At the age of 56, Laurie Kenney has finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. "There are no two ways about it: I’m not your usual ‘new’ music artist,” says Kenney, who lives in Guilford, Connecticut. “But as far as I know, there’s no age limit on creativity!"  

Kenney wrote her first song at the age of 12 and her second at 56.  In the 44 years in between, she built a career in publishing, public relations, and education, and raised a family. Three of her favorite projects over the years: spending quality time with Sir Roger Moore as publicist for his book, Bond on Bond: Reflections of 50 Years of James Bond Movies; mentoring her then-preteen daughters for their national award-winning project, The United States of Community Service; and creating the branding for the Bailey College of the Environment at Wesleyan University, where she currently works as an administrative assistant.  

Kenney's foray into music making began as a self-imposed challenge: learn to play guitar and write and record an album of original songs...or die trying. Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually (October 6, 2023, Cynical Girl Records) is the literal fruit of that labor. "As humans, we all have an innate need to create," says Kenney. " I hope my story inspires others moving into, or already in, the so-called Third Age – or anyone, really! – to explore new paths and live their best lives." 

Named after a mnemonic device to remember the six guitar strings and inspired by a single experience, the entire album was written during a single two-week period, while driving Route 77 to and from her office at Wesleyan. While the experience that inspired the collection is personal, the themes explored are universal: love and loss, loyalty and betrayal; forgiveness and revenge; despair and hope. The result: pure pop perfection…with a bite. 

The eight songs featured here pull no punches: Combining pitch-perfect melodies with lyrics that sometimes cut to the quick, Every Apple is riddled with figurative guns and literal guitars. But writing original songs was only the first step to completing the challenge. The second: learning how to play guitar so that she could accompany herself on those self-penned songs.  

Kenney already owned a guitar: It had been sitting, dusty, cracked, and unplayed, in her house for more than 15 years. “The guitar was my fortieth birthday present," says Kenney. “But I found the experience so incredibly uncomfortable, the few times I tried to play, that I simply gave up and chalked it up to 'not being my thing.' "  

And so her guitar sat, unused, for years, until she mentioned her frustration to her manager, Barry Chernoff, director of the Bailey College of the Environment, who also happens to be an accomplished musician who plays in two bands, including the Mattabesset String Collective. “Barry immediately suggested that I bring my guitar in to have the action lowered and have it restrung with lighter-gauge strings” says Kenney. “Those simple words of musical advice changed my life and allowed me to move forward!”  

After spending several months learning how to play, it was time to conquer her third and final challenge: recording an album to share with family and friends. One of her first sounding boards: Rani Arbo, of Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, who also happens to be the campus and community engagement manager at the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan, as well as Middletown's co-inaugural 2014 Music Ambassador.  

“Rani is absolutely extraordinary, on every level” says Laurie. “She’s such an incredible singer, songwriter, and musician, and she was so generous with her time and advice. I honestly had no idea where to start. She not only offered her support, she set my feet firmly on a path forward.”   

Arbo was one of the first people to hear Kenney's homemade demos and encouraged the aspiring songwriter to get in touch with Michael Arafeh, the 2022 Middletown Music Ambassador and owner of The Coffeehouse Recording Studio, in Middletown, Connecticut, who produced the album with Kenney. “Michael has 40 years of industry experience and an encyclopedic knowledge of music,” says Kenney. “I went into the studio knowing absolutely nothing about the recording process, and he took the time to teach me the how and why behind every step, from start to finish, as we shaped the album.”   

At The Coffeehouse, Kenney found herself immersed in Middletown and music history. “Lin Manuel-Miranda and Thomas Kail recorded the demo for In the Heights at The Coffeehouse, when they were students at Wesleyan. I recorded my songs using the same microphone used by Lloyd Cole, whom I love,” says Kenney. “While I was in the studio, composer and Wesleyan professor Neely Bruce stopped by one day—on another, Banning Eyre, lead producer of the Peabody-award winning radio show Afropop Worldwide, walked through the front door. It really was an amazing experience, in every good way you can imagine!”    

Kenney and Arafeh began recording the album in late April and completed it in August. While Kenney’s self-imposed challenge included writing and recording an album of original songs to share privately, working with a professional like Arafeh pushed her to consider releasing her music more widely. So with Arafeh’s guidance, she copyrighted her songs, joined ASCAP, and signed up with a music distributor to upload her music to Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, and other streaming services.    

Once Upon a Time, an infectious pop gem with a twist, is Kenney’s debut single. “If you’ve ever been fooled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, this song’s for you,” says Kenney, who considers herself a lifelong optimist with a cynical streak. “I think anyone who’s ever been disillusioned, by anyone or anything, can relate—which means everyone,” she laughs.  The album’s seven other songs include Richard, a Shakespeare-inspired warning about those of all stripes who present themselves as the ethical and moral center of the universe; Rumble Strip, an edict to hold firm to your belief in yourself when others try to push you around or aside; Two Birds, a haunting melody inspired by a 3-year-old’s idiomatic reasoning that the best way to kill two birds would be “with two knives” (of course); Circle the Wagons, an indie-folk-pop tune about recovering from betrayal; Five Steps, an instant pop-rock classic based on the five steps of forgiveness; ABCs of Me, a power-pop anthem about reclaiming your narrative and taking back your voice; and Free Spirited, a folk-pop ode to moving forward, with faith and hope.

“I don’t believe that getting older means slowing down and riding off, quietly, into the sunset,” says Kenney. "I have a lifetime of experience, good and bad; I’m grateful for my years and I’m going to make the most of this next chapter. So many people never get that chance.”   

So what’s next? “Conquering my fear of performing!” says Kenney, without missing a beat. “I’m not a singer, and I’ll never claim to be one…but that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say and, hopefully, to share. Even at my age.” Her first public performance: The Bailey College of the Environment at Wesleyan’s annual Pumpkin Fest at Long Lane Farm on October 14, 2023. 

Since completing her challenge, Laurie has released a new single, Hope, available on all streaming platforms. She is also the founder/organizer of Guilford Porchfest 2024, which will take place on Saturday, September 7, 2024.

Laurie lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her family. Connect with her at everyapple2023@gmail.com.