THIS is my second L.A.-based interview of this evening…
but concerning an artist very different to my previous interviewee, JoLivi. Kylie Hughes has just released the video for her new single, Take Me Anywhere. Working with producer Mike Shimshack; the two have created a song of immense depth and passion. Originally from Malibu, Hughes sourced from the laid-back vibes of home to create her first E.P. As she explains in this interview; there is not a hugely vibrant scene in Malibu: one has to traverse to Los Angeles to find more life and after-hours activity. In addition, I learn why Hughes came to be a songwriter and how important imagery is to her (and the music). She talks about how her nation is shaping up to life under President Trump; the musicians that influence her most and some local artists we should check out.
Hi Kylie. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey! Been pretty good. Had a pretty mellow weekend with a fun photo shoot in the middle, but overall, low-key.
For those new to your music can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi! I’m Kylie and I’m a singer-songwriter, strawberry-blonde (because the third thing is supposed to be creative). I’m a California native that cheats with Nashville from time to time. I like to make music for everyone that’s autobiographical, accessible for everyone’s taste in music but has a ‘Pop’ sensibility. I like to be sarcastic and playful but can also be serious… if I must 😉
You are from Malibu, California. I know L.A. (especially) has a rich and varied music scene. What is the vibe like in Malibu and how does it differ to other parts of California?
The “Music Scene” in Malibu is growing but mostly underground.
There are not a lot of venues or instances to go out in Malibu and see good music. Malibu is very much a sleepy beach town that goes to sleep no later than ten. But the underground part comes from artists that are creating in their home studios and intimate circles.
A lot of Malibu artists are actually playing out in Los Angeles and larger cities. However, Malibu in its history is an Artist Colony so you have a lot of creative people in the community that are more than willing to collaborate and inspire each other.
2014 was the year you came into music. What was your reasoning behind becoming a songwriter and what kind of material were you writing back then?
I have been writing and recording my own music since I was thirteen but when I commercially released my last E.P., I aimed to create a new sound for myself. I have always been musical and creative, so after I graduated school with an advertising degree, I wanted to put that branding to use. The ‘sound’ I invented was a blend of California, Pop and Americana. It was fun writing and directing a video around the general theme of the beach. But even while writing those songs, I was also writing material closer to what I will be releasing soon.
Take Me Anywhere is one of your newer songs. Can you tell us about it and what influenced its creation?
Take Me Anywhere was inspired by the adventure component in my real relationship.
We always have a bag packed and I wanted to write a song, and then make a video, that reflects exactly what we are doing every other weekend. I definitely get the travel bug after only a week of being home but I think it’s a good problem to have.
You worked with Mike Shimshack on that track. What was it like working with him? You two ever worked together before?
Take Me Anywhere was actually our first collaboration so we worked really well together (haha). He was one of my first co-writes when I came to Nashville too! He’s the man.
Can we expect any new E.P. or album from you this year?
YES! A full album is in your future.
Imagery and distinct fashion seem to, in a way, define your music and aesthetic. In terms of your look: was that inspired by Malibu or your parents? It seems to have a 1960s’ vibe which I find interesting.
I think that as a creative person, you go through different seasons of things that inspire you. Being from a beach town, there will always be a part of my music and style that is laid back, but living in L.A., you gotta keep up with the times!
My style has a large spectrum and it’s fun to look in your closet and kinda say: “Who do I want to be today?” That helps a lot with writing too: being a character or bringing out another side of you in a song, like the serious/moody side or sassy/bitchy side. It’s important to find that signature style but, for example, today I’m probably dressed like a 1990s’/2000s’ Grunge kid; if I were to write a song inspired by that, I’d probably sound like Avril (Lavigne).
Your music has gained attention from the likes of Examiner and K-CAL. Many people do not realise how challenging music can be. Has it been difficult getting exposure and attention or have you found a lot of support in the music community?
It has been a challenge but I think the key is to have a really great team. There are just so many of ‘us’ trying to do the same thing. It’s impossible to be everywhere as an independent artist so sometimes it’s best to work your own niche.
In terms of the musicians you grew up listening to; which have been the most influential in terms of your own music?
Always gotta throw it back to Michelle Branch. She was the first one to fan the flame and the dream. I love how Taylor Swift has changed her sound so many times while also maintaining a high bar for her songwriting. I don’t know: I just like music that’s good and different. I love those songs that make me stop and Shazam, you know? Stop me in my tracks.
In a similar sense, which albums do you hold dearest in terms of their power and relevance to who you are as a musician?
The most recent album where I was like, “damn”: Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material. The songs are all so strong, so delicate; so well-written and (so) clever. I just love the restraint she has on her songs too where, because of their ‘Pop potential’, an artist or producer may be tempted to make the songs a lot bigger. But she doesn’t and it was the right decision and the songs are timeless.
It seems like 2017 will be a busy and exciting one. Any plans on coming to the U.K. and playing over here?
Send me a ticket! I’ll come!
I ask this of American artists I interview but what is the feeling in the country now Trump has been elected? Are there are a lot of nerves in the county or is music immune from a more widespread fear and anger?
You could say there is a lot of inspiration in the air (haha). What’s great about music is that it unites people and it doesn’t care which party you are a part of – because as an artist you want to identify with the individual and those joys or struggles that are universal. Music is like alcohol in a way because you can use it to self-soothe or even forget. Music isn’t immune to current events but it’s a great place to ‘get away’.
Are there any new artists, either locally or mainstream, you suggest we check out?
If you haven’t exposed yourself to Shakey Graves, do that. I also LOVE Goodnight, Texas and I got to hang out with them recently. They rock. I also have the pleasure of playing with other musicians that have their own bands and music projects. One that is gaining notoriety is Sleep Machine and they really, really rock.
What advice would you provide any young songwriter coming through right now?
Keep on putting “feet to pavement” as they say.
Keep writing and performing because it only takes One Great Song to break as an artist or (get) a shout-out from Taylor Swift’s Twitter… whichever comes first.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song (not yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
Wannabe – Spice Girls – because I’m feeling cheeky 😉
Follow Kylie Hughes