Alexis Rai interviews Kayla Ashlee about her music and the inspiration that fuels her.
Success Talk: Kayla Ashlee
Recording Artist & Songwriter
Born Kayla Ashlee Bodden in Queens, New York, she was blessed with an incredible talent to perform at an early age. Coming from a musical family, Kayla was surrounded by family members who passed on their gifts, from her aunts who sang to her father, who was a local MC that played old school hits from artist like Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, and Teena Marie around the house. She moved to Baltimore at age 3 and began to discover her own voice. Finding a fiery passion to sing that grew with each passing day, she continued her training attending performing arts schools. Soon after she began singing at weddings, and family events and later fell in love with musical theater. She starred in school plays such as Aida, Dreamgirls, Oliver Twist, and Some like it Hot which is where she really fell in love with the stage. She started writing her own music during her freshman year of high school and continues to write her music today.
Her upcoming EP entitled "Love Lessons", executive produced by P.E.B Rocks, will be released soon. The EP features standout tracks including her newest singles "YOU", " Wanted Us to Work", and "I Choose U".
Hi Kayla! Thank you so much for interviewing with me. How are you?
I am doing great. How are you?
I am amazing. I am super excited to hear more about what's going on with your music. You just released your new single "Wanted us to Work" which is amazing. I play it on repeat all the time. I play it for everyone.
You're welcome. I love it, I love it, I love it.
How does it feel to have your first single ever already playing on the radio?
It feels like a dream. Honestly, hearing myself on the radio, I wanted to cry because I have been waiting for that particular moment since I was a little girl. To share my music with everyone...it's the best feeling in the world.
What is one of your first memories of yourself singing or realizing that you wanted to be a singer?
After I saw the movie Sister Act 2, I really wanted to sing professionally. I knew that I could sing, I knew that I wanted to sing, and people would ask me to sing all the time. I would perform at family functions and things like that but I think after I saw that movie, I was like "You know what, I need to be up on that stage" (laughs) and then once I got on the stage, I knew that it was what I wanted to do.
I remember when we were little girls we would sing, dance, and put on shows. I already knew that this was your dream but it is so cool to see it coming to fruition in the way that it is.
How long had "Wanted Us to Work" been released before it was played on the radio for the first time?
I didn't release "Wanted Us to Work" as a single at first. When I traveled to the DMV [DC, MD, VA], I did a radio interview with 95.5, which is the hottest radio station in DC, and at first, my single was going to be the song called "YOU" that's on my upcoming EP "Love Lessons". The next day, I had a listening party and everyone wanted me to replay "Wanted Us to Work" so I decided to change it up and switch the single [releasing online]. "YOU" is still playing on the radio out there. "Wanted Us to Work" is getting more of a buzz via social media. It's on Tidal, YouTube, any platform that you can think of. I got such a good response after releasing it, I was happy that I made the change.
That's so cool. So "YOU" is on the radio right now and "Wanted Us to Work" is live on all music streaming services which is SUPER DOPE. How long have both singles been released for?
It feels like forever but it's only been a month. I released "Wanted Us to Work" on October 13. It was Friday the 13th and my dad was like, "That's an unlucky day, you shouldn't release your song on that day," and I don't believe in luck and stuff like that. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't.
What's the overall message that you intend for your music to relay to your fans and listeners?
The overall message is to love yourself first. This EP, in general, is talking about being in love with people, breakups, and the ups and downs of relationships. The overall message is the lessons and the lesson to me is to love yourself first.
Self-love is most important.
How would you describe your brand as an entertainer?
I would describe my brand as "a girl from Baltimore with a dream". I am a mom, I am hustling, I still work. My brand represents the everyday grind, pretty much.
What's the inspiration for your upcoming EP?
I had a really bad breakup and it took that break up for me to look in the mirror and ask myself "What the fuck am I doing?" Then, the next day, once the fog cleared, I just started writing.
Breakups will definitely wake you up. Breakup-wake up, okay?! (laughs)
YES, that's for sure.
What's the best part about being a recording artist?
It's therapy for me, just being in the studio. Because I write my own songs, its better for me. I can connect with my music better than if it were someone else's words because it's actually coming from my experience, it's coming from my heart. I have a connection to all of my songs. All of the songs on "Love Lessons" EP, I wrote so they are like my babies.
Do you see yourself writing for any other recording artists?
That is definitely one of my major goals. I like writing just as much as I like singing and I do it pretty much every day. I have a list of songs on my phone. Even when I am at work and I get an idea in my head, I write it down so that I don't forget it. If I am in the car and I say some shit and it rhymes, I write it down so I can add to it later on down the line.
Notes, phone notes especially, come in handy. I am always writing notes to remind myself of something.
What are three things that you do every day to ensure your success?
Write. I sing every day so that I don't lose it. Just like any instrument-your voice is an instrument- if you don't practice, if you don't use it, you'll lose it. So whether it's in the shower or in the car, I'm always singing. The third thing is praying. You have to pray. You can't really have success without God. God is where it is, where it comes from.
You grew up in the entertainment industry. What has been the most magical moment that you have experienced involving other artists and celebrities?
Growing up in the entertainment industry, you know certain celebrities and then other celebrities, they end up being your close family so they're not really celebrities to you. You don't really look for fame, fame is all around. You come to realize famous people are just people like everyone else. I think when I met Nas for the first time, I was really really shy and when I met Jay-Z, it was a highlight of my entire life.
Uh, yes, Jigga Man, Hello! (laughs)
How adorable is Young Kayla and Jay-Z?!
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
I love Anita Baker. I grew up listening to Anita Baker and Teena Marie. I mean, who doesn't love Beyoncé?
Right. It's unspoken but EVERYONE loves Beyoncé. Even people that say they hate her, they love her.
Right. They still have to. If you don't love her, you have to respect her. She motivates me. I always ask myself "What would Beyoncé do?" especially when I am tired.
Who is your favorite artist of all time?
Probably Anita [Baker]. Anita. Sade. Those two kinda hit my soul. Sade always kept it classy. The tone of her voice. She has such a class about her that I try to implement in my style now. Anita Baker, the things that she spoke about and sang about, I can definitely relate to. 30 years later.
They are both exemplary women and artists. Their voices are unique and extremely beautiful.
What is your favorite song currently?
My favorite song currently is "Rockstar" by Post Malone.
Okay, I need to listen to that.
If you could collaborate with any artist right now, who would it be?
It would probably be Chris Brown.
YES! I see that for you so much. I think about it all the time. I am so happy that you said that because it means that my energy is going to the right place. I live for Chris Brown. Even though his content is sometimes very racy, he just sings it so well, I have to sing the song with him. He's super talented. He writes [music], he sings, he draws, he dances, he produces, he acts. I love Chris Brown and I would love for you two to get on a track together. I think it would be the DOPEST. He loves teaming up with female artists. I only listen to you and Chris Brown.
That's so funny!
What's your next single titled, when can expect it, and where can we find it?
I am unsure about the next single but you will be able to find it on all major platforms. I am on Tidal, Google Play, Amazon Music, Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. I have a videoes out for "Wanted Us to Work" and "I Choose U" on YouTube, Vevo, and WorldStar.
Fabulous. Thank you so much for interviewing with me. It's been such an honor to speak with you about your music and your brand. I look forward to the magical things that you have coming for us. I know I will be interviewing you again very soon. Best of luck in everything that you are working on.
Enjoyed the article? Do you know someone successful that I should interview next? Let me know! Send your comments and questions! Thank you for reading.
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