Shout Sister Shout: Amber Kenny (IWD 2024)

March 26, 2024

Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby

Approx. 12 minutes to read

In a picturesque corner of the Southern Highlands, amid the tranquil landscapes of Robertson, resides Amber Kenny—an artist, mother, and spirited musician carving her path in the bustling world of music. As she embarks on her journey towards recording her debut album and planning a regional tour with her band, Amber reflects her how she nurtures here family and her music career. She shares insights into how motherhood has fuelled her creativity, and the ongoing struggle to overcome self-doubt- she embraces it all. Read on as we delve into her journey of self-discovery, artistic expression, and the ebbs and flows of motherhood and music.

Singer/songwriter Amber Kenny

Sonia de Freitas: Hi Amber, how are you and where does our interview find you today?

Amber Kenny: I live in the beautiful Southern Highlands in a town called Robertson just around 2 hours south of Sydney. It’s potato and cattle country, a wonderful place to live. I live here with my husband, 2 kids, a few horses, a cat and a border collie named Joni (after my favourite artist Joni Mitchell). We lived in Sydney for over 20 years and 6 yrs ago we felt it was time to move and see where a country life would take us. Especially after raising the kids in the city we wanted them to experience a different childhood. 

I am working towards recording my debut album and planning a regional tour in 2025 with my band. This is a real bucket list and I’m sure there will be many hurdles to cross. Juggling this whilst being a parent has many logistical challenges that can sometimes leave us feeling like oh my god what is happening here but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

For the most part, I am by nature, a happy go lucky and down to earth person. Over the past few years there has been some increased anxiety if I think about the climate we are in and what I think is a global feeling. There are also some mixed feelings surrounding my musical journey. So I would say I am a bit more up and down, due to the uncertain and unpredictable nature of the music industry but overall I do feel like this is the path I’m meant to be on.

SdF: Can you tell me a little more about your life as a mother and musician?

Amber with her son, Xavier, and daughter, Willow.

AK: My husband and I have two kids, Xavier 13 and Willow 10. They are both amazing and different. Xavier has such a gorgeous deep thinking mind and has a great sense of humour. He has many laughs at being taller than me now. While Willow is one of the sweetest and kindest humans I know. She is always getting told at school how kind and considerate she is, which makes me feel so proud. That is something you either naturally have or you somehow acquire it as you go through various experiences. I’m am a proud mum and absolutely adore them both, well, for the most part when they’re not annoying each other. I think like any parent would say raising kids is hard and we often think they should have come with a manual. Especially in the world we Iive in today where there are so many challenges with technology that can sometimes leave us as a parent feeling oh my god what is happening here but I wouldn’t have it any other way. LOL!

Xavier is very musical and has a beautiful singing voice however the ever-delightful teen years are upon us where he says; “singing isn’t cool mum…” He is learning to play bass and I have to say he’s got some style. Willow is our little dancer. She loves to dance and albeit shy at times, she takes to the dance floor with so much focus and determination. It’s a joy to watch. We have never told our kids they must be anything. We do have to give them a push every now and then however we have always been guided by them. My husband and I have been together for 17 years this year and he is very supportive of my journey. He is a big supporter of following your dreams and the arts so I am very lucky to have a person that understands me. 

SdF: What, if anything, may have changed for you in relation to the way you thought about music and your ambitions as a musician once you became a mother?

AK: As a teen I had dabbled with the guitar. I knew about 2 or 3 songs, all with the same 3 chords and I went on to play those songs well into 20’s. It was always just for fun. When my second child Willow was born in 2014 I then bought a steel string guitar and started to write and Little Ones was one of the first songs on my debut EP Out in the Open. Being a mum actually opened this creative door for me and what I think held me back for so long was my own limiting beliefs about myself. That I told myself, “Are you mad? You can’t be a musician. You will never be good enough” 

These feelings still come back to me from time to time and I kick myself every time. I have to try really hard to not let it consume me but that’s my biggest personal challenge. This anxiety I feel when I am not backing myself comes from deep-rooted grief. There has been a lot of loss in my life and this is something I will forever have to deal with.  Being a mum has definitely brought this out in the open because you are forever changed and somewhat exposed.

Little Ones is song Amber Kenny wrote for her children, Xavier and Willow. Have a listen.

No doubt it’s a juggle and sometimes I feel way over my head being an emerging musician as well as being a mum, a wife, horse riding coach and acting teacher. 

When I think about it, it was my babies and my husband that actually brought me closer to my musical journey as it wasn’t until I was a mum that I started to find my musical voice.

SdF: How does the experience of motherhood influence your creativity and composition process? 

AK: Motherhood has definitely helped bring my creativity to the surface. In being a mum you are emotionally challenged, your hormones change, your body does too. Your mind all of a sudden does things you never thought possible. I have also thought that creativity is like water in that when it rains it pours so to speak.  That creativity would come out when I was journaling, when I was finding it hard to understand what was happening to me and my emotions, being a mother and wanting not to go mad. So writing became my refuge. It still is. No doubt composing was challenging but I know no different. I would often be trying to compose a song whilst I have a baby on my lap trying to sabotage my diary or steel my pen and the other one causing a ruckus in the next room. I would half write things and think oh well, there goes that good idea. I have since learnt to surrender to these moments now, as I believe if you’re meant to write it, it will make its way back eventually.

