Music has always been a magical experience for singer-songwriter/guitarist Kyla Simone. Growing up in a family of musicians and creatives, her gravitational pull toward musicianship and songwriting was inevitable. Over the years, Kyla has found her niche as an acoustic soul artist, sharing life, love, and empowerment through poetically written lyrics and soulful melodies. Some of Kyla’s most memorable performances have been at the historic Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., opening for the UniverSoul Circus at the National Harbor in D.C., repeat performances for Google D.C., Musicians Corner hosted by Lightning 100 in Centennial Park, Nashville, Tenn., and the Velvet Note in Atlanta, Ga. Kyla’s mission is to introduce a fresh perspective and empower her fans to move boldly in the direction of their purpose and passion.
Tell us about yourself. How did you start your journey as a singer-songwriter and guitarist?
I grew up surrounded by music with singer/musician parents and several family members who sang and played instruments. As a child, I began toying around with songwriting, writing little songs and recording them on my tape player (yes…a tape player!). I began to write and arrange music for church groups and eventually became a solo artist. My guitar journey kicked off just as I entered college. Christmas of 2004, my mom surprised me with my first guitar, a light brown starter Yamaha acoustic. By the end of that day, I had already picked up four chords (thank you, YouTube!) and written my first acoustic song. I knew then I’d never put this instrument down. Truthfully, guitar saved me during a highly rigorous college experience. It was my peace, an outlet, and I felt a special connection between God and me through my pen and guitar strings. While in school, I started singing around wherever I was invited, so my career as an artist developed. Now I am holding down a full-time graphic design job while pursuing music passionately as a singer-songwriter-guitarist in Atlanta.
How would you describe your sound, and what is your songwriting process?
If I could describe my current sound, it would simply be acoustic soul with jazz undertones. The guitar is typically the driving force in my music, and I have a thing for jazzy and bluesy chords with rich bass notes. Regarding my songwriting process, inspiration often hits randomly and is drawn from everything around me, from nature to varying personal life experiences. I ensure I am ready, typically with my audio recording app, a digital notepad, and guitar in hand when it’s near. Most times, I hear the melody and lyrics first and then pick it out on guitar, but at moments the guitar melody comes first. Sometimes the full song flows effortlessly, and other times you’ll catch bits and pieces of songs in my notepad that I later revisit. It’s good to step away from work in progress to come back with fresh ears and new lenses when needed.
What inspired your passion for music? Who are some of your musical influences?
I’ve always loved diverse types of music but seeing artists and fellow guitarists like India.Arie and Lauryn Hill influenced my passion for acoustic-driven music. Other music influences that color my music world are Lianne La Havas, Brandy, Tori Kelly, Adele, Beyoncé, Emeli Sandé, and Laura Mvula, to name a few.
What amps, guitars, pedals, and pickups are in your rig right now? Do you have a preference for playing acoustic guitar vs. electric guitar? If so, tell us about some of your favorite guitars to play.
So right now, I own four guitars. My dad used to own a Gretsch Synchromatic, a black Ovation guitar, and two Ibanez guitars (classic black acoustic-electric and an Artcore Semi-Hollow electric). I am in the process of replacing my amp. I owned an old classic Peavey that belonged to my dad. I’m very nostalgic about hanging on to my dad’s equipment as long as I can. I bend towards the warmth of an acoustic guitar because it compliments my music’s soul/jazz feel. My next purchase is going to be a Strat.
What do you love about performing on stage? Do you ever have moments of feeling nervous? If so, what are some ways you learned to push through stage fright?
The engagement with the listener is everything to me. Humor is my way to combat nerves and break the ice on stage because I get nervous every time. Each time I perform, I push myself out of my comfort zone and am determined to live in my comfort.
I noticed that you sing and play guitar for your church. How has playing guitar in the church helped you grow as a musician?
So recently, my excellent guitar instructor, Jennifer Bliss, nudged me to join a church band to build my guitar chops further. So she is the one who introduced me to the church I currently play for a few times a month. It’s been a great learning experience so far as a blooming guitarist. One of the most critical ways to level up is to get around other musicians and learn to communicate and follow their lead.
Where can we hear more of your music?
My music is on all your favorite digital music sites, including iTunes and Spotify. I’d love you to check it out. I also have some live performance clips on YouTube.
Do you have any career goals you wish to accomplish with your music in the next three years?
Yes! One of my biggest goals Jen and I talk about is being able to take pro-level guitar gig opportunities. So boosting my technical skills on my instrument is at the top of my list. As an artist, I aim to complete an entire album (as I’ve only put out an EP and singles thus far in my career), and I’d love to go on tour with a full band! Last but not least, I am building a community and facility for developing female guitarists/artists called “Girls and Guitars.” I have a starter space that I am renovating for that purpose, so within the next few years, I hope to have that up and active.