Interviews 18 September 2017
Author: Rebecca Rose

GRM Exclusive: Kyla talks new single, Drake & wanting to work with Stormzy

18 September 2017

We sat down with Kyla, singer of 2009’s funky house anthem “Do You Mind” which, as we all know, was given a new lease of life for Drake’s 2016 release “One Dance”, which just so happened to chart at number one in 92 countries and then earned the title of the most streamed song of all time. 

Now she’s back with a new track featuring Popcaan titled “You Aint Mine”, and this time around she’s not going anywhere. We caught up with her the afternoon after the Mercury Music Awards for chat about the new single, life since “One Dance” and what’s next on the horizon:

: So Kyla , you were at the Mercury Awards last night and the video for “You Aint Mine” dropped today, pretty good week for you?

Kyla: “It’s been a really good few days! Well, it’s been a good few 18 months! A good life!”

GRM: Your new track features Popcaan, you guys have worked together before on the Naughty Boy track “Should’ve Been Me”, how did you guys reconnect for this tune?

Kyla: “You know what, I just felt like I wanted to play him some of my new material I’d been working on, so my manager approached him and asked if he wanted to hear some of my stuff and we played him “You Ain’t Mine”, not knowing at the time whether I was going to put it out as my first single from the album or not. I played him the track and he just he had to jump on it! You know when you’re making a cake and you’re missing that missing ingredient, he was just kind of like  it’s me that’s missing!

“I was introduced to him first off by Drake, and then we worked together on the Naughty Boy project so really this just felt like the natural step, I just said to him this is my project and I want you on it and he was quite happy to do it!”

: Let’s talk about the video, shot in Jamaica, it’s directed by Lil Internet, had you heard of him before as he’s worked with artists like Beyonce? 

“I had heard of him, I’d seen his music videos I should say and I was at first really hyped that he was possibly going to do my video. Then when he gave us the video treatment I was like this man is a genius. You know most people when they send over a video treatment it’s just a piece of paper with some drawings. But he gave me a video video treatment! He’d say there’s going to be smoke, then smoke would just come across the screen! I love him, you know his visuals are great and he’s so passionate. I would definitely like to work with him again just putting it out there!

GRM: “Obviously I need to touch on “One Dance”, your life in the past year must have changed significantly, a crazy amount! I know you’ve said in previous interviews you thought it was an April Fool’s joke when his team first got in touch, but was there a moment in all the craziness when you thought, oh this is actually real?”

Kyla: “There was actually a few moments when I thought, oh this is real. It was sort of pinnacle moments, so when I was walking down the red carpet at the AMA’S (American Music Awards) I think it’s when I saw Channel E, because I remember as a teenager watching them do the red carpet on TV, so when I walked passed them it was just woah. And then meeting stars who you think are untouchable, and they’re like “good going man, you’re doing really well, keep it up” and I’m like wow they know who I am, this is crazy. So it’s moments like that.

“When Drake bigged me up that was another moment, I was like woah, let me just pinch myself a little. Then he said my name (in his acceptance speech) and everyone turned around and looked at me in the building! I was like um heyyy!”

GRM: It was the number one selling single of 2016 in the UK! You should be so proud of this last year:

Kyla: “You know it’s so weird, I remember it being like you’re actually going to feature on a Drake track, which its amazing, and then it went to number one, then it started doing history I was like woah, this is more than I asked for! You have better chance of winning the lottery!”

GRM: I think that’s why people love your story so much, we were all there the first time when “Do You Mind” came out, all loved it and then it was just reinvented!

Kyla: “Do You Mind” was such a big track ten years ago I feel like I was given the blessing of that track then. I always told myself if I don’t do anything else in music, “Do You Mind” was an amazing thing, I met some amazing people, I travelled, then to come back around on the same song, it was really nice, I felt like this track is just a really good track that I have written and I’m a bit like woah, how did I do that? Well I kind of try and say that I did that the my husband goes “Um, I wrote that with you!” (laughs)

GRM: It’s a family affair! During the break you had between “Do You Mind” being released the first time and “One Dance” I know you did some other things, I know you were an ESL teacher, got married and had a baby, but did you always have it in the back of your head that you wanted to come back to music?

