2012 was a great year for Kyla La Grange. Not only did it bring about the release of her stunning debut album, 'Ashes' (which featured on NotAnotherRainySunday's top 10 albums of the year) but she was also one of the musicians to take part in the musical project Africa Express. I got in touch with the songstress to find out exactly what this year has been like, and what's in store for 2013.
With your South African and Zimbabwean heritage, do you think their musical traditions ever translate into your own songwriting?
Unfortunately my parents didn't listen to much African music when I was growing up - they liked a wide range of things (Rock, Blues, Folk, Classical) but I wouldn't say I was very well schooled in music from Southern Africa itself, which is a shame, as I think it would've been great to have had some non-Western influences too.
What were your musical influences growing up?
At home my parents listened to The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, JJ Cale, Muddy Waters, Donovan, Simon & Garfunkel....I could go on and on. My mum also loved opera and always had Classic FM playing, and I had classical singing lessons for years before I started singing rock and pop music. When I was about 12 I got massively into 80s power ballads - I bought T'Pau 'China in Your Hands' and Bonnie Tyler 'Total Eclipse of The Heart' on vinyl and I used to stick them on our record player and sing along over and over and over again. I was always in choirs and I wrote (bad) little songs at home on my own.
You've often been compared to Florence & The Machine in reviews - do you think this type of comparison is useful for new artists, or can it be a bit of a hindrance?
I don't mind at all - it's just a way people have of placing you. Unless you really despised the artist you were being compared to I don't get why people would get annoyed about it - it's flattering if anything.
What's your songwriting process like? Does it take a lot of concentration, or is it something that comes easily to you?
It is completely different from week to week. Sometimes I sit down and I just write for hours and hours and I don't even notice it getting dark outside and I have to eventually tear myself away from the song, but sometimes I really struggle to even get started. I can never force a song; if it doesn't want to come then it won't, I just have to leave it and come back another time. I think songs should come along of their own accord - I don't like the idea of deciding that I'm going to write a song, I like the song to decide that it's going to be written.
Your music video for Been Better is a visual treat with mystical wolves and peacocks - what was the inspiration behind it?
Well, I like hanging out with animals so any excuse to do that and I will. Those weren't real wolves though - they were called 'Timber Dogs' and they liked eating biscuits, so not quite as mystical in real life. I don't know, I'm a big fan of fantasy and fairy stories so I like adding that element into videos and the live shows - it makes me feel more at home.
In 2012, you took part in the project 'Africa Express'. What was it like working with such a range of artists with very different styles to you? And what has been the legacy of that journey?
Africa Express was one of the most amazing things I've ever had the opportunity to be involved with. I was exposed to so many musical styles and instruments I'd never heard before, and everyone was so lovely, there were no egos or arguments. It truly was such a beautiful thing; everyone collaborated and made friends with people they might not otherwise have had the chance to meet.
Which bands or artists do you think we should be looking out for this year?
Daughter, who are incredible (and I think they are going to quietly take over the world), Dog is Dead, whose live shows are some of the best shows I've seen, and Bastille, whose song 'Bad Blood' I am unhealthily addicted to.
With your debut album now under your belt, what's in store for you in 2013?
At the moment I'm just completely obsessed with writing the new album. I get up and write and record all day; I don't want to go out or see anyone, it's great. I think I will have finished writing all the songs for the second album by March, so I'd love to have it recorded by the end of the year, though that is probably wishful thinking. These things always take longer than you expect.