Last month we started posting a track of the week, every week, on Facebook. If you’re following us on Facebook (as ya should be), you might have heard Kaya’s single “Hoodie” featured as our track of the week.
We caught up with the emerging alternative R&B/soul singer to chat about releasing her first EP, her creative process, and why the number 7 is so important.
Describe your sound for us.
My sound is very much soul influenced by R&B music. So that’s neo-soul, that’s classic R&B, that’s the current wave of alternative R&B that’s starting to rise right now. It’s very much soul related to everything that I’m listening to. It’s authentic, it’s powerful, it has live aspects to it but it also ties in my love for digital music and digital producing so it’s a bit of old and new R&B and represents how I see that genre and how I love that genre.
Who are your inspirations?
Currently, some of my big inspirations right now are Solange, SZA, Daniel Caesar, Sabrina Claudio, all these people that are new to the game and really trying to recreate this really acoustic and powerful sound of R&B. And vocally, my inspirations are Beyonce, Gladys Knight, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, people that have powerful storytelling voices because I’m a vocalist first and foremost. I studied voice so I’m very big on using the voice as an instrument. I really look up to singers that can tell a story with just their voice.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
Daniel Caesar would be so dope to collab with. He has such a mellow voice that I think our voices would go well together. Of course, that’s in the fantasy in my head (laughing). I’ve been listening to his new album and his older stuff and I miss R&B like that, especially from male singers. He had me hooked from a long time ago.
What are you currently listening to?
I listen to a whole bunch of stuff. When I was in my writing period I was kind of looking for new sounds to be inspired by and artists like Daniel Caesar and Sabrina Claudio, they were some of the people that I heard and I was like, ‘OK I like this. This is a style that I could find myself making music after’ and it just felt right to me. And I listen to a lot of old-school R&B all the time. When I was younger I took for granted how great that music is and so now when I listen back I’ll just be in the car like, ‘What, this is so amazing I forgot this song was THIS good.’ I spent a lot of time listening to old school R&B ‘cause that’s where all the magic is. You have to go back. I have to listen to the oldies all the time.
How did you get started singing & producing? Do you come from a musical family or was singing something you’ve always wanted to do?
I’ve always been interested in singing ever since I was a little kid. I always knew I wanted to do music and sing. I didn’t get into writing and producing until I was about 18 or 19 when I was in college. I just decided I should start trying to make my own stuff because it makes sense to try. So from there I started teaching myself how to use Logic and Pro Tools and started playing around with stuff really. And songwriting is just something you have to do every single day to get better at and eventually, I wouldn’t say it gets easier, but it becomes quicker to produce things.
What is your creative process like?
It happens in a number of ways. Sometimes I’m just out or doing something and I get inspiration from words or something someone says and I’ll just write it down. Or sometimes I’ll start by making a whole track on Logic and then write a melody or lyrics on top of that. And then sometimes the melody and lyrics come together, it really happens a number of different ways. I just try to keep myself open to any kind of way inspiration hits me. I don’t restrict myself to writing or creating one way. How ever it feels right I don’t question it and just go that route.
For instance, a lot of these songs on the EP I wrote just walking down the street. Sometimes it just happens that way so I make sure I always have my phone. I have a ton of songs on my phone because I never know. Like in conversation, you can just be talking and somebody says something about a relationship and I’m just like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna write that down. That could be a good song.’ So I’m really always open to creating 24/7.
What can you tell us about the name of your EP: Dear 7even?
Seven is such a meaningful number for me. It’s a little superstitious, but it starts with my birthday; I was born on 7/7. My sisters, we all have birthdays that have the number 7 in it, and I feel that a lot of times when big things happen in my life it’s usually in sevens, you know the seventh day or the seventh month or something like that. I always notice and pick up on that so it’s always been a really meaningful and important number to me so titling this EP Dear 7even is kind of like writing to the deepest and innermost parts of myself and exposing those parts of me to everyone just to understand who I am as a person and as a musician.
What was it like putting together your first EP?
I was studying at Berklee College of Music and had the opportunity to use the studios and musicians there to really put together a great project. But even with all of that access, it was extremely, extremely hard and time-consuming. A lot of late nights, a lot of frustration, a lot of questioning and self-doubt but we did what we had to do to get it done in a year cause I really wanted to have a strong project at the end of my program. It was probably– no, it was the hardest experience I’ve ever had with making music but it taught me a lot and it taught me what it takes to make something even better and to keep going. It was a painful and beautiful experience that I’m definitely excited to do all over again. It was amazing.
And it was produced by you and another female, right?
Yes, her name is Nanci Baker, she goes by Nanci The Great as a producer and engineer, and we kind of just started this friendship and worked together on every single song to produce it together. She recorded my vocals, engineered the tracks, mixed and mastered everything. It was literally just me and her doing all of the work. And you know music is a very male-dominated field and for us to come together and do this, especially two women of color, it’s pretty big so I’m very very proud of that aspect. She and I still talk and we’re gonna work on more music in the future so we’re gonna keep this girl power going.
Well amen to that! I definitely think it’s important that we have women working in the industry behind the scenes, especially in production and engineering so that’s amazing, major props on that. So do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions?
Not really. Usually the day I have a show is like THE most chaotic day ever haha. I usually like to keep myself organized, but on the day of a show, everything is out the window. I usually forget to eat, I’m trying to do my hair and figure out to what wear, there’s so much going on so the only pre-show thing I really have is to take a lot of deep breaths and say some positive self-affirmations to calm myself down from how chaotic everything had been leading up to that point. I remind myself that it’s not about me, it’s about the audience and telling them a story with music. So I have to just put it all aside and give it to them cause that’s what they came there to see, they didn’t come to see that I had a crazy ass day haha.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not recording or working on music?
I’m such a boring person, I really just love to stay in bed and watch Netflix. I don’t have any problem with staying in bed all day watching Netflix and I usually only watch children’s movies. That’s probably weird but I will watch every kids movie on Netflix, it just makes me so happy. Like Finding Dory, The Grinch, any Disney movie, that’s perfect for me.
What’s next for Kaya?
I want to start performing and really getting Dear 7even out there in the live aspect. So I’m looking to start doing some shows out here on the East Coast, you know just keep spreading the music and eventually start working on even more music. I’m just gonna keep riding this wave. I’m getting so much support and love for this first EP and I’m very excited and thankful for that so I wanna keep giving people access to this music because at the end of the day it’s for them. So whatever I can do to accomplish that.
Any last words?
Hopefully, this can serve as some kind of inspiration to anyone that’s trying to do music or wanting to do it because it’s very hard and it takes a lot of self-motivation and perseverance, but it is possible. You just have to start and keep going. I’m just really happy to be able to talk with you and be able to give more information about this music.