SdF: How do you maintain your artistic identity and career trajectory while raising your children? 

AK: I’m not going to lie. This is tricky as I am in the real hustle stage of looking for gigs, planning an album and thinking about what I want to do to expand my career options. This part is the real juggle for me especially as I’m the worst ever person at admin. I really struggle with the spreadsheets and social media elements. This is an ongoing work in progress. I also feel it changes when the kids change and they want to do different things. I am so lucky to have a great supportive husband who helps so much with this so thank god I wasn’t born in the 50’s!

The further I head down this road, it is my family that gives me the encouragement and support to take these risks and follow my heart. In all honesty, without my family by my side, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to undertake this journey.

SdF: What challenges have you have faced in balancing the demands of motherhood with the demands of a music career? Conversely, can you share any unique opportunities brought about by motherhood? 

AK: I want to focus on the positives about the demands as I am sharing with my kids a real life journey of their mum. I want them to know me as a musician and to remember their mum as following her heart. Really they are all learning opportunities to teach our kids, They get to see mum nervous on stage where I forget my words or play the wrong chords and see me set up and pack up my PA. They get to see me work at home too, from the practice, to me hustling on the phone for a gig. They say life is one big balance but I have almost given up on the idea of living life with balance. I feel a balanced life is an unrealistic expectation I can never live up too so I try to live life in the moment for the best part. I take the good when it’s good and deal with the bad when it’s bad and when we get a little breather, I am grateful.

SdF: What role do societal expectations and stereotypes about motherhood play in shaping the public perception of musicians who are mothers?

AK: I applaud anyone for trying to make a career in the music industry cause it ain’t easy from the bottom to the top. Being a mum you sometimes get over looked as they want younger artists to fit the bill and definitely there is an idea that if you’re a mum you are not a serious musician. I recently came back from Nashville where I played at the iconic Bluebird Café. I also did a few professional co-writes and sang in 6 open mic nights. I attended meet and greets with record labels, radio presenters and managers and no one asked me my age. No one asked me if I had kids. They just wanted to know if I was a writer and wanted to hear a song. I have to tell you that’s how it should be universally. I love Australia. I’m a proud Aussie, but there seems to be a real undercurrent of this age/motherhood being an issue. At the end of the day the music should speak for itself, not who you are. I think it’s a cultural issue that stems from the top down in this industry, More woman need to be booked for sure all round whether you are a mum or not. From what I am seeing there needs to be more women up there performing to level out the gender disparity.

SdF: How can the music industry evolve to better accommodate the needs of musicians who are navigating the intersection of motherhood and their music careers?

AK: This is a little outside my scope as I was a mum who became a musician and not the other way round. However if it were at this intersection, remembering what it was like for me, I’d love to see paid maternity leave for sure or money for a babysitter; or a really good childcare rebate that meant I wasn’t playing for nothing because all of my fees went to childcare. Tax refunds on wardrobe could be good too because of all the changes you go through physically when having a baby. It would have to be illegal for venues to discriminate against these additional costs too otherwise they’ll just employ the single person who’s going to turn up on time without the hassle of the kids. 

SdF: Is there anything else you want readers to understand about motherhood and music?
AK: It’s really scary to step out of your comfort zone especially as a mum and either reinvent your self or take time out to do something that fills us up as there are many feelings here and internal push backs there. It might be a good time to mention the old mother guilt, my goodness who hasn’t felt that one! This is something I think us mums all have to deal with over time. I have had to look at this differently and its taken a while, as you feel guilty for that too. Mind you my kids are a bit older now but one example I would often feel guilty for is getting my nails done and think how dare I spend that money or take that time me for myself let alone have a music career! This is a constant feeling amongst all parents, not just mums. 

SdF: What do you want for the future of music and for your children?

AK: What I can see is the industry being a little more balanced with gender. I am a music lover and when I was in my early 20’s I worked at the Enmore Theatre and I saw 2-3 acts a week. I loved that time in my life however I remember thinking even back then, where are all the women?! Even down to the managers and promoters and to the band members. No one spoke about it. No one thought it was an issue. It was just the way it was. So my hope is to be, apart of that balancing act and for my kids to see that this is the land of equal possibility and we can teach and show the next generation and hopefully inspire. 

To learn more about Amber Kenny visit: 

To hear and purchase Amber Kenny’s music visit: 

For more information on International Women’s Day visit: 

Sonia de Freitas – Author
Photo credit: Cathy Kirkpatrick

Keep an eye out for my next interview in the Shout Sister Shout: Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby series where I interview Jess Green.

Did you miss the previous Shout Sister Shout instalment? Read Emma Donovan’s interview here. 

Thank you to Eastside Radio for making the Shout Sister Shout: Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby interview series possible.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the many lands on which I am privileged to work, learn, teach, create and perform. I extend my respects to all First Nations People. 

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