Exploring Raw Emotion and Heartbreak: An Interview with Indie Singer-Songwriter Kayla Friend

Indie music enthusiasts and fans of emotive storytelling are in for a treat as singer-songwriter Kayla Friend gears up for the release of her second single, ‘Over,’ scheduled for release on September 22nd, 2023. Following the success of her debut single, ‘Valentine’s Day,’ Kayla continues to captivate audiences with her poignant lyrics and soul-stirring vocals. In this upcoming release, she delves deep into the themes of love, heartbreak, and the tumultuous journey of moving on.

Can you share the inspiration behind your upcoming single ‘Over’? How did the creative process unfold?

The song was inspired by an old iPhone note I had from years ago… a few quick thoughts I had jotted down when I realized that, after so many years, a prior relationship had reached a point of closure I’d been wanting for years. What sparked the note itself was when I received a “who is this?” text reply back to the number I had in my contacts for this person – we would still correspond here and there to share big life updates, send song recommendations, etc. The first words of the song are a direct lift from that original note – “you changed your number…I guess I understand, ’cause I always fall through any crack you leave open.” The words came with the vocal melody as I sat for an hour between errands in midtown, NYC, trying to get in a little piano time at a local studio. My fingers sat on F5/C until the rest came. Most of the lyrics and melody were written in that hour at Spectra Music Studios.

‘Over’ explores the aftermath of a passionate yet uncertain romance. How did you manage to infuse such personal emotions into the song’s lyrics and vocals?

I like to pull from real experiences that I had as a young adult adjusting to a new life in New York City – I wasn’t writing music at that time, I thought I couldn’t, so I’d just scribble these big feelings into little notebooks and iPhone notes whenever I got the chance, mostly just to get it out of my head and stop ruminating on it so much… It’s been such an experience years later revisiting these notes through the lens of music and putting melodies and words and a sort of “end” to these stories that felt incomplete. I’m able to do it so much more efficiently now with music and honestly, having the gift of time and distance from the events that sparked these thoughts has made it so much easier to be really honest with myself and create the songs from an authentic place without worrying if it’s going to tear me apart. I’m in a different place now, which makes revisiting these sad, vulnerable moments through music so much sweeter – it allows me to give myself some grace and be kind to my younger self in a way.

The verses in ‘Over’ are particularly evocative, painting a vivid picture of vulnerability and yearning. Could you tell us about your song writing approach when crafting these raw and relatable lyrics?

When revisiting old wounds, I like to be as honest as possible while still infusing the lyric with hope – however misguided that hope may be. The song is about not being able to ‘get over’ a relationship, yes, but in the verses I wanted to address that false sense of hope that made it drag on for so long: “I’ve kept my distance, and you’ve kept your secrets / we’re so good, insisting we’re strong at our weakest / just doing what’s right, never thinking we might be the fools.” This is about two people who are stubborn to a fault – even about doing the ‘right thing’ (whatever that means)… to the point of possibly missing out on great love because keeping the distance is the right thing to do. And even though they were both stubborn, they kept a sliver of opportunity open to keep that communication going – that’s where the hope is. There wouldn’t be that yearning without the sliver of hope, which is ultimately what makes it so tragic – the song is about the death of hope in that relationship.

The chorus of ‘Over’ carries a sense of self-reflection and introspection. How do you channel your own experiences into your music to create such a strong emotional connection with your listeners?

The more personal it is, the more relatable to others it becomes. I don’t know what it is about that concept that makes sense, but it works – I think anyone can relate to the feeling of wondering if ‘the one that got away’ misses you, even if you have both since moved on. Most of us are just afraid to be honest about it.

The upcoming music video for ‘Over’ draws inspiration from the indie film ‘500 Days of Summer.’ Can you share how this visual representation complements the song’s narrative?

500 Days of Summer was such a cultural moment for me as a young adult – the film came out in 2009, and I think that so many young people – myself included – immediately gravitated toward it because of the incredible storytelling, cinematography, and of course, the iconic performances. The story is told through the lens of Tom Hansen – a flawed, but relatable hetero cis male protagonist – and not long after the film reached critical success as an indie “sleeper hit,” grossing nearly 8 times it’s production budget in box office sales worldwide, some pretty harsh reviews began to come out from the public about the lead characters, Tom and Summer… Summer was thought to be purposely villainized by the film, which sat uncomfortably with some audiences and seemed to lean more into the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ problem. Nearly 15 years later, I think folks are coming around to the realization that Summer is not a villain – she operates like an unattached hetero cis man. She clearly states that she is not interested in a relationship with Tom, but leaves the door open to explore the grey areas between friendship and commitment. Summer is fiercely independent and acts out of her own self interest, not with the purpose of hurting other people, but with the conviction that she needs to do what is best for her – full stop. I find myself now having a lot of sympathy for Summer’s character and relate much more to her than I do to Tom these days. However, I think Tom’s narrative connects best to the ethos of this song for me – ultimately, Tom spends the majority of the film not being able to get over Summer, no matter how many times and how many ways she tells him ‘this won’t work.’ There is a kind of delusional hope that drives Tom to continuously leave that door open, always seeing the best in her, refusing to open his eyes to all the moments that were clear indicators of the relationship ending – I thought to myself, “what would it be like for my listeners to see this song through Tom’s eyes? Except Tom isn’t a hetero cis man – he’s me.” In a way I think the gender-swapped element of it peels back the filter we might have assigned to these characters as “hero” or “villain” – it forces us to admit that we each have our moments of willingly delusional hope when it comes to love.

As an indie artist, how do you hope ‘over’ will resonate with your audience, and what message do you aim to convey.

It’s always challenging to predict how new music will land with an audience for any musician, but especially challenging for an emerging indie musician – my hope always is for my audience to find a connection point, to feel somehow seen and understood by seeing themselves in my songs, and to help people feel less alone. Heartbreak, yearning, grieving – it’s something that is so universal and yet something we have all learned to skillfully hide or frame in a way that is ‘palatable’ to society. I want my songs to let people know that they don’t have to sugarcoat pain and they don’t have to be embarrassed by feeling big things. ‘Over‘ is something I think we can all relate to, as long as we are all being honest.

For the latest updates on Kayla Friend’s music and more, make sure to follow her on her official website, social media channels and get a sneak peak of the ‘Over’ video trailer here.

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