums that we made, I wrote all the lyrics and he did almost all of the production.

[00:27:19] I was basically the lead singer and I wrote the words. We had a few different kinds of, we didn't have like one written a process that we would do. Okay. Next song. Run it through our song machine here. Sometimes I would have some words that I had written that I didn't really have a melody for. Sometimes he would have a piece of music that he had written and we would kind of marry the two in different ways that we felt would be interesting.

[00:27:42] That's kind of why there's not a whole lot of cohesion between all the songs that we made, but it was really, really fun and interesting and a great way for us to stretch our experimental artistic muscles, but for music that. Me by myself. A lot of the time I do hear something and then it starts me on something else.

[00:28:05] I have ADHD like really bad. My brain works in a very particular way. I'm not sure I can really explain. It's difficult to explain and, you know, I can just open up my school and say, Hey, there you go. That would probably be easier. But I like to zoom in on things. I like to zoom in on things and then turn them around, turn them over and see what they're made of and see what happens when you do this to them and then zoom out and then see what it looks like.

[00:28:38] I'm not afraid to make something bad. I think that's what a lot of artists, a lot of artists that have talked to me, I'm not saying I'm like some guru or whatever, but I've told my fair share of people that it's okay to make something bad. I've been asked before people who hear my cover of shiny teeth and then come and ask.

[00:29:00] Wow. That's so good. How did you do that? But they're only seeing the end result. They don't see all of the different drafts that I had made over the course of those eight months that I took to make those songs. They don't see all the other unfinished songs that are on my hard drive. They don't see all the other finished songs that are admittedly not nearly as good.

[00:29:22] What a lot of artists probably are afraid of is making something and giving it to the world and it being bad. However, they define

[00:29:32] Helen: it. How do you get over that for you like to put your heart and soul into something and to not have it received in the way that you imagine it? How do you get over that while you're creating?

[00:29:44] Kenny: It's really hard. You have to be vulnerable, like going into it, like going into a new relationship. Like what if they cheat on me? What if something really bad happens? Well, then it happens, you know, and that's not okay, but it's okay. That's not okay. 'cause you you're still there. You're still whole.

[00:30:04] And for me, I guess how this applies to making music and making something bad is that it might be received well, or it might be received poorly. If you look on my Spotify page, for example, you'll see, shiny teeth have multiple millions of listens, and then my next most popular songs have. Like a thousand.

[00:30:26] So I guess you could say that they weren't received well at all. And they only have those thousands of listens because they're basically riding the coattails of that one other song. But yeah, it's, it's okay to make something that even you think is bad because it can be bad and still be whole and complete.

[00:30:45] That's so good, Kenny. I'm not saying anything that hasn't been saying before. When I say that your art doesn't have to be perfect and it is. Counter-intuitive to try to make it perfect. It's not going to be perfect, but just like when I made shiny teeth, I didn't make it for them. I didn't make it for the people who would listen to it.

[00:31:03] I made it because I wanted to hear it. And it just so happens that there were a lot of other people who wanted to hear that as well. And I used the skills that I had learned from making all the other bad songs to make that one. Good and good or bad art isn't on like a linear scale and art can't be like, So many of us get caught up in that kind of thinking because of how people consume art, like, oh yeah, it was, I'd say a six out of 10.

[00:31:37] I'd give it about three stars. Oh, that's a 98% on rotten tomatoes. Art can be seen as this good or this bad and people get into arguments over it and it all seems so pointless. Like, did you enjoy it? Sure. Then it was that your objectivity in art is so bad for artists. It keeps them from making them.

[00:32:02] Make something bad, make it just really bad, you know? It's okay. Just

[00:32:09] Helen: so good. I never thought of it that way. I mean,

[00:32:12] Kenny: your favorite artist made a lot of really bad art. Yeah.

[00:32:16] Helen: I don't know if I told you this story, but when I first started my podcast, I bought this really cheap zoom H one recorder and it didn't have a pop filter on it.

[00:32:26] So I would talk about doing an interview and it was. Pop the heck out of it, or whenever I would breathe, it would over. And I didn't, I didn't understand that like putting in earphones actually made me hear how I was talking so that I wouldn't disrupt the earholes of my lesson. And I remember thinking this is the best I've ever done.

