Having first witnessed her music first getting picked up by commercial radio at the age of sixteen, West London based vocalist Kyra is back with a new EP, a new video and a determination to take over the world of music. Matt Tarr caught up with Kyra to discuss supporting Wretch 32 on tour, her latest EP Bandages and her love of Olivia Newton-John…
MT: Tell us a bit about how you got into music and what got you interested in music in the first place?
Kyra: Well I was brought up in a house full of really good music; soul, funk, reggae, jazz and I always had a love for music. At school I did some of the school plays and I did actually got offered a place at the Brit School when I was 16 but I didn’t go. Then when I was 16 I had a track called ‘Tick Tock’ and Choice FM an Kiss and everyone started playing it. It was a demo track that went a bit viral really. I then met my manager and from there I’ve been recording and going on my musical journey.
MT: You mention that you turned down a place at the Brit School. There have been a number of high profile artists who have graduated through their ranks so what made you decline their offer of a place?
Kyra: To be honest it was just so far from my house and it would’ve literally been like a 3 hour journey every day, so I guess being young and maybe a bit vulnerable; I though it was a bit too far away. But it’s cool anyway cos it gave me the chance to do A Levels and other stuff and I’m still doing music anyway.
MT: So ‘Tick Tock’ was the track that initially brought you to public attention and then more recently in 2012 you released ‘Good Love’ which also got picked up by radio stations and did well. What do you think it was about that track that made people really stand up and take notice?
Kyra: The feedback I’ve had about ‘Good Love’ is that it’s just a really feel good tune. It’s easy going and it was a really good summer in 2012, so sometimes it’s just about timing. So the response was really good and obviously it was a great opportunity to just build a fan base. For me, that was when I first entered onto the scene. Everything before that was just a build up to it, preparation, writing, studio; it takes a while to get to know yourself as an artist.
MT: How did you feel when your music started to get played on such mainstream stations as Choice and Kiss because it must’ve been surreal to know that your music was being played out to so many people?
Kyra: It’s really exciting. It never gets old hearing your song on the radio. It’s such a good feeling and it spurs you on to wanna keep going. It is really surreal. You just sit there and think “is that me?”
MT: The popularity of those early tracks led you to opening for Rita Ora and touring with Wretch 32. What did you learn from being around those artists? Was there anything that you picked up from watching them perform?
Kyra: On the Wretch tour it was amazing to watch him because he really is a showman and a great performer and I think just being exposed to a new audience every single night is a great way to test out your material and see which songs work and which ones people like. That crowd reaction is a real honest opinion because they don’t know you at all, so you definitely sharpen your performance skills as well. Watching Wretch night after night, you saw how he really worked the crowd and brought so much energy to the stage so it was a priceless experience; such an amazing learning curve as an artist.
MT: If you were to join someone on tour who is currently out doing their thing, who would you like to be on tour with?
Kyra: For me touring is all about live music, live bands and stuff, but then again at the same time I really like what MNEK is bringing to the scene with Gorgon City where it’s a mix of good beats with a live sound to it as well. Even someone like Rudimental with the live horn element to what they do cos the vibe on stage is just electric, so that would be really cool!
MT: You’ve got an EP due out titled Bandages. The lead single, also titled ‘Bandages’, came out of the tragic loss of your brother. So how did you go about writing that song in terms of using those thoughts and feelings you had at the time, because some people may have found that too difficult to put into words?
Kyra: Well when I actually wrote ‘Bandages’, my brother was still alive so I just went in the studio with Maiday and Fred Cox and said “this is what’s going on with my life and I wanna write a song about it”. I think my thought was that I wanted to write something for my brother because the best studio sessions are when things come from your real life experiences. At the time it was just a song that really I played for family and friends and after he passed away people always said to me “we wanna hear Bandages” so I always had the intention of putting it out there because a lot of people said that it was quite comforting to them. So I think it’s just a song that people can relate to through loss as everyone knows someone that they’ve lost. So I’m quite open with it and I always talk about my brother. Death is not a dirty word; it’s one of those taboo subjects, a bit like mental illness, that people don’t know how to approach so I’m quite happy that I could do something positive with the situation.
