Kyler England: Creating music with an Electric Hum

Interview by J. Lynn Stapleton

These days, I tend to get my interest in new music by word of mouth through local friends and social media contacts, as well as finding songs and artists that I like that show up in television or film. It was through the latter, that I became a fan of Kyler England’s, since her music started appearing in television shows that I watched, though at the time – to me – she was a relative unknown. That has since been rectified, and I’ve become very interested in her career. She’s got a new album coming out, called An Electric Hum, which is a little different in some respects to her previous albums. Recently, I asked her to do an interview and she gladly obliged. This is what happened.

Kyler England. An Electric Hum, 2011.

LS: You’ve had a successful career so far with six solo albums, and two full-length albums with The Rescues “Let Loose the Horses” and “Crazy Ever After” with fellow musicians Adrianne Gonzalez, Gabriel Mann and Rob Giles. You’ve had your solo music appear in shows such as ‘Guiding Light’, ‘Army Wives’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy, ‘One Tree Hill‘ amongst others, and the successful Emmy-winning web series, VENICE, as well as having your song “Lay It On Me” as part of the American Idols LIVE Tour 2010.
As a fan, I, and many others, first heard your music through the daytime serial, ‘Guiding Light’ as quite a number of your songs from “Simple Machine” were used in strategic moments of the show – so much that in listening to a particular song, a scene or two from the show is directly tied with it, in particular ‘Bells and Whistles’ and ‘Clean Slate’. As a matter of fact, because of hearing your music on ‘Guiding Light’, I went to iTunes and bought some of your albums (‘A Flower Grows in Stone’, ‘If the World Would Just End’, Live Wire Volume 2: The Official Bootleg/The Green Room Sessions’ and ‘Simple Machine’. I know in discussions on the ‘Big Purple Dreams’ board (a GL fanboard) while the show was on and since the show ended, there were talks of people seeking out your concert venues to support your music. What was that experience like for you?

KE: It was a really fun experience playing a concert in say Atlanta and having Guiding Light fans requesting songs they heard on the show like “Clean Slate” and “Bells and Whistles” and then hearing them sing along! And that happened all along my tour around the country. Many people are saying TV is the new radio and while I’m not sure TV will replace radio entirely in terms of exposure for new artists but it’s certainly giving radio a run for it’s money!

LS: Your song, “Bells and Whistles” was used in the second season of Crystal Chappell’s web series, VENICE. Will we be able to hear more in season 3 (filming this fall) and her other series The Grove (filming in the early new year)?

KE: I sure hope so! Would love for my music to continue to be used in Venice. There’s such a great community of fans around that show. I hadn’t heard about The Grove yet, would love to be a part of that as well, will get on it!

LS: You’ve been pretty busy touring with The Rescues for the new album Let Loose The Horses, and doing a new video, “Can’t Stand the Rain” which has a fun and unique style to it. Now you also have your solo tour coming up for Electric Hum coming up with six upcoming tour dates announced for the east coast, starting in late September (ed note: I have a ticket for the Boston show in October). How do you find the energy of the tours, sharing the music you’ve worked on?

KE: The energy of playing songs live is so different than the energy of being in the studio and writing. The later is a very introverted and reflective process. You cocoon yourself up creatively so that you can transform your ideas into something beautiful. Playing live is almost the exact opposite energy, it’s extroverted, it’s an opening up kind of energy. I’ve been working on this album all year long so I anticipate it being really rewarding to finally share these songs with people.

LS: What inspired you to start this new solo album?

KE: When the album started I didn’t even realize it, it was only in retrospect that I knew an album had begun back in January when one afternoon while I was driving home, the angle of the light hit me in just such a way that memories and emotions started flooding in and lyrics and melody were close behind. By the time I got home that day 20 minutes later, I already had the first verse lyrics and music for “Eye Of Your Storm.” That was the first song I wrote for the album. The songs just kept on coming after that.

LS: The sounds of your songs [from previous albums] have a bit of pop, some alternative beats and a some country sounds. With this new album – Electric Hum – you’ve explored and incorporated more electronica tones and sounds to them like “Take These Things to Heart”. [It actually reminds me of another favourite musician of mine, Imogen Heap, in style]. What inspired you to explore and incorporate these sounds for the new album?

KE: I’ve been doing collaborations with DJs on the side for the past couple of years (you can find them on iTunes under my name and my dance alter ego name, Relyk). With the very first one I was taken with how different my voice sounds in an electronica setting. You know how when you put blue next to orange, both colors look different and somehow more vibrant? That’s how I feel about my voice when it’s wrapped up in synth sounds, it takes on a whole different color and emotion and it inspired me a lot for this record. I wrote almost the entire record on keys and to drum loops, some of which ended up on the record.

But this isn’t a 100% electronica record. It’s still a singer-songwriter record but with a lot of electronica elements creating tension with the organic ones. I love tension between opposites. So there’s acoustic guitar and piano mixed with programmed drums and synth sounds. It’s a really fun sonic palette.

