Every great artist has a great producer by her side. For Kaya Stewart, Jamie Lidell came at the perfect time. At just 18 years old, the UK singer-songwriter comes heavily equipped with strong vocals that will have any newcomer wanting to know more. Having been in the industry long enough to know the ropes, it was meeting and working with Jamie in Nashville, Tennessee that brought a whole new spark to her artistry. Read more…
With her latest single “So Good,” Kaya touches on the ups and downs of a past relationship, reminding audiences that “when it’s good, well it’s so good.” As for the duo’s forthcoming project LIYA, the record serves as a perfect example of their synergy and ability to compliment each other’s style, sound, and lyrics.
For those who don’t know, who is Kaya Stewart?
I basically starting writing music when I was 13. I had this song that I wrote called “In Love With A Boy”, and it did really well on SoundCloud. I ended up signing with Warner Bros when I was 15. I had this run with them and had some great songs with them, but when I turned 18, I was like, “Okay, I want to change up my whole vibe. This isn’t who I am anymore.” Went to Nashville to start writing. Met with this producer, Jamie Lidell, and we just made a whole record.
Where do you fit in the realm of R&B/pop/hip-hop?
I grew up listening to Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo. A lot of soul music, which is where a lot of R&B music is stemmed from. My new record is super interesting because it has R&B and hip-hop influences, but it’s also really alternative. Even though it fits in R&B and hip-hop, it’s also kind of its own thing.
You’re from the UK, how does that play into your life and career?
The music is so different in Europe than it is out here. When I was in London, I grew up listening to a lot of grime music, like Skepta and SB.TV. I was so influenced by that when I was younger, even though that’s not what my music sounds like. A lot of my videos were made with a lot of my friends from London. We took a lot of influence from how they make those kind of R&B videos.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s super important. LA is a weird place, because there’s so many different genres in LA. There’s so many different things going on. Just finding your spot that you can fit into. Finding that group of people where it’s like “okay, these are the kind of places I want to be playing.”
You’ve been here for 12 years now. What’s your favorite part about that city?
Silverlake, downtown, Echo Park. When I first moved here, no one lived there. I feel like it’s coming up as such a cool and different place. It’s almost like I live in a new city. I can go over there when I used to never hang out over there, and find different spots all the time.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
When my first song came out on SoundCloud. When I first put it up and it started to get a lot of views. I mean, I put out stuff before, but then I was like, “Oh my god, this is hitting 100K views, then 200K views.” I started getting approached by labels. I was like “this is an actual thing,” and not just something I do.
What is your take on the music industry?
I think it’s really difficult. Honestly, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you just have to keep doing it. Because the industry can be so brutal. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks it’s not perfect. But I think as long as you’re not so focused on the fact that “I have to make it, I have to make it,” if you really love the project and that’s what you focus on, it will fall into place.
Bring us back to the moment you wanted to form LIYA.
I met Jamie through my real-estate agent. [laughs] I was looking for property in Nashville, and she was like, “You should work with my friend Jamie.” Normally, I would never do that. I looked him up, and he’s worked with some of my favorite artists. I was like, “Okay, I definitely have to go meet with this guy.” We met in his house, and started writing in his house. I ended up there for a month, and we made an entire record together. It was really cool. He loves R&B, loves soul music, which is so what this record feels like. We ended up just vibing together, and it worked.
The name of the project is called LIYA. What does that stand for?
LIYA is a combination of his last name and my first name. I’m Kaya, and he’s Jamie Lidell. We ended up forming LIYA to kind of start a new project basically.
What’s the dynamic in the studio?
It’s super chill. A lot of people like to write at night, but I’m a daytime person. We’ll literally start at 11am, write all day, and then we’ll go out and see a show or something in Nashville. Then I’d come back the next day after seeing the show and be like, “We have to do something like this.” It’s super, super chill.
What’s your relationship with singer and producer Jamie Lidell?
I mean, he’s great. There’s such a huge age difference between us. I’m 18, and he has a wife and a kid. I think the cool thing is that he’s a lot older and has a lot more experience. I’m really young, and there’s a lot of things we can teach each other. Because I’m listening to music that’s new that he hasn’t heard yet, and he’ll show me music from a long time ago that I’ve never heard. We’ll just kind of put that together.
Talk about the creation of “California.”
I just started dating this guy in Nashville. I wrote this song basically about how he was going to move to California, and I wanted him to move to California. But at the same time, I was trying to get out of California, because I lived here for 12 years. “California” was just a song about someone wanting to move to this incredible place. There’s so many amazing things about California, but I feel like when you grow up here, there’s a lot of times where you’re like, “I can’t wait to leave.” [laughs] Basically.
What’s your favorite part about the West Coast?
Honestly, I would have to say being close to the beach. Because I grew up going to the beach all the time. My family loves the beach. It’s so nice that I can literally just drive for 30 minutes and be at the beach, rather than just wishing I was there all the time.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
For me, I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always been a fan of music, but this music is something I feel like I’ve never heard before. It’s totally its own new style, and it’s really young sounding. All the stories in the writing are really, really young. Just something new and different, and exciting.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
Definitely just playing a lot bigger shows. I love playing on big stages, that live performing is my favorite thing. Just getting out there and starting to play bigger crowds, and reaching the people.
How important is social media for your career?
I personally hate social media. I think it’s so annoying and it’s so difficult, but it is a really great way to connect with fans. Share stuff that I’m doing, and share photos and ideas that I have. I love it in that aspect, but I feel like I try to stay off of it, because I hate being on it too much.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
When I was a lot younger, I met a really, really, really cool fan. This was when I first put my music out, I didn’t thinking anyone was listening to it. She was like, “Oh my god, I listen to your song every single day before I go to work.” Even though that was a small thing, for me, that was so crazy. Because I was writing this music in my room and just putting it up on SoundCloud. To think this is how someone starts their day, is with my song, was really dope.
3 things you need in the studio?
Coffee, I love coffee. A synth, I do all my music on a synthesizer. I’m obsessed with them. Last thing, probably food. I’m always eating in the studio, and making coffee and stuff.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
Usually writing. Because I do like to write during the day, I’m probably in a writing session most of the time. Then probably going out with my friends and seeing live music. That’s usually how my day goes. Lots of coffee in there too.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I can’t imagine myself doing anything but music. But if I wasn’t doing music, I feel like I’d be in cosmetology in some way. Because I’m so into my makeup and my hair on stage, and outfits, etc. I feel like I’d probably be doing stage makeup or hair, something like that.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
It would have to be a song called “Stick Around,” which is one of my songs. It’s really upbeat, and it’s fun. It gets everyone super excited every time I play it.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Lauryn Hill, for sure. Huge Lauryn Hill fan. Her album, and probably Bob Marley too.
I love Logic. I’m a huge Logic fan. I feel like if I ever had a feature on anything, I would love for it to be Logic. He’s my favorite. He’s so dope.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Kaya Stewart?
Honestly, if you just keep doing what you love, and keep sharing it and sticking to the thing that you really want to do, that’s when people are really going to love it. If you are super excited about it and you love it, that positivity will gravitate towards other people.