LAYLA is a super talented independent singer from London, United Kingdom. Her jazzy, soulful dreamy sound and delicate voice singing about feelings and relationships, inspiration and motivation, really represent something fresh and deep, in a very simple and sincere way.
Layla and her music are like a pursuit of the essence of things, not the appearance. She self-released four EPs (The New Year, Yellow Circles, Black Mud and the latest Weightless) with a D.I.Y. approach whilst waiting to sign for a record label or just to have the chance to realize the perfect debut album with all those wonderful little masterpieces with the power of saying the most with the least.
As simplicity is complex, so life of an artist can be messy. Layla sings about infidelity in this new “Weightless” EP, and it’s something unfortunately concerns all of us (more or less). By listening to these new songs – and going back to the previous works – you can silently look careful and discover the patterns in your life.
You just need to think positive and you will overcome all the difficulties and insecurities.
That’s a positive message in Layla’s lyrics and attitude, and we imagine her like a soul traveler willing to explore the mechanics of her feelings and to give you a key to discover yours.
Like in her song, “Black Mud”:
Here’s our little interview with this amazing artist, followed by our #7QG – 7 Questions Game where another artist (this time Italia photographer Elena Atzori) ask randomly seven questions to another artist without knowing who he/she will be.
Looking back at your records, can you tell something that changed in you (and your music) from The New Year EP to Weightless EP?
I wrote my first EP just after graduating from university when I was uncertain, skeptical and overwhelmingly unsure about pursuing music. Now – and I am only 24, so I can’t speak with all the wisdom that this life has to give us – but I hope that I am on my way to maturity, to understanding why it is I am here, what I want to achieve, what I want to say with my music. With each EP I am getting progressively more sure of myself, my songwriting and my singing, and I hope that that translates into bigger, better and more original music. I realise that to make your best music, you just have to be yourself.
Andy, Charlie and Yves are the names of the guys playing your music with you: can you describe them to us and tell the story behind this collaboration?
They are my live band and they are three wonderful friends who are not only incredibly talented musicians, but also a joy to be around. I approached them last year and asked if they wanted to perform with me, and thank goodness, they said yes! I have a different group of musicians who play on my recordings because I have always worked with them in the studio. They are phenomenally talented and understand the creative process behind my music and what I want the songs to sound and feel like. They are George Lindsey on drums, Casey Roarty on guitar and my producer Ant West on bass.
Let’s say you are sitting at the dark of your room, playing your piano: where would your mind go and how’d you feel then?
It’s funny you say a dark room, because when I want to write for myself, I always turn the lights off. Funny that. You know, 5% of the time I have something really explicit to write about and so I think of that. The other 95% of the time I have no idea what happens in my mind; I think something happens in my heart because the songs all just appear. And that is such a horrible feeling because I’m racing myself to get them down and record a demo before I forget all my ideas.
You’re from London, there must be some very high UPs and pretty low DOWNs of being there, tell us what are your favorite things to do or places to be and what would you change if you’d have the chance.
London is absolutely a city of extremes. There are people living in the penthouses of the Shard, and people that call the pavements their home. You can eat an incredible dinner for £5.50 (Zaibatsu in Greenwich) or you can spend £100s and feast (I would make a suggestion but I have never eaten anywhere so fancy!).
I love the parks, the canals, the nature that is absolutely (and surprisingly) abundant in London. We have beautiful parks; I love Victoria Park because of the running circuit, the lakes and the Pavilion Cafe. I comparatively love being in the thick of people; most Londoners hate central London, but there’s something strangely empowering and gorgeous about getting lost in swathes of tourists, but knowing exactly where you are.
What is most scary about London is the gentrification that’s ensuing at an alarming rate. I am so scared that all my favorite local business are going to disappear. I’ve already seen it starting to happen. There are Starbucks EVERYWHERE. Who even goes to Starbucks? Their coffee is awful. I wish London supported local business more; the areas that do are so magnificent.
