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Pride and 'Joy'
A small town Christian girl making it in a city like Los Angeles is something that is more often seen on the silver screen than in the realm of reality. But for Kenley Shea Monson, BFA ’08, this fantasy has come to life with the 2011 release of her debut album, “Seek the Joy.”
While a student at Ohio Northern University, Monson took the Freed Center by storm with her talent as a singer, dancer and actress. She wowed audiences in ONU’s Holiday Spectacular, and will forever be remembered as Belle in the Freed Center production of Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast.”
After graduating in the spring of 2008, Monson moved to Hollywood and immediately found success working as Kenley Shea with such music icons as Kelly Clarkson, Will.I.Am, Kings of Leon, Rise Against and Nickleback, while also finding work as an actor alongside the likes of Hugh Jackman and Shia LeBeouf.
Considering her accomplishments after only a short time in the entertainment industry, the release of “Seek the Joy,” a self-described fusion of county music and rock ’n’ roll, was a logical next step for Monson.
“Everything that I write seems to be rooted in rock ’n’ roll, but with nice country overtones from the instruments, vocals and especially the lyrics,” she says.
And quite possibly geography, as she recorded the album in Nashville, Tennessee, after a successful stint as a member of the house band for the hit television show “The Singing Bee.”
“It happened when I was wrapping up my time with the show. The show’s producers, Wayne Baird and Dale Oliver, had heard me on the show and told me they wanted to produce my album,” says Monson. “I was blessed to have an amazing band track the record for me in the studio, including some of the members of Carrie Underwood’s band.”
Throughout her creative journey Monson held strong to her deeply rooted Christian values, and through this commitment to stay true to herself she received not only a track to put onto her album but the title as well.
Kenley as Belle in ONU's production of
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."
“When we started to write for the album, this theme of ‘seek the joy’ kept coming back to me, so we wrote not only the title track of the album after that, but also kept that vibe throughout the entire record,” she says.
Monson’s theme of finding one’s own personal joy comes across in many ways on the album. The song “My Kind Of Mexico” is about enjoying simple things in life, while the final song on the album, “Love Her Like You Should” focuses on finding happiness in relationships with others.
“There is so much joy to be found throughout life to sing about,” says Monson.
Apparently her fans agree. Monson has had fans approach her after shows, and send letters telling her how uplifting they feel the album is. This experience has shown her the true power of music.
“There seems to be a lack of true joy in this life, and people need reminded that it is still there. I pray that my message is as loud as my music,” she says.
Seven Hills, Ohio