[00:32:52] Why aren't people, aren't people listening to this. Finally, I. I just kept sucking over and over again, just so I can understand that it took 40 episodes. And the last podcast I had, the ones that you probably haven't had an even heard this at this point. Cause it's archived, but like. 40 episodes of having it sound like that.

[00:33:19] And [00:33:20] someone eventually told me like your audio sucks. You need, you need an audio interface and a microphone. And that good one at that, I don't know. That was two years

[00:33:31] Kenny: ago that wouldn't have happened. Continued to make your episodes. Yeah, exactly. If you didn't continue to make something bad, you wouldn't have had that opportunity.

[00:33:41] We wouldn't be talking right now. It was either that or just stop making art and you wouldn't be an artist. If you want to be an artist, make shitty art,

[00:33:50] Helen: let it suck. It's okay. I think that you're right. Like it's okay to do that. It's okay to make it awful because. That's like your starting point. I think Austin Kleon said this where he was like, keep your scraps, never throw away bad art because bad art helps you make good art.

[00:34:09] It's just that simple.

[00:34:10] Kenny: It really is. And like, you can make bad art. Put it out there for the world to see, and they're going to tell you that it's bad and that's just, that's just going to happen. And that's okay. It's like, yeah, that it's bad, but like it's complete and it's mine and I did it and I'm going to keep going.

[00:34:27] And yeah, that was just your starting point. And every artist's journey is different. Your starting point might look a lot different and last, a lot longer, or a lot shorter than others. And that depends on a lot of factors. Of course, luck, money,

[00:34:42] Helen: people that you can easily hire given the money to work for you.

[00:34:46] But I don't know about you, but there's something so fun about doing it yourself. Do you know what I mean? I think that when people always ask me, they're like, Helen, why are you doing your own website? Why are you editing your own stuff? Why, why can't you just outsource that stuff? I remember telling them, I was like, cause I enjoy this.

[00:35:04] Like, I love doing this work and you probably feel the same way. And you've been through your own fair share of messing up and not having the resources. And I think that we've gotten to know each other enough for me to know that like your love falling on your face and getting back up because you love this work,

[00:35:22] Kenny: you know?

[00:35:23] Yeah. You're, you're so right. What's running through my head now is just all of the songs that I almost finished.

[00:35:32] Helen: I'm thinking about maybe some songs just aren't finished because you're just not ready to finish them yet. You know, maybe it's just that simple. Like if you finish it now, it just wouldn't be your best.

[00:35:43] Kenny: Yeah, that's, that's so true. There was about a month or so during the production of shiny teeth, for example, or I just really kind of set it down and the music that I've got in the works now I know exactly what I want out of it, and I know what I'm going to do to finish them, because at this point, I've, I'm practiced enough to be more familiar with that process, but it's just really not time yet.

[00:36:03] I'm doing other things. My work with podcasts takes up a lot of time. I'm also getting back into it. Computer programming because freelancing is nice, but I would also like dental insurance.

[00:36:16] Helen: That's the truth. Kenny really is. Yeah. Dental insurance is

[00:36:21] Kenny: necessary for any aspiring freelancers out there. Make sure you have insurance figured out just in case.

[00:36:31] Helen: Yeah. Let's close with one last question, knowing what you know now, you could meet the person that you were two years ago. What advice would you give that

[00:36:43] Kenny: person? Just keep working on it on your own time. You'll find the time it'll be okay. I think just, just some reassurance would be nice, you know?

[00:36:54] Yeah. It's going to be okay. That's so good. You don't have to give up on it. So good. That's probably about it. I love it. Thanks so much for having me, Helen. I really appreciate the time. Of course.

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Kenny Maness

Musician / Audio Engineer / Web Developer

Kenny Maness is an audio engineer, music producer, and singer based in St. Louis, Missouri. He makes ambient electronic music. He is also the vocalist in a band called Voyage, and I played bass in Cult Season for a while (his words, not mine).

In addition to music production, Kenny also specializes in audio engineering podcasts. He has produced and assisted clients in building podcasts from the ground up including audio recording, editing, assistance with web design, and basic graphic design.

Kenny is an electric and collaborative person who is amazing to work & create with!