The artist: Una Walkenhorst
The song: No Man Like the City
The story: Four years ago, Una Walkenhorst quit her job, got in her two-door Honda Civic and kicked off on a road trip across North America for a year and a half.
The reason was simple: she wanted establish herself as a musician. But she wanted to do it on her own – without help from her father.
Walkenhorst’s dad Bob Walkenhorst was a founding member of the rock band The Rainmakers, which had a string of national and international hits in the 1980s and 90s. Una says that her father was one of the people who made her love music. But having a famous father can be challenging:
“I knew that if I started my music career here I would have a lot of opportunities, but not all of them would be because of my music. They would be because I am someone’s daughter,” Walkenhorst says.
Walkenhorst traveled the country, playing bars and open mics, and eventually started booking her own gigs. During that time, she wrote many songs about solitude,and "No Man Like the City" is one of her favorites.
“I wrote this song about learning to be alone... And learning to find happiness in those little moments when you are just alone and you embracing everything by yourself.”
She wrote this song on the back of ten business cards, sitting at a pier overlooking the Hudson River in New York City. The same day, she had performed at a Greenwich Village open mic, and after the concert she was so excited that the song “came out of her,."
And now "No Man Like the City" has a new meaning for her.
“I got out of the longest relationships I’ve been in. After you are in a long relationship you have to relearn how to be alone,” she says.
On the horizon: After her long trip, Walkenhorst spent some time living and performing in New Orleans. Now, she is finally back to Kansas City, and she and her father are about to release a new album together.
Simultaneously, Walkenhorst is already working on her second album (the first one called Scars was released in 2014). She says that her previous album was light, but now she plan to focus on heavier topics such as mental illness and depression.
“It can be very stigmatizing and people don’t want to talk about it a lot, but I feel that it’s very important thing to talk about. So quite few songs in my next album will touch upon mental illness, and what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression.”
Una Walkenhorst will be performing at KCUR’s Tiny Desk Contest: The Best of KC Show at the Bier Station on Saturday, May 5 at 4 p.m., along with local bands Second Hand King and the Lovers, Blue False Indigo and Soul Revival.
Story of a Song is a regular segment on KCUR 89.3 in which Kansas City musicians tell the story behind a song they have written or are performing.
Anna Yakutenko is Alfred Friendly Press Partners Fellow working at KCUR 89.3.