If there is one rising singer/songwriter you need to have on your radar right now, it is Kayla Thompson. Trust us when we say you will be playing her tracks on repeat, pretty much 24/7 (that may or may not be a confession of what we’ve been doing lately…!).
Twenty-six-year old Kayla Thompson was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts and later moved to North Carolina where she currently lives with her family. Being raised in generations of singers, songwriters, and musicians, music was always a fundamental building block of her life. In 2015, she recognized her inherited gift of songwriting and shortly after decided to defer from college to pursue music full-time. She began putting out covers on her YouTube channel and Instagram page where she gained more traction.
In 2017, she released her first original song, ‘Hold on to My Hand’, and in 2019, she became the most vulnerable she’s ever been in her music, releasing ‘Deep Breath’—a piece sharing her personal struggle and triumph over anxiety. With each release since her sound has evolved along with her growing fanbase. This remains true for her latest single ‘Younger’ which gained more streams than any other single in the first week alone, and has been placed on multiple Spotify editorial playlists.
Her most recent release is the single ‘The Remains’ which reminisces on a summer romance that came to a heart-wrenching end with the shift of the seasons. This track is for anyone who’s ever had to say a difficult goodbye; it is a chance to get lost in the music and embrace moving on from heartbreak.
Kayla is not only an outstanding artist, but she is also a passionate advocate to uplift other black creatives; she recently partnered with American Eagle during Black History Month as a featured artist and is a board member of Projects of Hope which builds relationships with schools in Kenya and completes self-sustainable projects that benefit the schools.
We had the opportunity to grab a few moments with the songstress to talk music, philanthropy, heartbreak, and supporting other artists of color in the music industry.
Congrats on the release of ‘The Remains’, which we cannot get enough of! How does it feel to have your music out there in the world?
I am so glad you guys enjoy it! It’s odd to say I guess but I genuinely like the song a lot and so it’s been cool to hear that other people like it too.
What is the story or inspiration behind the song?
Whew, well I have been in a couple relationships that weren’t right or that frankly weren’t healthy. I knew I had to step away from them but right after I would miss that person or miss just being in a relationship at all. So the song is about the tension between those two places. At the end of the day I chose being alone and ended up being better for it, but often think of “the remains” of those relationships.
You recently partnered with American Eagle during Black History Month as a featured artist. Can you tell is what this partnership meant to you?
That was such a great opportunity for me. I was able to speak about what Black History Month means to me, what being an independent artist means to me as a black woman means to me, and even offered advice. I am very proud of being Black so getting to share my perspective in the hopes of enlightening a person was huge.
You are also passionate about uplifting other Black creatives. Can you share more about this, and other artists/creatives/musicians we should be paying attention to right now?
I am very passionate about that, mainly because I am Black but also because the genre of music I do is indie pop and alternative music. I think most Black musicians get put in this box of R&B/Soul simply because they’re Black. When we enter into spaces where there aren’t many of us, it can feel a little isolating. So it’s comforting when other people of color are pursuing the same thing you are. Amber Ais is a Black girl doing awesome pop music who recently went viral on TikTok about being Black and in Pop! Cecily is a Black singer-songwriter with the smoothest voice and brings so much light. Arlo Parks is an established indie artist and also happens to be a beautiful Black woman!
Who were your musical inspirations growing up, and who did you look to know being a musician was the career path you wanted to pursue?
Growing up, James Taylor was the first artist that made me recognize songwriting, but ultimately Tori Kelly was the artist who inspired me to do this thing. I saw Tori in concert and she was just so herself, sharing her gifts and her songs but she was breathing life into people not just singing. It’s hard to explain but when I left the concert I was like, “I wanna do that!”
We’ve also been playing your single ‘Younger’ on repeat. Basically any excuse to listen to your dreamy voice! Can you tell us what you wrote this song about?
I love that so much, thank you! ‘Younger’ is a song I wrote when I first started doing music which was really scary for me. It felt scary to be that vulnerable, and I had so many doubts and fears. When I was a kid I had so much freedom and I wanted to hone that again. I personally found that freedom in my faith in God and that’s where the chorus says “I know with you it gets easier to fall.”
Along with your music, you have a very philanthropic side. We’d love to learn more about your work with ‘Projects of Hope’. What does the organization do and how did you get involved?
Yes, absolutely! ‘Projects of Hope’ is an NGO that focuses around self-sustaining building projects at schools in rural parts of Kenya. We’ve built water reservoirs, dairy farms and gardens that all create revenue for the school. Along with the project, we also put on a camp with arts, health and PE. My mom is the founder and she wanted me to have these experiences and it has been influential in my life.
The music industry is still very white and male-dominated, although Black artists have, throughout history, been the backbone of almost every genre. Why is it important to you that more people listen to Black artists?
I couldn’t agree with you more! I recently learned that the song “Hound Dog,” famously known by Elvis, was originally released by Black artist Big Mama Thornton and it’s unfortunate that most people don’t even know who she is. It’s important for Black artists to be supported and recognized because in the past we haven’t or even worse we’ve been robbed of our original ideas.
What advice do you have for other young women, especially women of color, looking to break through in the music industry?
I am figuring it out myself, but the main thing I try to do is just be myself. I try my best not to compare myself to anyone else, or box myself in even with what other black artists are doing. Lastly, I would say to let go of what people think, you will attract the right people to yourself.
Watch the lyric video for ‘The Remains’ below: