Written by Julianne Waller
Photography by Brea Marie
Lakeland native Patricia Kenoly continues to grow as an artist and is thankful for the community in Lakeland which supported her when releasing her first album.
Upon first listen, it’s difficult to tell if the roots of Patricia Kenoly’s hypnotic music lie in folk or jazz. The local artist, who musically goes by Noan Partly, creates a self-proclaimed “jazz/indie-folk” sound through soul-searching lyrics, warm vocals, and layered instrumentals. With her clever spin on covers and her genre-defying original music, Kenoly quickly won over the Lakeland community. She has since expanded to perform all over Central Florida but still frequents the Lakeland music scene.
Whether you’re listening to Kenoly’s first album, Arbitration Based, or on a phone call with the artist on a stormy evening, one thing is clear: she was born to be a musician. When I told her this, Kenoly laughed warmly and joked, “Sometimes I wish I had the mind of a scientist, or I wish I was better at math, but this is what I’m drawn to — so I might as well keep on going.” After viewing her album’s page on Bandcamp, it’s safe to say Kenoly is on the right path: underneath the eight tracks listed, she is credited with “lead vocals, backup vocals, guitar, banjo, piano, and ukulele.”
Despite her impressively broad range of skills, Kenoly is humble and quick to thank those who have helped her musical journey. The artist’s first supporter: her parents. Though Kenoly’s musical career kicked off in Lakeland, she was born in Oklahoma. She fondly recalls, “When I was a toddler, [my dad] bought me a xylophone and a little keyboard and sang songs with me. My mom sang with us in the car, too — Eagles and old classic rock tunes.”
Kenoly’s love of singing continued into elementary school, where she joined choir in fifth grade. She continued to join every year until college, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in music. In her teenage years, Kenoly took up the guitar and dabbled with songwriting. “They started out Christian songs, and then I would make up stories and use music to tell them.”
At the age of 14, Kenoly started using her musical talent to perform. “In high school, there were a few community events I would perform for. Like, when Hurricane Katrina happened, I performed for a relief fundraiser. But [in general] I didn’t perform very much.”
That changed, however, when Kenoly moved back to Lakeland in 2015. After joining a band, Weather for Strangers, she wrote songs with the band and performed at local bars and restaurants.
That being said, the artist’s unique, jazz-infused style began to develop farther away from the muggy heat of Florida — Kenoly first fell in love with jazz when she studied it for two years at Wichita State University. “Though I forgot a lot of the theory, I still remember really getting into the basic jazz formulas, seventh chords, drawing inspiration from improvisation, and really listening to music as more of a conversation.” Kenoly’s background in jazz, combined with an infusion of folk music (emphasized by her impressive banjo playing) creates a unique sound that captivated the Lakeland community upon her return.
Are feelings like love just chemical drips in the brain? Will humans destroy ourselves, or can we be saved, and how? Existential questions can be asked in so many ways, so I think that’ll be a point of inspiration for me.
This distinctive sound is featured in the artist’s debut album, Arbitration Based, which Kenoly released in 2019. The friendly openness of conversation with Kenoly contrasts the raw, cerebral nature of the album’s lyrics. In the opening song, “Together,” Kenoly blends dreamy electric guitar, banjo, and a haunting chorus under velvet vocals that fluctuate from gritty anger to longing and melancholy. The lyrics correspond to the changes in tone, from “I wanna kill everything inside us that makes us feel pure,” to “I wanna cry for every ghost I have seen.”
The creation of this transcendent album began after Kenoly left Wichita State University and traveled to do some soul-searching. “About half of the songs on Arbitration Based were written from this time period,” Kenoly says. “I learned a lot about myself in that time, and that’s when I started to open up to the existential realities that I would be facing every single day from then on. The other half [of the album] was written while I was here in Florida, creating roots and really digging further into those questions.”
Arbitration Based’s eight tracks cover a kaleidoscope of topics. Folksy “Going West” aches with yearning and soul-searching on a backdrop of banjo and violin, while the bouncy sound of “Shit Talk” complements its tongue-and-cheek lyrics. The album, Kenoly explains, is largely based on uncertain areas of life that she grapples with. “I mostly find that the songs I’ve written over the past few years deal with existential questions that I struggle with the answers to, or questions that I don’t think I’ll ever have the answers to. I guess it’s called Arbitration Based because I’m seeing more and more how everything is subjective and everyone is valid in their own truth, and that [the] declaration of truth is arbitrary in its nature.”
Kenoly praises the Lakeland community for helping her fund the album. After creating a Kickstarter to fundraise money, the community came together and raised $3,000 to support her music. “I recorded it at the Vanguard Room, and they gave me a great deal as it was, and [then] the community came through and funded the whole thing. My admiration and appreciation for the Lakeland community is forever ongoing,” she says.
I learned a lot about myself in that time, and that’s when I started to open up to the existential realities that I would be facing every single day from then on.
The artist currently lives in Tampa and works at a nonprofit organization. While she finds her footing in the Tampa music scene, the artist has a specific goal for her performances. “I’ve been trying to focus more on playing original music,” she says. “It’s really easy to get cover gigs, and cover gigs are the ones that pay, but I’d like to focus my musical performance on original material.” Along with working, Kenoly is planning to go back to school to get a master’s in music therapy. “My goal right now is to walk down the more medicinal path of music, but I’ll be performing my whole life.”
Although she no longer lives in Lakeland, Kenoly still frequents the Lakeland music scene. “I crave growth, and a good way to find growth is to change the setting,” the artist explains. “But I’ll always be grateful for the support and encouragement [the Lakeland community] showed me, so I’ll always come back.” Kenoly also continues to work on original music. In July she’ll release a single called “Uneasy,” in addition to a music video featuring dancer/choreographer Dominique McDougal. “After that,” Kenoly says, “I’ve got many, many more songs I’d like to record.”
I use [songwriting] as a tool for connectivity but also very heavily as a tool for expression.
Since she first started performing, Kenoly has evolved musically and personally. “People have told me quite a few times that from when I began performing six years ago, my vocal posture has changed, and I use different vocal styles. I’ve also noticed how much more confident I am now than I was back then, with performance and also in my day-to-day interactions with the world. I was a little bit meek and shy, but I feel more ready to face challenges than I did back then, and I feel more open to inviting change.”