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Video Premiere: Kendra McKinley Reminds You To 'Do What You Want'

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McKinley and company hard at work.

When Santa Cruz native Kendra McKinley first moved to San Francisco in 2014, she did what most musicians do: set about finding a day job, so she could pay rent in the Mission while she played gigs on the side.  She considered bartending, or some kind of food service. She worked as a bike courier for one whole day before deciding it wasn't for her.

And then she had a terrifying idea: What if she committed to music full-time?

"I had this moment of realizing, hey, if I try and find some other crappy job just to stay in the city, I'm not gonna do what I'm passionate about," remembers McKinley. "I want to be a musician. I want to take it seriously, and I want that to be my job."

Inspired by an interview she'd heard with Fiona Apple in which the singer described writing "Extraordinary Machine" as a way of giving herself advice, McKinley sat down to write herself a pep talk.



"Do What You Want" is the result: a joyful, liberated indie-pop tune that layers McKinley's sultry vocals over a driving disco beat. It appears on her sophomore LP and first full-band electric effort, Treat, which the singer and guitarist released in June. And it was a no-brainer of a choice when, a few weeks later, she got a call from director Pete Lee at Scandinavia, an East Bay production studio that was hosting a free music video-making summer camp for kids.

For the first week of August, under the auspices of the arts education nonprofit OMG Everywhere, 20 youth ages 10 to 15 learned the ins and outs of designing and directing music videos, from creating props to operating cameras. The camp is free for kids to attend. KQED Pop is pleased to premiere one of their final products below.

"I got so excited about this idea of realizing this song in particular with children," says McKinley, noting that she worked with the campers to come up with the concept -- which is, loosely, that sometimes you must put down the video games and go to a dance party -- and then the young filmmakers directed her from start to finish.

"Committing to my passions really held me accountable. And I wanted to help reinforce the idea that [kids] do have that potential, that, you know, 'You deserve to ask yourself what you're passionate about and take that seriously, to devote time to being creative.'"

"'Do what you want' is basically a more PC way of saying 'Don't bullsh*t yourself," she says with a laugh. "Also, 'Do What You Like' was already taken decades ago by Blind Faith."

Kendra McKinley plays the poster room at The Fillmore this Sunday, Sept. 11 (with Wilco on the main stage) and Scandinavia in Emeryville on Monday, Sept. 12 (with Portland's Y La Bamba). Learn more about OMG Everywhere right here


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