2014 and we still live in a world of wars, racism, homophobia… And much much more. We are ruining the world, day-by-day. We’re also in a moment when the music industry is crossing a deep crisis, same for the printed books and magazines… But some of the people still try to communicate through art, design, music… Like you. What is your point of view and how you think we can overcome this situation?
You know what, the other day someone said to me ‘when are you going to get a real job?’ I suppose they thought, in a world where thousands of innocent people are dying unnecessarily every day and where people constantly face discrimination, where species are becoming extinct and we are ruining the world with our plastic bottles and aeroplane fumes… What is writing a few songs going to do to help? But art is actually an incredibly powerful instrument that can be used to create a future, and help the world to progress. Art is a social language – and so whilst it can’t prompt political revolutions, it can create discussion and influence ideas, and therefore indirectly create change.
Whether that is literature, design, film, paintings, photography, music, theatre, dance… Art is the only way that we as a human race can preserve the ideals of love, freedom, faith and relationships. Art is the only space in which we can cultivate ideas, aspirations, and hand them down to Fitgenerations. Without art, we are just existing. Creativity is fundamentally necessary. The crisis that you speak of I think is down to the change in perception of the value of art. Today we don’t see art as a solution; a lot of people take it for granted that it is there and therefore come to expect it to be there, and don’t necessarily want to pay money for it. But that’s a whole different story… The point is, art can be a solution. Films, literature, education, music, design… These are the things that can prompt a small revolution, and perhaps change the world on some level.
But I’m not actually out to change the world… I receive emails occasionally telling me how my music has really comforted someone in a time of crisis, or given meaning to their life at that moment. So if my music has changed just one persons life for the better, that’s good enough for me.
* #7QG – 7 Questions Game *
Do you like cats?
Erm… I don’t actually. I’m not an animal person at all, I way prefer humans. They are far easier to love, and capable of loving you infinitely more. And love is the most important thing. (So many animal lovers hating on me right now).
You invite me to dinner at your place. What would you cook to impress me?
Burgers. I make great brioche buns and courgette fries. Although I made a really tasty chili for my friends the other day… And a Tarte Tatin. And I used to make a really good white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. Oh god, I love food.
In your work as an artist do you feel like you defined your own style yet? If yes, could you describe it (or how would you like it to be described from other people?)
I think I am close to defining my style; it changes every time I record new music! I suppose I would describe my music as well-written songs at the core of lush, soundscapes that explore the intimate and the infinite.
Combine three favorite songs with three books that you loved. Why these associations?
That’s such a hard question!
The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) – ‘When The Sun Goes Down‘ by Ben Gibbard. When the sun goes down, all that we have is ourselves. So we have to believe in ourselves more than anything or anyone else.
The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga) – ‘Gatekeeper‘ by Feist – I see both as a craving for freedom…
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Jean-Dominique Bauby) – ‘Brothers on a Hotel Bed‘ by Death Cab for Cutie – This novella was written by Bauby; he was the editor of French Elle and had a stroke and was left with locked-in syndrome – unable to move apart from his eyelid. The Death Cab song is about being unable to move forward in a relationship…
Describe your pajamas!
I sleep in big baggy T-shirts. My favorite one is a T-shirt my dad bought me and it says ‘I’m kind of a big deal’ on it.
Honestly, do you feel envy of some of your colleagues? If so, what do you envy?
That’s a great question. I think it’s inevitable that you envy people who are inhabiting the space you want to inhabit. I typically envy people for their genius, and fearlessness. I would love to be a genius. And to be fearless. That makes for the greatest artists.
You are in a TV show and the host asks you if you want to greet someone at home? Who do you think of?
My Grandparents. They don’t understand the everyday nature of what I do, and can’t really fathom how being a musician makes you any money, but they are so immensely proud of me. They come to all my gigs, they listen to all my CDs and are so supportive. Heroes!
Don’t forget to check LAYLA’s brilliant live sessions in London!
LAYLA – THE ONLY ONE (GREENWICH)
LAYLA – NEW YEAR (PICCADILLY CIRCUS)
LAYLA – WINTER, YOU TEASE (GREENWICH)
How can you possibly not love Layla now?!