Purple, rainbow, unicorns, sparkles and holographic stuff. Meet the colorful Brit Kyla La Grange.

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British singer Kyla La Grange has been compared to a lot of music greats since her album Ashes debuted in 2012 – Stevie Nicks, Belinda Carlisle, Shirley Manson, even Alanis Morrissette (in her earlier, edgier, more honest days, to be clear). Of course, it’s annoying to compare any musician to another, but I did it anyways just to get you a bit excited. When it comes to Kyla, you’re a getting a raw, colorful blend of Folk, Pop and Rock with powerhouse lyrics. La Grange has described her songwriting process as therapeutic… She never holds back from releasing whatever she’s feeling into her music, and as listeners, we’re thrilled with the results such an approach creates. SHK caught up with the songbird in celebration of her much anticipated single, “Cut Your Teeth” (which comes from her forthcoming album due out  late spring). — COURTNEY ISEMAN

SHK: YOU’VE SAID YOU MEASURE YOUR SUCCESS BY HOW PROUD YOU ARE OF THE SONGS ON YOUR ALBUM. THEY’VE CLEARLY WON OVER THOSE WHO LISTEN TO THEM. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THEM? HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN LISTENING TO YOUR OWN MUSIC? 

KYLA LA GRANGE: I’m not sure how I feel, I don’t really listen to my music once it has been mixed and mastered and finished up. I’m proud of a song if I feel like it successfully expressed what I felt while I was writing it, and for me the listening part comes while I’m writing or making the demo, mainly. Before I record something properly, I spend so long poring over the demo, making tweaks, changing lyrics and parts, so by the time I have a finally finished version, I kind of see it as a send-off, like I can finally put the song to bed. Plus, I’m usually pretty sick of listening to it by then. After that, the enjoyment, for me, is really just in playing the songs live, not listening to them.

HOW DOES MUSIC WRITTEN FROM A POINT OF DESPAIR FEEL ITS OWN SENSE OF POWER?

I guess maybe songwriters often write when they feel some kind of extreme of emotion, and perhaps sadness and despair are felt more keenly than happiness. Happiness can sometimes manifest itself in just a general feeling of well-being and satisfaction, which, even if it is extreme happiness, may not be so obvious to the person feeling it (until it is gone). For me, writing used to be very cathartic — I was pretty depressed when I wrote my first album, so all the songs on there were things I felt I needed to write, to work these issues through my head and spit them out. And I thought I would never be able to write anything if I was happy, because I never used to feel the need to write when I felt good. But then with this second album, everything changed; I felt pretty happy in my life but I still wanted to write. So I started looking backwards — to events in my childhood, teenhood, early adulthood, and the album became about what I saw as formative experiences.

When I was unhappy, all I could write about was being unhappy, but weirdly, being happy freed me up to write about so many more other things. I don’t necessarily think songs written from a point of despair are more powerful, at least not to the listener. But I would say, for me, at least, that songs written from a point of despair are a more powerful form of release for the writer. Writing my first album was a bit like therapy for myself, whereas this one was more like I was telling stories to other people.

YOUR MUSIC, BEING SUCH A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE FOR YOU, DID YOU EVER CONSIDER PERFORMING AND EVENTUALLY RECORDING BECOMING YOUR LIFE’S WORK?

Umm, I don’t know. It’s not something I’ve given very much thought to. I always just loved writing songs so I wanted a career in that if I could. And I’m not very good at networking and parties, so the showbizzy side of it has never really been my thing, but it’s so lovely when people tweet or write you messages saying they love your music and stuff; that’s always really nice to hear.

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ON THAT NOTE, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF FAME? AND, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF FEMALES WHO ARE LEADING THE MAINSTREAM AUDIENCE RIGHT NOW WITH OVER-THE-TOP ANTICS? 