MT: In terms of the other tracks on the EP, have you got a particular favourite?
Kyra: Well ‘Bandages’ is gonna be my favourite, just for obvious reasons, but ‘Ell Oh Vee Eeh’ was written at a really fun time in life and is just so funky so I really do like that one. I was in a writing camp in Birmingham and it was just a couple of days spent jamming so I love the creation of that song because it was really really organic the way it came about. The rest of the songs on the EP really echo the same pop/soul live element but I’d say ‘Ell Oh Vee Eeh’ was my fave.
MT: You mentioned working with Maiday and Fred Cox who have worked with the likes of Girls Aloud, MNEK and Leona Lewis. So how did you get involved with those sorts of writers?
Kyra: Well you know how it goes, management put you in touch with people and you have a session, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. The three of us together seemed to be quite a good combination but Maiday is an incredible writer so I’m blessed that she was in that session at that time.
MT: You talked about growing up in a house full of good music but were there any specific artists who inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Kyra: Randy Crawford. I just listen to how she vocals and how she sings and I learnt a lot from her. A lot of my vocal lessons were in my bedroom singing to Faith Evans and Destiny’s Child albums, just mimicking and imitating what they did. So I’d say vocally the likes of Lauren Hill, Amy Winehouse’s Frank album, were kind of more up to date female influences on me. I used to just listen to them repeatedly!
MT: So you’ve got a wide ranging interest in music across the ages from some older stuff right up to recent releases.
Kyra: I’d say musically Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson; I love the groove of that music and then vocally I love some contemporary singers like Beyonce, Janelle Monae so it’s kind of a blend of old and new.
MT: Is there an artist or band that you listen to who people wouldn’t necessarily expect you to be a fan of?
Kyra: Yes. I’m actually a massive fan of Olivia Newton-John which is so random and also ELO! One of my favourite films is Xanadu which is the film Olivia Newton John did after Grease and it got slated by critics as they thought it was really cheesy but I absolutely love it! She’s on roller skates and in the film she’s called Kira, so I always thought that was me, even though she’s white with blonde hair. So yeah I’m a little bit obsessed with her, which is quite weird really!
MT: Whilst Olivia Newton-John is pretty old school, are there any current artists in the scene who you are enjoying and would like to work with?
Kyra: Well I love what Etta Bond is doing, I think she’s really cool. I think it’d be great to do a writing session with MNEK cos I think he’s awesome. Wouldn’t mind a little duet with Calvin Harris, that’d be quite cool! I love the garage stuff too and there are some cool producers called Toyboy and Robin that I’ve just done a session with; they’re a kind of housey/garagey duo. I just think there are so many people doing their own thing that it’s quite nice to dip in and collab.
MT: With regard to your live performances, where can people catch you performing next?
Kyra: I’ve got a couple of exciting live dates coming up. I’m playing an event called ‘The Come Up’ at the Notting Hill Arts Club on 13th November 2014 and I’m actually doing an iluvlive in Brighton on 18th November 2014. That’ll be good so I can get out of London and meet some more music lovers. December we are yet to see but it’s kind of winding down towards the end of the year.
MT: What can we expect to come from you and what are you hoping to achieve in 2015?
Kyra: I definitely want to put out a few more bodies of work in the form of a couple of EP’s. I’m currently working on another EP actually. It’s not a change in sound but it’s definitely a refinement. I’m loving some throwback R&B at the moment so I’m just experimenting with some ideas at the moment. I wanna do more live dates too. I’d like to do a mini tour and get some labels on side. The idea is to always push out music with as much support from the team as I can, so whether that be a smaller label or a major, just anyone that’s loving the vision and wants to be part of the team.
You can keep up to date with all the latest music and news from Kyra via Twitter and Facebook and make sure you get all the info for her upcoming show at Notting Hill Arts Club here and tickets for her iuvlive show in Brighton here.