Kennady Tracy is Encinitas Youth of the Year
When Kennady Tracy, a 15-year-old singer/songwriter from Encinitas, received her Encinitas Youth of the Year award from Mayor Kristin Gaspar at the June 8 city council meeting, it wasn’t her first time on stage with a powerful politician.
Nearly two years ago, at the tender age of 13, Tracy spoke and performed at The Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, where she shared the stage with the event’s keynote speaker, First Lady Michelle Obama.
“That was really cool to be on the same stage as her and watch her speak, it was just super,” Tracy told The Encinitas Advocate. “I do a lot of programs up in L.A. at The Grammy Museum … it’s just a really good environment. They do all sorts of really cool events and programs for songwriters, musicians and producers.”
It wasn’t luck that made Tracy one of the four students picked to perform at that event, the soon-to-be junior at San Dieguito Academy is an extremely accomplished musician.
Driven by her love for performance and need to write constantly, Tracy has been penning songs for most of her life in addition to playing guitar and singing. Her first EP “Collection” dropped in the summer of 2014.
“I was always writing songs, just because … (even) when I was like 5 years old,” Tracy said. “I’m always writing something, that’s my favorite part of all of this. I started playing open mics when I was in sixth grade, like 11 years old. I played my first set at my elementary school.”
Once Tracy got a taste of performing, she was hooked and hasn’t looked back since. Recently, she has opened for artists such as Janelle Monae, Mix Master Mike and Switchfoot, and performed at venues from Seattle to L.A. to Lestat’s in downtown San Diego.
“You do it once and then you just want to keep going,” Tracy said, her face lighting up at the thought of being on stage. “When I have friends who are starting to get into performing, I always tell them, if you do it the first time, you’re going to get hooked on it. And it’s worked with every single person I’ve seen perform for the first time”
Entrenched in the local music scene, Tracy hosts a weekly open mic night at The Studio Encinitas and says she loves performing at the many street fairs in the Encinitas area.
When’s she’s not on stage, Tracy takes time to teach guitar to younger kids, often her neighbors, and will be volunteering this summer at the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls in Los Angeles. The mission of the camp is to empower girls (ages 8-11 and 12-17 in the music video program) through music education.
“I love working with younger kids on music because I remember — it wasn’t that long ago — when there was an older kid that would be willing to sit with you and help you out, it’s like the coolest thing ever,” Tracy said. “I know how that felt so it’s cool to know I’m giving someone else that feeling.”
Though she is a mentor to young children — making enough of a difference to earn the city’s Youth of the Year Award as voted on by the Encinitas Youth Commission — Tracy herself is not even old enough to drive by herself. So how does she get the material for all of her songs, which she says are mostly sad songs about relationships?
“For the past five years, I haven’t really written personal songs and a lot of songwriters, that’s all they can do,” Tracy explained. “I’m just super observant, so I write a lot about other people, subconsciously even. All of my musician friends are at least a few years older than me … and I guess I just pick up on (those experiences).”
As young and talented as she is, Tracy isn’t immune to writer’s block. When hitting a wall a couple of weeks ago, Tracy got some words of wisdom from one of her musical heroes, Halsey. During their 20-minute conversation, the 21-year-old sensation, who co-headlined her own tour last year, had some advice that got Tracy back on track.
“(I was thinking) I want to start to write songs that are happy, and that play on the radio and people can sing along to, but I just can’t do it,” Tracy said. “And (Halsey) said ‘You just have to write what you want to write and people will find a way to relate to it.’ That was like whoa. And she writes a lot more personally so I was like ‘I think I’m just going to do that, give it a try.’”
While Tracy lists Halsey and Ed Sheeran as her biggest musical influences, she also feels inspired daily by her family. Dave Tracy is a stay-at-home dad for Tracy and her 13-year-old brother Keaton, while Pam Tracy is a vice president with Gail & Rice, which produces special events and entertainment around the country. Tracy also has her own website at www.kennadytracy.com.