LS: “Battle Cry” is a lovely anthem song of love fighting to come ahead and living. There’s a powerful message in the lyrics:

Where there’s shadow, there is light / Love is in the battle cry / Even in the darkest night, there is shadow, there is light / Hold your heart up to the fire / Walk across the razor wire / Even in the cruelest fight / Love is in the battle cry / Love is in the battle cry / Huh ho, huh ho

I’ve been reading It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating A Life Worth Living [edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller], and the lyrics rang true to the experiences I was reading about (and to some degree experienced personally in junior high school, less in high school). What was the story behind this song as you were writing it, if there was one?

KE: Well without getting too personal, I had some upheaval in some friendships in the past year. The kind that makes you question and decide the kind of person you are and who you want to be. It’s funny, it was the last song I wrote for the record and I had written the entire song except for the title line and it was such a cathartic process but it still felt like something was missing. Then on the way to the studio on the day I was going to record the song I was singing through it in the car and the line “love is in the battle cry” came to me and instantly I knew that was the point of the whole song and even of the struggles I’d been through. It can mean many things. You only fight with the people you love so try to remember that when you’re in a bad place in a relationship. If there wasn’t a little love left you’d just walk away. The only things worth fighting for are love and the ones/things you love and believe in. When someone strikes at you, come back at them with love. I love it that you hear it as an anthem because I do too. I aspire to live by that idea more.

LS: How do you find the process of solo songwriting versus writing songs with/for The Rescues?

KE: With The Rescues there are 4 cooks in the kitchen so as you can imagine there are a ton of ideas flying around. The hardest thing about that is coming to an agreement on which idea to rally around. Writing solo it’s only my ideas which sometimes come fast and furious and other times I have to be patient and give them time to arrive, but I always know when I’ve hit on the idea that matters and could be a great song. I never have to convince myself :). So each way of writing has its pros and cons, it’s nice to be able to collaborate and work solo!

LS: I’m really enjoying many of the behind the scenes photographs, videos and music that you’ve been sharing via PledgeMusic as you work towards completing the album. Why did you decide to use PledgeMusic as a venue to promote your music as well as to fund the new album?

KE: Pledge, and other platforms like it, are really revolutionary. They connect artists directly with the people who listen at home, sing their songs in the shower and during rush hour, come to live shows with their friends, tweet about their favorite artists etc. The fundraising aspect is only half of the power of Pledge, which is really important because for instance it’s helping me fund my album and to be able to make a better album than I would have had I financed it solely by myself. But the other really powerful aspect of Pledge is the community around an artist that it fosters and taps into. Fans get to interact directly with artists they love and also get exclusive items they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. For me this part was especially important because my last solo record was 2008 so my Pledge campaign not only funded my record but it re-energized my fan base.

LS: There are many different levels of support that fans can contribute to the process from the purchase of the CD and a personally autographed copy of the CD all the way up to a ‘ST:Voyager’ Seven of Nine costume photo and a ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Scene Reenactment. That’s quite a range of things and as a sci-fi fan those last ones, while out of *my* price range, would be something fun to see. How did that all come about?

KE: I brainstormed one afternoon with some friends and some people from Pledge. I didn’t count on anyone pledging on the Seven of Nine costume, it was kind of a joke and a nod to the fact that I sometimes write nerdy astrophysics influenced lyrics. But there are still a few days left so maybe someone will pledge on it…that would be fun! As far as the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ reenactment, no explanation needed, BSG rules 🙂

LS: You released the single “Breakeven” as a free mp3 for people who sign up for your newsletter. The song is beautiful and very moving. Will that be on the album?

KE: For licensing reasons I decided not to put the cover on the album, which has 10 originals that I wrote by myself on it. But that cover will continue to be a free download for all new list sign-ups. “Breakeven” by The Script is really a perfect pop song in my mind…a profound and meaningful lyric coupled with a beautiful hooky melody…that’s what I aspire to in my writing!

LS: Now, as a cat person myself (I got my girl, Maggie at the age of 10 months old, from the SPCA – that was 10 years ago now), I see that part of the proceeds of the album will go to Kitten Rescue in LA, a no-kill shelter for cats and kittens. Why did you pick that particular charity to help support?

KE: Kitten Rescue is the organization in LA that I adopted my two dear feline friends, Sly and Eve, from. They do a really great job with adoptions and maintaining a network of people who foster kittens and cats until they can be adopted so they don’t have to be euthanized. I’m so grateful to Kitten Rescue and the foster mom that took care of Sly and Eve till the day I met and couldn’t resist adopting them. They’re a brother and sister pair and are black cats which I learned from Kitten Rescue are the last to be adopted because of superstition. I have a lot of admiration for people who work with animals because you have to say goodbye to furry friends you’ve made pretty often, hopefully most of the time because they’re going to their forever home.

Thank you for doing the interview!

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About jlynnstapleton

I'm a Licensed Practical Nurse, photographer and writer. My focus in photography has been primarily landscapes, particularly water based images, both in colour and black and white. I love to travel when I can and sometimes find some unique treasures to photograph. I also enjoy writing these blogs and doing interviews when I can. I'm the oldest of three siblings. I grew up in St. John's, Newfoundland [Canada]. I came out as a lesbian when I was twenty-one, and fortunately I've had a supportive family, and friends.
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