Mira Van Lierop

14 Jun
Music

Willow Kayne: “I Still Am a Bit Shocked That People Think I Can Do Music”

Originally from Bristol, London-based graphic artist and rapper Willow Kayne draws her inspiration from fashion design giant Nigo and production mastermind Pharell, making her one of the UK’s most genre-blurring pop provocateurs. Not to mention, the 19-year-old is the newest signing to Tap Management, the same management as Dua Lipa and Lana Del Rey, so you know she’s got the talent. We were lucky enough to have a chat with her about her first single “Two Seater”, feeling confident, and her upcoming EP.

How would you introduce yourself to someone who isn’t familiar with who Willow Kayne is?

The main thing I would tell people is I am a writer. I don’t think I’m the craziest singer, but I like to mix it up. I sing, spit, write—everything. It’s a mixture of genres. If you’re asking about genres, I have no idea how I would answer it. I like to combine different areas; I like alternative.

You released your first single “Two Seater” a couple of weeks ago. Was it scary to put out your first song?

It wasn’t, actually. I thought I would be scared but not at all. I’d been working for almost a year—getting ready to release something, so when it came out, I was more than ready for it. I had a lot of time to prepare but definitely wasn’t ready for other things, though, like the reactions. (laughs)

“Two Seater” is your first single, your first introduction of yourself to other people. Why is it the best song for you to introduce yourself?

That song is a whole mixture of things. I hadn’t really heard anything out like that song, so I felt like it was a good start to come into the music world. It combines a lot of genres, which I thought would be good to reel different people in for the first time.

You come across as very confident in the song because the lyrics are quite confident. Are you very confident in real life as well?

I think I’m definitely very confident in my character so that’s kind of the important thing to me anyway. On the music side, I feel like I can just say what I want to say. (laughs) I’m a pretty confident character; I think the music correlates with that pretty well.

What makes you comfortable enough to be so confident? Is it the people you work with, or is it the people you surround yourself with? What gives you the confidence to be yourself?

I think it does come from people who you are around. There’s a quote, “The five people you surround yourself with the most represent you as a person,” and I stick by that. That’s very true. You have to be around the right people—yeah, it definitely comes down to the right people. 

I was working with a lot of people who I don’t think were bringing out that side of me. I have to be pretty comfortable with the person who I’m working with to be able to bring myself out in the music like that, otherwise, I end up writing, “I love you,” like a little song. So yeah, definitely the people.

Your sound is super eclectic, which I love. So what kind of genres or artists are on the top of your playlist right now?

The music I listened to the most is nothing really like the music I make. I love old-soul music and funk music, which has no correlation to my stuff at all. I like The Jones Girls; I like Denzel Curry: the list goes on, but a complete mixture of genres. Maybe not country and maybe not heavy metal, but that’s okay. (laughs)

Before you had a record deal, you put music on SoundCloud. How important was that in your evolution as an artist?

Oh my god, it was everything. If I hadn’t been doing that as a little hobby, I never would have even been doing music as a career. I always loved it, and I liked writing songs, but I was studying graphics. I like them equally, but the SoundCloud stuff, I didn’t even tell anyone when I was posting it at first because I was using Apple headphones; it was terrible. 

If I hadn’t posted it, no one would have found me—even kids in the smaller scene wouldn’t have found me. I do owe everything to SoundCloud. I didn’t know that I could do music as a career—it was a shock when people started showing interest. It was a very personal thing to be on; I wasn’t posting it for anyone else.

Is it still weird to have these personal songs out there for others to hear?

It used to be. I used to be pretty vulnerable with it in the sense of like—it’s kind of exposing myself. I’ve never been very good at showing my persona online. I wouldn’t really share my feelings online, but then that kind of changed. Even back on SoundCloud, I would get messages, or after shows, people come up to me and yell, “I relate to every word of that song!” and we would have had completely different situations. It would completely relate to them. I loved that, so that was encouraging me to carry on in a personal—yeah, it’s just a matter of someone else can relate to it in a completely different situation, which is cool.

And now you have an amazing team around you with, for example, Tap Management, the same management team that is behind Dua Lipa and Lana Del Rey. Is it comforting you that these people believe in you, or is it also quite stressful because you feel like you have to prove yourself?

No, no. (laughs) Realistically, I don’t make music like them, so I never felt like I wouldn’t get any attention because of them at all because I’m not in that world. I’m not trying to be in that world, so no, not really. I’m flattered to be with Tap; they’re a great management. I still am a bit shocked that people think I can do music. (laughs)

 

You are currently working on your first EP; what are you planning for the release and the upcoming months? What can people expect from you after the release of your second single?

I think I’m going to feed out maybe three singles and then drop the EP. I feel like it would be weird if I just jumped in with an album straight away. Yeah, three singles, and then the project will come out at the end of this year, I’m very sure, which I’m really looking forward to because there are some bangers on that. (laughs)

Is there something specific you want to tell about yourself on the EP?

This whole project revolves around the social changes that I’ve had to go through since coming into this whole new world, so it is very personal. But, as I said, people can relate to these songs, so it’s not like, “I signed a record deal, and then this happened.” It’s like changing and having to leave certain friendship groups because we’re just changing. It all revolves around that. I guess it is pretty personal.

And I’ve read that you wanted to create a multi-sensory experience because you’ve had an accident and were blinded in one eye. What do you mean by a multi-sensory experience?

Oh my gosh, everyone’s excited about this idea. It’s just like a random one in my notebook. I really wanted to do this for a long time but, when I was fifteen, I got like a cyst on my eyes— yeah, some terrible things happened on my eye—and it left me blinded. It was really weird being in the darkness like that. A lot of my other senses kind of enhanced if that makes sense. I was noticing different things in my favorite songs. It’s really weird; everything got affected by taking one of the senses.

So I think it would be a cool idea for one of my projects or shows to do a multi-sensory thing. For example, each song has a different smell that gets released to go with it and different colors, so if you smelled it, you’d think of a song, or if you heard the song, you would think of the color, you know what I mean? Kind of join it together. Because with my songs anyway—I’m sure other people will have this—but each song in my head has a color. I think it’ll be cool to link them together because that’s like a personal thing to me. I mean I’d love to go to a show where that happens, so if I can do it for other people that would be sick.

Yeah, I think it’s an amazing idea to have. It might be a very cool and new way of experiencing music.

Yeah, for sure, and if I did this for a project and release finals or CDs or whatever, they could be scratch and sniff of the smell.

Photo credits: Reece Owen
Interview: Maxim Meyer-Horn

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