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Actress Emily Kinney of ‘The Walking Dead’ revives her music career

Emily Kinney of “Walking Dead” fame will show off her singing talent Sunday at the RecordBar in Kansas City.
Emily Kinney of “Walking Dead” fame will show off her singing talent Sunday at the RecordBar in Kansas City. fabfernandez

Emily Kinney is once again roving from one city to another, facing new challenges and adventures. Only this time, she’s not being pursued by zombies.

Best known for playing Beth Greene on the hit horror series “The Walking Dead,” Kinney gets to spend the summer engaging in her other career passion: music.

It’s both an artistic and pragmatic opportunity for the singer/songwriter. In November, her character — like most characters on the AMC show eventually do — finally met a grisly death.

“I never watched that episode all the way through,” says Kinney, who performs Sunday at the RecordBar in Westport. “I’ve seen little snippets. But it was such a special, unique experience shooting those last days with everyone on set. I want that to be my memory.”

Now she finds her memory more occupied with lyrics and chord changes. Currently touring in support of her first full-length album, “This Is War,” which hits shelves Aug. 11, Kinney delivers a collection of confessional pop tunes packaged with a provocative title.

“‘This Is War’ is more of standing up for yourself in a different way,” she says. “I tend to write about relationships. With (the 2013 EP) ‘Expired Lover,’ I felt like that was an album about saying goodbye to relationships, even if there were good moments. I was done with them, and it was very sad.

“‘This Is War’ is a step forward for me. A lot of the songs are about explaining myself and standing up for myself — sometimes fighting for the relationship by saying, ‘Let’s try and work this out.’”

While Kinney has performed in clubs and piano bars for years — not to mention her vocals being showcased multiple times on “The Walking Dead” — she has exclusively played in Los Angeles, Atlanta and her current home of New York City. This tour offers her a chance to reach crowds in a few dozen new cities.

“There are definitely a lot of fans of ‘Walking Dead,’ but there are also a lot of people who actually know all the words to my songs,” the Nebraska native says.

Inevitably, Kinney draws fans who resemble a genuine zombie horde, mobbing her after a concert to discuss the TV show. But she reveals the interaction doesn’t always involve answering a batch of the same “What is it like to …?” questions.

“A lot of times when people approach me, they want to explain their experience. ‘I felt this way when your character died,’ or, ‘I really loved this episode because it made me think of my boyfriend.’

“More than meeting me or taking pictures with me, I’ve realized people want to explain to me how the show affected them,” she says. “Oh, and they also ask, ‘Is (co-star) Norman Reedus really that sexy?’”

Kinney turns 30 in August, but her sweet and earnest singing voice still maintains a childlike quality on “This Is War.”

“People sometimes think my voice is Auto-Tuned because it’s very clear,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of vibrato. And one thing that’s stuck with me since I was little is people have said, ‘I like to hear you sing because I can understand the words.’

“Some artists have a huskiness to their voice that gives out a lot of emotion. My voice doesn’t have a lot of that resonance, but it’s very clean and clear, so you can hear the story.”

Since her breakout debut on a 2008 episode of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” Kinney has faced the dilemma of whether to focus more on acting or singing. (On days off from shooting “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, she often used the time to hone her songwriting.)

She believes these skills “feed each other.” It’s never one or the other; it’s always one and the other.

“I like being really immersed in my music right now. That’s all I think about: Get up, go to the next venue. But after the next two months, it will be nice to go to the next audition,” the former NYU theater major says.

Following her onscreen demise, the actress appeared on the sci-fi drama “Forever” and landed a potential recurring character on the hit superhero series “The Flash.” She plays a supervillain nicknamed the Bug-Eyed Bandit who designs and controls mechanical insects.

What would Kinney pick as her ideal superpower?

“I want teleportation,” she says. “With my life, I spend so much time getting from Point A to B: planes and trains and driving. I would have so much more time in my day if I could snap my fingers and teleport.”

Jon Niccum is a filmmaker, freelance writer and author of “The Worst Gig: From Psycho Fans to Stage Riots, Famous Musicians Tell All.”

Sunday

Emily Kinney performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. Tickets are $15. More at TheRecordBar.com.

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