Hi Layla, tell us about yourself?
I’m Layla, and I’m a music artist based in Honolulu, Hawaii. I’ve been singing since I was four when my family got a karaoke machine. My favourite songs back then were by Madonna and other 80s acts like Roxette (though the song, ‘It must have been love’ seems a bit heavy for a six-year-old to be singing!) I don’t have one of those big powerful diva voices, like Mariah Carey. Often I’ve been told I have a bedroom voice. Which is great because my music is very much geared for the bedroom – it’s calming, sensual, and moody. While some people might call it sleepytime music, I like that because to me it means that I’m able to help others feel relaxed through music, which is really important during crazy times like the ones we’re living in right now.
What is your songwriting process?
I started writing poems when I was about nine years old, and then I started learning how to play the guitar when I was twelve. Then I realized that you could combine words and chords together, which was like the combined magic of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! I’ve been writing songs, basically the same way since I was a teenager. I have an idea of what I want to say – usually provoked by an occurrence or a person (usually a boy), then I come up with a chord progression and go from there. Usually, my best songs are effortless to write, so I try to get myself in a mental and emotional space where I am in that creative zone. It’s interesting to see how my writing has changed over the years, but how my style has overall stayed the same.
Tell us about your latest release?
‘In Memory of You’ is a collection of songs I have written in the past decade, dedicated to my exes. The tracks on the album are also listed in chronological order, so listeners can hear how my sound has developed over time. I came up with releasing this collection during my COVID-19 quarantine since all this time alone has made me super introspective about various aspects of my life. The album was released during Memorial Day weekend this year (2020), which I thought was fitting because that’s the time where we honour our fallen soldiers. This album was to honour those relationships because I am a better person because of them.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
Some people assume that because I put together an album about my exes, that it would be full of Kelly Clarkson-type ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ kind of songs (LOL). But the album wasn’t meant to be vengeful at all; rather a demonstration of gratitude for all the lessons I’ve learned through these different relationships. In fact, a music reviewer quipped, “What’s great about the album is that while the songs are about her exes, she doesn’t come across as particularly bitter.” – I find that a compliment!
Who are your musical influences?
I would say musically; I’m influenced by a lot of different acts: Sade, Depeche Mode, Bebel Gilberto, Mazzy Star, The Sundays, Air, Massive Attack, Portishead, Nouvelle Vague, Erykah Badu, Lily Allen, & anything from Montreal.
Who are your non-musical influences?
I love Patti Smith – she’s a rocker but also a fantastic writer. (If you haven’t read Just Kids, start immediately!) I’m also a big fan of Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), and other kick-ass women pushing against the status quo in politics.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
That’s a tough one. It’s interesting because while living in Los Angeles, I got to perform in all the spots that you’re ‘supposed’ to play at – The Viper Room, the House of Blues, Whiskey-A-Go-Go, etc. But my favourite shows have always been very intimate ones. My ‘homebase’ over the past decade has been Bar Lubitsch, this speakeasy bar with a secret performance room in the back, nestled in the Russian neighbourhood of West Hollywood. I’ve performed there for over a decade now, and every time I do, I get to see friends I haven’t seen in a while. But if I had to pick, I think my best gig would be at my apartment loft in Santa Monica. I squeezed in around 50 people and did an acoustic set! Here’s a clip from that show;
What is your funniest gig moment?
My band was performing at the Palos Verdes street fair, in this huge tent. Except, right before we were going on stage, we were told that the tent was being repurposed as a viewing spot for the NBA playoffs since the Lakers were playing. So they had us perform while the playoffs were being shown on the big screen next to us. It was embarrassing and funny at the same time.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
I don’t really see obstacles today, but opportunities. We live in a time where anyone in the world can record their own music and distribute it themselves on Spotify, Pandora, and other channels. I’m particularly grateful to live in a time like this, especially because my music is not necessarily mainstream and I likely would not have had much luck back then impressing record labels with my sleepy music.
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Keep creating, and keep recording, even if your sound is still evolving. You might be surprised at what songs resonate with people, and it might take time. My song, ‘No Games’ is surprisingly attracting listeners now even though I released it almost five years ago. Each song you create is a learning experience that makes you better and better.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
I think the last decade has been well spent, honing my sound as an artist and experimenting with different things. Now, I hope to focus on becoming more connected to my listeners and providing them with more music and other things that add value to their lives. I’d love to do more intimate performances too – I love gigs like Sofar! More gigs, more music, more fun! That’s what being an artist is all about.
FV Music Blog July 2020
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