You don’t get many opportunities to make song title jokes to Kyla. So of course, some two minutes into meeting her we set off with our best: “we were thinking to arrange the chairs like this, and have you sit on this one [the chair in the middle]… Do You Mind?” To this, she laughs. We imagine it’s not the first time some idiot’s bantered with her to that effect, but the laugh is genuine enough to suggest that we’re at least the first of the day. It’s been a pretty decent 24hrs for the singer, yesterday’s Mercury’s Prize award happenings are still fresh in her mind. More distant memories from the last year or so are probably fighting for attention too. Since Drake’s sample of her 2009 classic Do You Mind on anthem One Dance, we’ve seen and heard a lot more from her in the way of music. And following the drop of the visuals to her latest offering You Ain’t Mine ft. Popcaan, we can only expect this to continue. On sitting in the chairs laid out we got chatting about a bit of this and a bit of that; from shooting her latest video in Jamaica to singing in the shower, it’s clear Kyla’s excited about all the new music to come…
Bespoke: So how were the awards [Mercury Prize] last night?
Kyla: Oh my gosh, when Stormzy came on I was jumping up and down. I thought it would be all hype but he put a really good spin on it … I was torn though because I really wanted J Hus to win, I was like “you need to win, you deserve to win, you’ve worked hard.” I wanted Stormzy to win too, but felt like he was more of an obvious one. And Sampha! When he was performing I felt like he was singing to me. When anyone would talk I’d be like “shut up [laughs].”
Do you do that yourself, pick people out in the crowd?
Yeah, I try to. I remember grabbing someone’s chain once actually [laughs]. I pointed to him [when singing] and his mates were like “ahhhhh” but he missed it because he was looking down, so I went over and kind of grabbed his chain, everyone was like “ahhhh” – it was really funny. But yeah, I try and point people out and make eye contact. I feel like I’ve only done that [picking people out of a crowd when performing] over time… I find it’s more nerve-racking with smaller crowds than bigger ones.
So you prefer the bigger crowds?
Yeah, the bigger the crowd the better [laughs].
Bespoke: Did the whole live performance thing used to get you nervous though?
Erm… I used to not want to talk [when on stage] a lot; I like my singing voice, but not my talking voice. Does that make sense? So when I was on stage I’d think “omg, I really don’t want to talk [to the audience], but I really want to introduce this song. I need someone to introduce this song [laughs].” I guess it’s just a barrier … I think I was born a little bit of a show off though. I remember as I kid I’d walk past the mirror with a hairbrush like [pretends to sing]. Actually, I did it not so long ago: I was practicing for a show and was in my bedroom singing. I didn’t realise my step son was at the door because I had my headphones in, I was lost in the music. He’d been knocking for ages… so he’s opened the door and caught me singing in the mirror with a hairbrush [laughs]. I was just like “and what! yes you did just see that [laughs]!”
Do you always sing on point at home? I’ve always wondered if people who have that ability just go home and start singing crass for banter [laughs].
I feel like I don’t sound that bad… until I get in the shower, or If I have my headphones on [laughs]. But I feel like everyone thinks they sound amazing in the shower. You know, the acoustics are right, so you really go for it. My next door neighbour’s probably like “SHUT UP [laughs].” When I’ve got my headphone’s on I kind of let loose and my husband’s like “babe, that key was a bit…” even though I thought it sounded great [laughs]. I’d like to say I was alway on point at home, but the truth is I’m probably not [laughs].
[Laughs] At least you’re honest…
So let’s talk about the new video, I was watching it on the way here. What made you shoot it in Jamaica?
