Keenan Jenkins’ musical career began during his Ph.D. studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he played open mics and local showcases between long days on the third floor of the psychology building. By the time he’d finished his degree, drained and discontent, his musical moonlighting had meanwhile bloomed in full color. He took the cue and dove headfirst into the rich music scene in Carrboro, NC.
Jenkins now performs as XOXOK, crafting atmospheric soul music that is conceived on the fretboard, cultivated at the microphone, and cradled in headphones. The guitar and vocal influences are far-flung, but cohesive — see Jeff Buckley, Moses Sumney, and Anna Calvi, among others. His live performance is a model of intimacy and presence; armed with “sweet, ringing vocals” (Queen City Nerve), XOXOK delivers impassioned songs with unabashed conviction.
XOXOK’s debut EP Worthy is both a lush soundscape and an exercise in growth. On the opening track, “Nancy, M.D.,” he declares, “I need you / more than your patients will ever need you as their medic.” However, by the final song (the title track, “Worthy”), he has changed his tune: “I don’t need you to love me / I just want to be worthy.”
In 2020, XOXOK released three additional singles: “Right On,” a meditation on police violence; “I’ll Be Fine,” a soaring hymn of resilience; and “All In,” a swooning song about finding comfort in love.