Kenna Mae Reiss and Emily Otnes are playing together tonight at the Canopy Club with a backing band (Dave Pride from The Fights, Bob Watson on guitar, and bassist Nick Soria). Together they are Mae & The Dark Days.
I talked to Otnes about her connection to Reiss and their musical bond.
Smile Politely: Introduce yourself to our readers.
Emily Otness: My name is Emily and I play in a band called Emily Otnes & The Weekdays. We are super close to being done tracking for our album, which will be released very soon — August if all goes according to plan! I’ve been playing around town for about five years now, first with my friend Tessa Turner; next with my full band; and now also with Kenna Mae Reiss, which has been a joy! Kenna and I are playing this Thursday at the Canopy Club with a band called Miner. We will be accompanied by the very talented Bob Watson, Dave Pride from The Fights, and Nick Soria from Emily Otnes & The Weekdays. Nick’s also in many other bands, one being Forty Cents Flat.
SP: How did this show come together?
Otnes: This show came about when Jamie at the Canopy asked me if my band (Weekdays) could play. Unfortunately, since we are recording so much, we have to say no to a lot of gigs. I asked Kenna if she would like to set something up. We had only played one gig together at the time, but I could tell we had really good musical chemistry. Since we booked the show, we’ve been practicing and even writing our own original songs. We’ve incorporated our backing band, so the sound is different from anything I’ve ever been involved in before. I’m very excited.
SP: How did you meet Kenna Reiss and start making music together?
Otnes: Kenna asked me to play a gig up in Leroy and also wanted to know if I would learn a few songs with her, a couple of mine and a couple of hers. So we learned some [songs] specifically for that show and discovered not only that we have very similar musical taste but that our voices blend really well together! Then we started to try cowriting, and it’s almost too easy to jam with her. I wonder if I’m doing something dreadfully wrong because it seems like second nature. Hopefully that will make our songs seem very natural and organic, though. We have a lot of fun in the process.
Kenna Mae Reiss
SP: What instruments do you play?
Otnes: I play guitar, piano, and flute. I started piano when I was very young and flute when I got to middle school. Guitar is something I’ve picked up more recently (when I was fifteen or sixteen) although it’s my favorite to perform with for sure.
SP: How did singing come about for you?
Otness: The singing is actually also relatively recent. I used to sing in my church choir when I was in grade school, but stopped completely after I forgot all the words to Away In A Manger at a Christmas service. So I was always afraid to start again, but when I joined my first band…that’s when I noticed that singing is not only enjoyable but something many people can work hard to excel at.
SP: Who inspires you as a singer?
Otness: Lately Kenna has been inspiring me as a singer and as a person. She has such strong vocals and a great sense of humor. For the type of music we play, I also look to Gillian Welch and Allison Krauss for inspiration.
Check out this duo of ladies and their backing band at the Canopy Club tonight, July 24th. Look for Mae & The Dark Days, opening for Miner.