SHE MAY be 24-years-old, but UK songstress Kyra’s musical taste could easily be mistaken for someone twice her age.
To such an extent that when she was offered the chance to perform with any musical act in the industry, she chose Eighties crooner, Alexander O’Neal. She laughs when I question her about her interesting choice.
“Yeah, wow you went right back in the notes,” she says, obviously surprised at the depths of my investigative work. She explains: “A few years ago, BBC 1Xtra invited me to be part of their Electric Proms and they basically said I could chose who I wanted to work with and they would try and make it happen. I went for the throwback artist, rather than the modern day artist. We got together in the studio, wrote a song called Hello and recorded it. It was a really good.
“If I had it my way, I would do a straight soul album, real throwback stuff, but sometimes it’s what’s digestible for other people as well. I really love soul music; Earth Wind and Fire, Fatback band. Admittedly, I don’t really listen to large amounts of modern music. When I’m at home, I put on a throwback Bobby Womack track.”
That’s Kyra in a nutshell. Although she has all the fittings of a modern-day pop star; the looks, voice and bubbly personality, she is deeply-rooted in genres past. Something, she says, she owes to her musical father.
“My dad plays the bass and I was brought up on rare groove and soul. My brothers, sister and I were always singing and dancing to something. There has never been a music-free day in my house.”
And if you listen to her music, you can hear these soulful elements littered throughout her body of work, which includes debut track Good Love, hailed as the summer anthem of 2012 by Choice FM and new single Next Year, a light-hearted take on the woes of making resolutions.
“I say everything has an element of soul in what I do. Definitely some reggae influences in there and some pop. With songs like Next Year, people say they can relate to them. That’s what I write about, I write about my life experiences.”
When I catch up with Kyra, she’s on a week-long writing course Birmingham. A trip, she says, is helping her “refine her sound.”
“I think the importance of this week has actually been great for me in terms of refining my sound. I feel like I have about five albums in me right now.
“I write everything, but I definitely co-write with other people as well. I’m very, very involved with the whole creative process, the sounds I want to hear and lots of other stuff. When I go into the studio, I will literally just vibe. Melodies, words, and concepts just come to me.”
Kyra started taking music seriously when she finished secondary school. She travelled to LA, New York and Atlanta to write and record with the likes of Bei Major (Tinie Tempah, Keri Hilson) and Mike Kalombo (So So Def), among others.
“It really honed my writing skills. The Americans are really great with a pen. They have this amazing work ethic. It showed me that you’re one of many. The person that is cleaning the bins is an amazing vocalist.”
Has it been easy breaking into the industry despite her wealth of experience?
“It’s quite a weird one because for me, I don’t feel like I’ve been trying to break. I actually just feel like I’ve been living, singing and developing. People say, ‘you’ve been singing for a while, why haven’t you been signed?’ I don’t really see it like that. It’s not about your talent, it’s about who is around you, the right timing and the right music.”
Up until late last year, the singer was managed by XYZee, the name behind UK rapper Wretch 32, George The Poet and singer Jacob Banks, but in a “YV exclusive” (her words, not mine), they parted ways in September.
“Sometimes things don’t work out,” she says, “It was amicable. Obviously there were things that didn’t work out between us, but I still see the guys and I support them fully. Working with Wretch 32 and Zeon (founder of XYZee) was fantastic, but sometimes things don’t work out, it’s not always personal.
She did, however, support Wretch on a nationwide tour, an experience she lists as the highlight of 2012.
“It was a massive highlight. I can’t explain how amazing it was to be on stage every night in front of thousands and to actually have an audience responding to you and singing them back to you was awesome.”
Our conversation comes to an apt close with some advice for aspiring singers.
“Set yourself realistic goals that are attainable. It’s all good saying that you want to perform at Glastonbury, but have you even got a song? Don’t be scared to get out there and do it. I can’t explain how priceless it is to go out and perform, because that’s really where you are going to hone your skills. Every gig, whether there are two people or two thousand people, is a learning curve."
She adds: “Right now is such an amazing time for UK females. We have had the success of Emeli [Sandé], Adele and Jessie J, which is inspiring. You really have to come in with your own stamp. In some ways, you can view it as harder, but I actually view it as a positive. It makes me want to be even better.”
Next Year is scheduled for release on January 28. For more information, visit: www.mynameiskyra.com