Crying on Holidays: The Triumphant Return of Kingsley

After two years in a musical drought, facing the darkness of COVID shutdowns and a new album postponed, Portland pop songwriter Kingsley makes her long-awaited return with ‘Crying On Holidays’, and this time, she’s shooting for the stars. Cover photo by Pastel Creative Studios.

I can’t quite recall the last time I spoke with Moe Lincoln–a.k.a. Portland pop songwriter Kingsley. In the past year, the wake of not only the COVID crisis but the plethora of other “unprecedented” social events worldwide has created a sort of time vortex. Everything feels like it has simultaneously just happened but also happened years ago.

As I sit on this Zoom call with Lincoln, both videoing in from our respective homes in Portland, we begin to reminisce on the past few years. Perhaps the last time we talked was in 2018, with the release of her first LP, I Am Because I Am. Or, perhaps, it was in 2019, when she released the record’s follow-up EP, I Am Because I Feel. Either way, it’s been at least a good two years since we’ve had a conversation. In a way, it feels longer. In another, it feels like only a short time since.

That’s what COVID did to time. And for Lincoln, COVID’s time vortex took an even harder toll on her creative process.

Two years since her last LP dropped, Kingsley aimed to release her sophomore record, Crying on Holidays, in September of 2020. At the beginning of the year, everything was on track. The initial Kickstarter campaign for the album was fully funded in early 2020, and with the album written and ready to record, Lincoln was excited to get back into the studio with a new body of work.

Kingsley on stage at the Holocene in Portland (pre-COVID)

But then, as with the rest of the world, everything changed in an instant. 

With COVID shutdowns stretching on far longer than anyone anticipated, the album was forced to a spot on the back burner, leaving Lincoln in a very dark mental state.

“I wasn’t working any music jobs. I was home. And that’s where the darkness started taking hold,” she said. “And when your worth is tied around productivity, it really fucks you up.”

When COVID quarantine began, Lincoln was just coming out of a three-year-long relationship. She had just moved into a place by herself for the first time. “And if you’ve never lived alone, don’t do it in COVID,” she said. “I had a terrible time.”

Seeking an escape from the darkness she faced, Lincoln returned to her childhood home in Chicago to live with her parents. Luckily, her time away was just the motivator she needed to come out of the darkness and get back up on her feet. She eventually decided Portland was still the best place for her to be and returned back to Oregon with a new set of goals in mind.

“I was like, alright Moe. What are we going to do? Are we going to be the victim? Or are we going to be the victor of your story?” she said. “And I just pulled my bootstraps up and was like, let’s do this.”

With a newfound optimism and drive, the initial darkness of COVID quarantine transformed into a time of creative rejuvenation. With these fresh eyes, Lincoln took her album off the back burner and began to transform it. She rewrote the album, trading out the pop fluff that she felt filled it with her newfound truth and uncompromised vision.

“For the first time, I had time,” Lincoln said. “I just kind of pulled back some of the songs that I weren’t absolutely in love with and it just kind of sped up the producing and recording process.”

Though her initial plans for production and recording fell through with the postponement of the record, Lincoln found a new home with Sean Berahmand of Sunset Digs Studio in Gladstone, Oregon.

“I didn’t really know Sean at first. We were still getting to know each other and what I like and what he likes,” Lincoln said. “That took some time, and we hung out a lot before we started recording because I really believe in chemistry to make music.”

Luckily, Lincoln and Berahmand found that chemistry, and after a year on the back burner, the record was finally born into the world. They finished recording in December of 2020, three months past the initially planned release date of the album.

What resulted from their work is a lush and emotionally vulnerable pop record, showcasing not only Lincoln’s own ability as a songwriter and vocalist but bringing together talents from her own close circle. The record features sweeping production from Jack Kennedy, lyrics from #WomxnCrush Music’s Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov, and a particular standout track in the co-written duet with Haley Johnsen, “All Me”.

“I went over to [Haley’s] house because of that dumbass boy, and I’m crying to her, and I’m like, I’m just going to go home and take a bath,” Lincoln recalls. “And [Haley’s] like, wait, let’s write about it. I don’t what you to leave with all this. Let’s just write.”

Starting on guitar, the two of them wrote “All Me” together that night. When the time came to record the track, Lincoln reached out to Johnsen to see if she would want to sing on the song as well. What started as a cathartic songwriting session between friends turned into one of the record’s best tracks, one that can just as easily be cried to as it can be danced to, with its groovy bass line and smooth vocal performances from both Lincoln and Johnsen.

Though Lincoln was finally able to create and release the record she’d been chasing for almost two years, the creative renaissance that the COVID lockdown provided got Kingsley reaching for the stars with even more tie-in projects to flesh out the world she’d created with her sophomore record.

Connecting with Portland makeup artist Katherine Sealy, Kingsley launched her own lipstick line in collaboration with Sealy’s Event Cosmetics.

“Katherine is a Black business owner in downtown Portland. She’s so dope,” Lincoln said. “We’re talking [one day]. She’s like, business is horrible. I don’t know if I can stay downtown… [And] I was like, gosh I would really hope one day in my life, I could work with a makeup company and pair my music with lipsticks. I wish I could do that for you if that would help your business. We just left it as wishful thinking, but Kathy’s wheels started turning.”

That December of last year, Sealy texted Lincoln. She’d found three different lipsticks to choose from for a collaboration. In the end, Lincoln ended up choosing all three, pairing them with singles from the album: “I’m Fine”, “All Me”, and “Therapy”.

“I’ve just been so humbled,” Lincoln said. “I hated my lips so much in high school. I was bullied and picked on and it’s been so awesome watching people light up for my products–that they’re feeling themselves and swagging out a little bit harder.”

“I want to make sure that I use my voice, my brand, my music to always inspire people to love themselves,” she added.

In addition to the lipstick line, Lincoln also has a book called Drinking on Holidays available now, a recipe book that pairs each song from the album with its own cocktail. She is also in the process of working on a remix album–aimed for release at the end of September. 

“I specifically want to work with people who identify as women, nonbinary, and anyone in the LGBT community,” she said. “So that is basically, in the kindest way, no straight white dudes.”

Though COVID has been a challenge for many in the industry, for Lincoln, the extra time has been one of rejuvenation and inspiration. Though there was darkness to be faced, in the end, her triumphant return has been brighter than ever.

“I’m very thankful,” she said. “I know COVID had taken away a lot of things, but for me, COVID really let me face a lot of my darkness.”

To celebrate the release of Crying on Holidays, a live-streamed album release show was held at Portland’s Holocene. Watch a recording of the live stream show on Holocene’s YouTube, and listen to Crying on Holidays now on all streaming services and to purchase on Bandcamp.

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