Kingsley doesn’t believe in love. It’s because of this, she says, that she’ll never write a love song.
“I actually wrote a love song for my friend's wedding, and it took me almost half a year and I still don’t like it.”
“It’s hard for me to write something that’s not true for me. I don’t feel like it’s fair to tell someone else's story. Like…” She pauses. “I’ll never write about shootin’ in the trap house. I did not grow up in the trap house. I cannot write about the trap house.” She laughs.
Since her move to Portland in 2016, Kingsley (real name: Moe Lincoln) has found her place in our deep-rooted music community. She’s worked for venues around the area, namely The Old Church and Roseland Theater, had a role as the Queen of Operations for Portland-born nonprofit #WomenCrush Music, and, of course, has continued on her own musical journey as Kingsley.
Kingsley’s brand new EP was just released on June 23. It was ushered in with a release show at Lincoln’s previous venue home, The Old Church, alongside fellow #WomenCrush member JoJo Scott. The EP, titled I Am Because I Am, is a brief but significant foray into Kingsley’s own experience as an artist and as a human being. Throughout the record’s seven tracks, Lincoln tells her own truth, and does so in as many ways as possible.
Writing from experience is important to Lincoln, so writing about being in love just isn’t a reasonable feat. She’s never been in love, she says. “I’ve never had my heart broken.”
Listening to the new EP, it seems as though love and heartbreak are such central themes. She quickly explains.
“That album is about one guy, and he did not break my heart,” she says definitively. “Everyone always asks that. He came very close. I would’ve fallen in love with him, and then, maybe, I might have written a love song.”
The first song released from the EP was “Ghost,” a solid pop track tackling the all too common dating occurance of ghosting. “Ghost” was the start of Kingsley’s journey into I Am Because I Am. Through the process of writing the album, Lincoln touched on every scenario she and her almost-love had ever been in.
“I’ll never get used to being without you, you ghosted on me, I’m no good for you.... It’s not necessarily that my heart was broken, it’s just that I was so close to the cusp of falling in love and falling hard that these songs came out of the woodworks. So… joke’s on him. He didn’t get me.” She laughs.
In contrast to most records dealing with the aftermath of a relationship, Kingsley does not display as heartbroken. She does not show signs of wounds or bruises. On I Am Because I Am, she is simply angry. The EP states how she really feels about what went down. She tells her own truth.
Though the lyrical content and topics of the record are born from Kingsley’s own experiences, there were many other people involved in its creation. “They say it takes a village, but it literally took a village to make these songs.”
A long list of collaborators on the seven-track EP give the end product a wide range of productions and styles. In creating this statement, Lincoln tried to fit as many different genres onto the EP as she possibly could. This for a few different reasons.
“It worked out,” she says. “I reached out to as many different people who I knew did a genre well and tried to find artists that sang that genre well and replicated my own version of it in the best way that I could.” For example, “The ‘Without You’ track, it was bluesy and popish, folkish. I found a blues producer, and Luke Neill ended up tracking strings and piano for that song. I found a guy who does blues guitar to do a riff on there. Haley Johnsen sings phenomenally on the backup vocals. The whole process was like, ‘Who is really great at that genre? Now let me have them on my project.’”
The end product becomes not only a look into Kingsley’s own truth and emotion, but an all-around solid spotlight on Portland talent and the many different genres the city can offer.
“We’re not just folk here,” says Lincoln. “People don’t know that. We have a lot to offer.”
Tying all of the songs together on Kingsley’s final product is her voice. Lincoln’s vocal performance itself is unique and well trained, able to weave between genres on her record and capture the true emotion behind her words. Speaking on the topic of her vocal performance, she has one particular influence she attributes to her skill that she cites without hesitation.
“The Jonas Brothers,” she tells me. “You know, I always say that and then people are like, ‘Oh she must be in her 20s.’” She laughs. “But I really like the album A Little Bit Longer because the range of emotions that come out in each song really inspires me. Listening to the Jonas Brothers, it was like, oh, this is what a love song feels like. I’m singing along with them and I found what it feels like in my own voice. So I’ve carried that into a lot of my own music.”
With so many different genres, scenarios and emotions represented on the EP, there truly is a track for everyone to enjoy. “That was the point of the EP. You will have one song on there that will be your favorite genre. No matter what it is, it’ll be on there. There’s something for everyone.”
The motivation for this wide range of genres wasn’t just for the consumer, though the move certainly did pose a unique marketing strategy that benefited not only fans but the radio waves as well. The EP's pop entry was spotlighted by KINK, while the R&B track was picked up by a rhythm and soul station in New York.
Kingsley’s decision to put so many different styles into one project was very much fueled by what producers and others in the industry have told her time and time again: Being a black female artist, she should just stick to R&B. To that, Kingsley's got something to say.
“This whole EP was a big fuck you. Even when I was in college, I studied vocal performance. And I had my vocal teacher be like, ‘No, sing it more soulful.’ I’m like… what? I’m singing it how I’m singing it. Then I emerge in the music world and it’s just the same kind of shit. ‘Oh I bet you’re an R&B artist.’ No, I sing folk. I have my guitar with me. Literally.
“I make music. Period,” she says “The point of this project was… I am because I am. That’s it.”
Through many different challenges along the way, people telling her how to do something or how to feel, Kingsley forged her own path. She found her own styles, her own way of doing things, and moved forward to create an album that told it how it was. I Am Because I Am is, front to back, Kingsley. And unapologetically so. In telling her own truth and letting it resonate with those who listen, Kingsley not only creates a release for her own emotions, but a platform that can touch and inspire many others.
“At the very beginning, I just wanted to tell my story how I wanted to tell it, regardless of what genre it was gonna be. And then when I was finished it was like… wow, this is a story for anyone. There’s so many things on here. So initially, I wasn’t thinking that I was gonna touch a lot of people. It was just that I had something to say and I can sing so I’m gonna say it that way.”