She may be a Joni Mitchell in the making, but LA-based singer-songwriter Kyla Graves didn’t always make her money through the explorative anecdotes of her guitar playing.
“My first job was babysitting a wonderful family of five children at the young age of 11,” the still very youthful musician recalls to BreakThru Radio. “I remember I had a money box and would meticulously count and save my money down to the penny on the daily. However, as I got a bit older I started pining after musical instruments and gadgets, and always had a wish list.”
By sixth grade, Graves had purchased her instrumental novelty and was strumming away, working with a teacher at a guitar club, and writing music and lyrics as soon as the notes fell into place in her mind.
The indie rocker explains, “Throughout middle and high school, I was writing, recording, and playing out as much as I could. I continued my studies at the University of Vermont, and that is when I really started playing shows consistently, and getting to open up for bigger artists that would pass through the college on tour.”
Her artistic career began to catch the pull of the wind, and, alongside a second gig as a school counselor, Graves graduated college and was picking up shows several times a week. She recorded her first EP in 2008, a record titled, “Loving Tree” that she made with producer Jared Slomoff. In her work, the songstress blended the musky rock of an artist like Shawn Colvin with the deeper sentiment of Mitchell, all the while keeping a sense of pop lightness to it. Current, but not too current, the music was bluesy without loosing its sweetness. And people liked it, so much so that Graves decided to take it to the next level and move to L.A.
The tease of an overnight success story ended thereafter, however, when the singer hit a more expansive music market, and subsequently found herself at the low end of the totem pole.
“When I first arrived in Los Angeles, the music scene felt completely overwhelming,” she remembers. “The level of talent, and the quantity of people in this city is enough to make one’s head spin. All of the artists I respect and love are always coming through LA on tour, and once I was here I immediately found a whole new crew of artists that moved me, and inspired me to be better. I felt discouraged at first having to start all over, and play open mics again just to try to meet other artists and people and find my place… What I discovered was that there is a true thriving community of singer/songwriters and artists here in Los Angeles who are very supportive of one another, and all cheer one another on along our own personal journeys.”
Daunted slightly, yet driven by the push of competition, Graves clawed her way onto the stages of clubs around the city, feeling out the vibe of Hollywood land and making sure her voice would be heard amongst the hopeful angels. With the unique quality of her sound, she soon found her path, and now regularly performs at her niche-venue of choice, Witzend in Venice.
“In my opinion, the most important aspect in the creation of a song is the intention behind the words and how that feeling is portrayed and delivered to an audience,” comments the singer. “I love the process of writing a song, and deciding what message I would like to share with others. What is my purpose? What difference can I make? These are all aspects of my creation as well as what feels good in my heart. Writing a song is very therapeutic and sometimes I find that I can convey my feelings through song a lot easier than just talking or explaining myself.”
Graves lists a handful of modern creators whom she feels would construct the quintessential soundtrack to her life, including Bon Iver, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Adele, Sufjan Stevens, Gotye, Kellen Malloy, Keaton Simons, Joe Con, and Chris Molitor. Her current project in the endless pursuit of music is constant performance and traveling, and maybe willing the world for a second encounter with handsome blues crooner, Jonny Lang.
She remarks, “The first concert that I ever went to was Jonny Lang, Susan Tedeschi, and Buddy Guy. I was really into the Blues when I first started playing the guitar and looked up to Jonny Lang immensely. My dad ended up surprising me at 12 years old with tickets to this show, and backstage passes, and I nearly fainted in excitement. Jonny Lang ended up signing my first electric guitar which I still have to this day!”