Kyla: “It was definitely always deep within me, I had meltdown moments, I was like I’m never going to bring out any more music, my husband was always saying stop being silly! But I feel like I was never meant to go away, I just feel like my life had a different plan at the time. I mean I got married, and that didn’t stop me, but having a baby did. I had the illness high premises gravidarum whilst pregnant, the only way I can explain it is that you’re sick every day but with normal morning sickness you feel a little bit sick and then you can eat something, or you’ll be sick then you’ll be fine, but with this it was constant 9 months of being sick, I just couldn’t stand on stage long enough. I was carrying a bucket around with me everywhere it just wasn’t nice.I think I was 6 ½ stone fully pregnant, I just wasn’t in a very healthy place. So the decision was made for me. Then after I had my little boy and the focus was on getting healthy, and also enjoying being a mum, but every now and then I felt like I needed to put out some music and my husband kept saying to me, that when it’s that time you’ll know, but  it’s not my time yet, then when “One Dance” came out he was like, ‘it’s your time now!’

“I feel like I need to write a book on it, my life at the time was going through some crazy stages, obviously when you stop working because you’re not very well, your income stops, financially I wasn’t in the right place, I just felt like I was being tested. I feel like life was like let’s see how you can handle this, and if you handle this well we’ll give you something, but then gave me the best gift ever. It’s just something you dream about”

GRM: It was an email right, how you originally found out about “One Dance”?

Kyla: It was an email! And it kept saying urgent but I thought um yeah i’ll get back to it soon, because some people say urgent but it’s not really urgent! My husband and his dad have the same name, and both do music, so they (Drake’s people) contacted my father-in-law instead of my husband. He then called me up and said I think you really need to make this call. I was all like, but what is it about? I’m nervous, am I in trouble?! So I made my husband call, then afterwards he was all  like GUESS WHAT, he said think big. I said how big, he said international big, I thought if I said Beyonce or Chris Brown or Drake he’d be like pshh, you are joking, so when he said Drake I thought yeah this isn’t going to happen.

GRM: And then it changed from him originally asking for the vocals as a sample, but then wanted you as a track feature?

“Yeah so basically I was contacted for a sample, and then when they played me the track I was like to my husband, because I always get nervous and ask him to ask for me, we need to ask for this and that, he told me not to worry that he would ask. Then when they played the full track on the phone, I could hear I was all over the song. Then afterwards, Future Prince who is Drake’s DJ was chatting away, he said Drake would just like to you know if you’d like to be a feature, I was just like, oh my god! So I feel like they asked me before I did them, which is so amazing.

“I asked him why (he used the vocals), when we were in South Africa, and he said I heard the song and I thought it was a brilliant song, it was in all of his playlists, which is just crazy. This is what I say to people now, never give up because you don’t know who is listening to your songs. I just feel like it was an honour, I just feel so humbled and blessed.”

GRM: Who were your musical influences growing up?

“I always say that growing up, I never had any underground platform to access so my music was very commercial. But my Dad would play me a lot of vinyls, a lot of Motown, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Dina Carroll and then I would say my girly side was Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, the powerhouses! I knew I wanted to be like them. I do just love the Motown era, I would love when you would hear a song, for instance by the Fugees, who I also love, and then my dad would get out Roberta Flack and school me on the original.

“So I feel like he’s proud. I didn’t know where my musical ability was from when I was younger. On my husband’s side his dad does music, it’s in his blood, but for me no one else in my family sings. So they were all like where’s Kyla getting this from? I used to think kids were born a blank canvas, but I feel like my dad introduced me and I took it from there.”

GRM: Moving forward, who would you like to work with?

“The list could actually go on and on, I’d love to work with Stormzy, I’d love to work with Chris Brown, I love Chris Brown, and some of the greats that aren’t even here!”

GRM: If you could bring someone back?

“It would be epic to work with someone like Whitney Houston! I was watching videos the other day of Britney Spears and Michael Jackson and I thought how epic must that have felt to work with him, but then I feel like that with Drake!

“Oh also J Hus! UK based Afro-beat artists would be amazing, the list could go on.”

: You just signed a publishing deal, congratulations! Tell me what’s next for 2017 and beyond?

Kyla: “Thank you! I’m just going to concentrate on this single, then l’ll bring out another single and then hopefully an album, but that wouldn’t be until next year, I’m just going to concentrate on bringing some songs out really.

“I feel like ten years ago I disappeared and I wasn’t ready to go, and it was hard to get my feet back in the door and keep the momentum going and so now I’m here, and I’m going to be in your face and you’re going to hear me, possibly get annoyed with me, but I’m here and I’m here to stay. You’re going to hear more from me!”

“You Aint Mine” is available now available to stream here.