I’m not sure what you mean by over the top antics, do you mean like doing things for the paparazzi and getting arrested and stuff? How come you just asked about females, are the men not doing over-the-top stuff too? (I hear Justin Bieber gets in a lot of trouble these days.) It kind of bugs me that there seem to be these double standards for men and women, like R-Kelly sexually abuses girls and the media barely bats an eyelid, but then Miley Cyrus wears a bikini and wants to act sexy and all hell breaks loose. I think if you are a mainstream pop star and you have a big personality and massive pop tunes, then you’re probably an extrovert to begin with.

I quite like it when musicians go a bit wild — they are entertainers, after all. I think if you’re making very commercial pop music, self-publicity can go hand-in-hand with that. I’m not saying those kinds of pop stars need to or should buy into that, and for sure there are plenty of people in the pop world who don’t court magazines and tabloids, but if you do choose to act like that and you got into music to be famous and you succeeded, then hats off to you, I guess. It’s not the route or world I’d choose, but for some people it’s all they ever wanted, for whatever reason, so they see it like a business plan. On the downside, I think I do find it sad that a lot of kids these days look to those people and just want to be famous above all else, rather than having a skill or being good at anything. But I think that’s a complex problem for society as a whole, rather than something to blame a few individuals for.

DO YOU HOPE LISTENERS WILL GET CERTAIN THINGS OUT OF CERTAIN SONGS? OR DO YOU THINK SONGWRITING IS TOO PERSONAL TO IMAGINE OUTSIDE REACTIONS? 

I used to hope that people would be moved by my songs, I guess because I was feeling so shit and miserable maybe I wanted to make other people feel shit and miserable too. Maybe! But now I feel very differently. I really didn’t think at all about what people might feel when listening to this album, because they were just stories and snapshots of memories. It was still very personal but with the detachment of hindsight — I wasn’t writing about emotions I was feeling at that very moment. I very rarely think about how people would react to a song while I am writing it.

ANY METHODS ON PERFORMING LIVE TO GET INTO A SORT OF ANTI-STAGE FRIGHT HEAD SPACE? 

I have a bit of whisky in some warm water, but I don’t know if it actually does anything, it’s probably just a placebo effect. I sometimes do get very nervous so I should probably find a better method.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE AS ANOTHER CHANNEL TO EXPRESS YOUR MOOD AND EMOTIONS? 

My personal style is a bit magpie — I like mixing pieces that shouldn’t really go together, and I love shiny, sparkly or holographic things. I just got this jacket that looks like fish scales, it’s made of this iridescent plastic stuff, and I would probably wear that with some kind of clashing pattern or a zillion necklaces. I don’t think I dress to channel emotions, though I do like wearing something bright if the weather is crap, kind of as an act of defiance.

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THAT’S COOL. SO DOES YOUR EVERYDAY LOOK DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU WEAR WHEN YOU PERFORM? ANY FAVORITE GO-TO DESIGNERS OR STORES?

If I’m just at home, I wear big old T-shirts and these baggy gold Aladdin trousers that should never see the light of day outside of my flat (they are not really acceptable for any social situation). I look a bit like a slightly bohemian teenage boy at these times. For gigs I like to feel a bit magical so I wear glitter and colourful prints, or something shiny, or occasionally even a dress. As for shops, I love Beyond Retro and vintage shops in general, I get very excited by them.

YOU’VE PROCLAIMED YOUR LOVE FOR BIG, SWELLING CHORUSES. WHY DO YOU THINK THEY HAVE SUCH A HUGE IMPACT? ANY SONGS THAT YOU PARTICULARLY THINK REALLY NAIL THE PERFECT, HEART-POUNDING CHORUS?

I think it was because when I was young I got these two records from a charity shop on vinyl: Total Eclipse of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler, and China in Your Hand by T’Pau. My parents had a record player and I just listened to those two songs over and over and over. I used to make up dances to them in our living room on my own. To me, they were perfect (and still are) and I just loved the sense of release I got from singing along to a massive, loud, emotional chorus. Around that time, I was dealing with a bunch of stuff that made me unhappy, so to belt out “AND I NEED YOU NOW TONIGHT” to an audience of no one made me feel a lot better, maybe because I could pretend to be somebody super confident and strong.

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