After cultivating a sizeable audience through a series of covers and releasing her debut single in 2017, singer-songwriter Kayla Thompson has established herself as a true wordsmith, joining potent melodies and moving lyrics across her music.
Born in Boston to a musical household, she was later raised in North Carolina where she discovered singing and songwriting as a vehicle of self-expression and way to showcase her vocal prowess. After songs like “Hold on to My Hand” and “Whirlwind,” Kayla released her debut EP, 1961, helming fan favorites such as “Can’t Help Falling In Love” among others. She eventually followed up with a string of singles that display the growth in not only her musical journey but her personal life as well. Records like 2019’s “Deep Breath,” and more recently, this year’s “Younger” position her as one of the indie pop’s most exciting acts to watch.
Today, Kayla releases the acoustic iteration of her single “The Remains,” accentuated by acoustic instrumentals that glow while her dynamic vocals grace the listeners’ ears. The record arrives weeks removed from the song’s original release, which was also accompanied by a visual effort the singer shot in Malibu. “Deciding to strip down the production was easy because the original draft of this song was like an acoustic ballad,” she states. “I think it’s just an easy listen and it’s very calming without the beat and some of the other elements that made it super pop.”
To celebrate the release, we chat with the songstress in regards to her introduction to music, songwriting, and more. Expect more from Kayla Thompson later this year and listen to “The Remains” acoustic version below.
Let’s start at the top, when and how did you initially get introduced to music—when did the idea of making songs of your own come to fruition?
I sort of accidentally started doing music. I grew up around musicians and performers in my family but out of fear, I didn’t pursue it myself. Then on summer vacation, at 18, I started singing a melody and lyrics to myself and realized I made it up on the spot. It was almost an entire half of a song and I surprised myself. I sent it to my uncle who is a songwriter and he was like “Kayla this is good! When did you start writing songs?” And from there I started taking it seriously.
Over the years, you’ve received a lot of positive responses from your covers, what led you to start there and how has it informed some of your original songs, if at all?
Thank you for saying that! I started doing covers because I wanted to build somewhat of a fanbase. I saw other upcoming artists getting a lot of traction that way, so I thought I would try it myself. And I think the covers I like to play are usually in the same style as my songwriting so I think the people who started following me for my covers ended up liking my original music.
There’s such a beautiful vulnerability threaded throughout your music. What is your songwriting process like, and furthermore, what experiences or emotions or easiest to translate into songs?
Oh wow, thanks! It can start in so many different ways. Usually, I start with the melody on guitar and I find that it has an emotion attached to it and I’ll follow that. I’ll ask myself what it feels like and start putting content to the melody. I really love storytelling and so I like building an arc for the song by putting whoever is listening into the story.
I think writing songs that are very relatable is really important. I want to write about personal experiences and feelings I’ve had. Usually, those are sad or negative feelings, which unfortunately a lot of people can connect with. But writing about how I got through those situations can help people feel less alone and also give them hope.
From writing the song to making the lyric video, what was the inspiration behind “The Remains”?
My friend sent me the idea and it was originally about getting broken up with, but I switched the narrative around. “The Remains” is about ending a relationship because you know it’s the best thing for you and the residual feelings. I filmed the lyric video on a gloomy day in Malibu just on my iPhone and by myself. It was meant to reflect the loneliness and borderline regret you can feel after a breakup.
In regards to the acoustic iteration of the song, what made this particular record fitting to strip down?
Deciding to strip down the production was easy because the original draft of this song was like an acoustic ballad. I think it’s just an easy listen and it’s very calming without the beat and some of the other elements that made it super pop. The stacked vocals and simple production kind of wrap around you when you listen and the lyrics really bring you into the story.
Considering everything you’ve learned over the years both musically and personally, what advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to not force anything and just love the journey of music and life! When I first started pursuing music, I had a lot of expectations for myself and my music career and when I didn’t meet them, I would get so down on myself as if I had control over everything. I would tell myself to let go of control, don’t force anything, and also realize putting out music is for others not just for you.
Beyond this current record, what are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?
I have more music in the queue, so hopefully more releases are coming soon after this one. And I’m just looking forward to continuing to put myself out there musically and on social media and hopefully others will follow what I’m doing.
Elsewhere in music, queer pop singer Layke is back and more empowered than ever.