One reason was cause Popcaan was on the track. Drake had introduced me to him in South Africa when we shot for One Dance, so I’d met him then. Then, I was on Naughty Boy’s single and that was with Popcaan. We’d met in different countries – he’d come to the UK, and I’d met him in South Africa – so I just thought, you know what, we need to come to you. And it was amazing, we got to meet his friends, or his “unruly family” as he calls them. It was just a lot of fun… Lil Internet [the director] was like “you’re going to have smoke, and be in the element with the trees and it’s going to be hot. I was like “tick, tick, tick [laughs]”. And another one that got me was the swimming pool scene, I’ve always wanted a Baywatch moment [laughs]. I had to practice a couple of times [laughs]. But it was just nice to do something different.
Did you guys party whilst out there?
Honestly I had so much on my schedule so I literally flew from Miami to Jamaica, shot the video in one day, and then flew back to Miami and straight to England. I was exhausted. Everyone was like “I’m so jealous, you went to Jamaica”, but it was so quick.
Where are you actually from then, heritage wise, Jamaica?
My dad is half English half Jamaican, my mum’s American – she’s from Illanois, and I was an Army child so was born in Germany; a mad mix. Somewhere down the line there’s native indian and I’ve also got Chinese in me somewhere.
How do you know all that, 21 & me [laughs]?
I had to! It’s so mad because everyone’s always like “where are you from?” … I remember meeting Peter Andre and him thinking I was Cypriot. I had to call my grandad like “I need a history lesson [haha]”.
So what inspired the writing behind You Ain’t Mine?
Well I think every girl or guy has met someone that isn’t right for them. But I didn’t want to do the ‘he’s cheating on me/not treating me well’ and make it sad. I thought let me do it on a more positive level of “you know what, you’re really cute, I really like you, but I’ve just found out you’ve got someone else so I’m going to move on and let you go and find someone that’s right for me”. That’s the idea I had for the track, to make it more positive than sad; not regretful… I always say never regret. I believe your path is already decided for you, so if I hadn’t have done X then Y might not have happened. I do cringe a bit though [laughs]. But just never regret.
What genre would you call it?
You Ain’t Mine? I don’t think it has a genre. It has a bit of everything. You can hear the funky side, and you can kind of hear the RnB side, the bashment side etc. I kind of just wanted to shock people. But not too much to the point where they’re like “she’s completely jumped ship”. I just wanted to show that I’m quite diverse.
On the note of funky, is it still in your heart then?
Yes. Most definitely. It was a pinnacle moment in my life … I remember I’d never heard the sound before at all and I’d originally written Do You Mind to a baseline song. And they [Crazy Cousinz] were like “we’ve done a different spin on it”. I just thought it’d be interesting to hear in the clubs … It was a really good vibe at the time; a pinnacle moment where I was just learning, so I can never write it off. At the time I didn’t even realise we were writing something that’d become so big. I kind of get up every day like “yeah, I did that”. Me and my husband have a little joke [on Do You Mind] cause we wrote together, he says it’s his part that made it great and I say mine [laughs].
[Laughs] It’s such a banger, I’d claim it too if I were him.
… So what’s next then?
I want to release another single. I’ve only just released this one so obviously will have to wait a while. Then next year, I’m coming with my album. It’s definitely coming, I’ve written about 90 songs, but it’s coming next year. Everyone was kind of asking why I’m taking so long after One Dance, but I want to be happy with what I’ve written. I’ve got to select these tunes out of the 90, but you’ll definitely get an album from me. I’m excited for what everyone’s going to hear.
Any sneak peeks on who might feature?
I can say which producers and writers I’ve been working with: I’ve been working with Evan Bogart who wrote Beyonce’s Halo, and also been working with Diane Warren which is epic. And producers like stargate… but my features I’m holding down [laughs].
Do you still get nervous meeting people like that?
Really nervous. I remember meeting DJ Khaled at the Billboard awards and I was like “I’m Kyla” – I felt like I had to explain who I was – and he was like “I know who you are! You’re winning! You’re winning! [laughs]” You just don’t know who has awareness of you, so I always get nervous. Even when I first met Drake, I played it really cool until he walked in the room … But he has really changed my life, I have to thank him.
… It’s exciting times. We cant wait to hear what you’ve been working on.