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We Are Upstate With Kendra McKinley

We Are Upstate NY With Artist and Musician Kendra McKinley

By inside + out | June 14, 2023

The team at Inside+Out Upstate NY first noticed Kendra McKinley on instagram through an intriguing Reel that showcased her painted clothing, one-offs for friends and paying clients. We then discovered she is also a musician and the clothing was also a way to cover costs of recording her albums. We wanted to know more, so upon visiting her website, we read this:

“Kendra McKinley paints on her clothes and makes music for smoking weed with your bra off.”

“California baby currently living in New York’s Hudson Valley”

“Message me about booking, recording, painted clothing commissions, dreams, ideas, or just say hi.”


You had us at “makes music for smoking weed with your bra off”!  But all kidding aside, we realized then and there, we just had to interview this fabulous force of female creativity! So with out further ado, meet Kendra McKinley, and by all means, say “hi”.

We Are Upstate With Kendra McKinley

INSIDE+OUT: Where are you originally from and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?

Kendra McKinley: I was born in Santa Cruz, CA. I was inspired to explore the Hudson Valley after coming to NYC to work on Ragnar Kjartansson’s piece Romantic Songs of the Patriarchy at the Guggenheim. I wanted to spend more time in NYC but have a greener, more rural home base, which made the Hudson Valley seem like a great fit.

What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live + work + play music here?

There are seasoned NYC cats everywhere, doing their thang, living in the woods.

How did you get your start in music?

I’ve been performing all my life, but put more emphasis on theater and dance than music. Music was a more personal, private endeavor that I began to pursue more seriously during my senior year of high school. The first time I performed guitar and sang in front of an audience was during a play/talent show that my P.E. teacher wrote about environmental issues called “In the Flow” (which was a truly “Santa Cruz” piece). He had seen me on my high school campus playing the ukulele and asked if I’d perform in his play, but as fate would have it I left my ukulele on the roof of my car when I was driving home from rehearsal and ended up destroying the poor instrument. I asked if he’d be open to me playing guitar in the play instead. It took the death of a ukulele for me to decide to become a songwriter and study music in college.

Who are some of your favorite musicians and who would be your dream come true to play with?

Current favorites include Kassa Overall, Feist, D’Angelo and L’Rain. I dream of collaborating with Reggie Watts. We both use the Line 6 DL4 delay pedal to do vocal looping, so it’d be fun to do an improvised set together. He’s very silly.

We Are Upstate With Kendra McKinley

Tell us about your latest album, Where Does A Body Begin? and the concept behind it.

Where Does A Body Begin? is an unanswerable question. So, I consider it more of an invitation for the listener to interpret the question for themself. For me, it captures an existential bent that describes my personal experience of growth and transformation over the past few years. From physically moving to a new land to exploring deeper expressions of sensuality.

I wanted to make a record that sounded like a cross between Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah. As far as genre goes, there’s a range of influences, so I usually default to describing the sound as music for smoking weed with your bra off.

What is the best part, and the most trying, about being a musician today?

The best part is that every day is oriented around making music. The most trying part is that I have to work other jobs to afford to do my job.

You also have a hand-painted clothing line! Tell us more 🙂 What inspired this?

I’ve always loved fashion and dreamt of designing clothes. One day during lockdown I started drawing on my pants and decided to order some fabric paint to explore further. That led to painting on most of my clothes, wearing painted garments when I performed live, and now doing commissioned pieces for others. Each piece is custom and hand painted and machine washable, so holler if you want your clothes painted, too.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kendra McKinley (@kendra_mckinley)

How do you market yourself?

By talking to people; making friends.

How do you get your bookings, and where do you typically perform?

When I moved to the Hudson Valley, my strategy was to meet as many people as possible and play as many gigs as possible in hopes that I’d make connections that would lead to better gigs. Fortunately, it’s a pretty close-knit community, so each gig led to other opportunities.

That said, I am on the lookout for a booking agent. Please.

Do you have future plans for the band or other projects/collabs on the horizon?

I want to do a tour where I play concerts in botanical gardens, create a visual album and turn my clothing designs into textiles. Also, I will be playing at Opus 40 on Friday, August 18th to celebrate the release of my new album, Where Does A Body Begin? Come check it out!

What do you do when you’re not making music and painting clothing?

I love to dance and forage.

We Are Upstate With Kendra McKinley

Which Hudson Valley places do you most frequent?

Left Bank Cidery, The Avalon Lounge, Yaad Wellness

What is missing in the area that you wish we had?

The Pacific Ocean

What would be your dream local Staycation?

Canoe Camping

We Are Upstate With Kendra McKinleyPhotos Courtesy of Kendra McKinley

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Follow Kendra McKinley
Her Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Check out her Upcoming Shows Here

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Click HERE to see all of our exclusive interviews with the amazing folks that proudly call the Hudson Valley home.

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