Looking for a new artist to go with a new school year? A few months ago, College Lifestyles interviewed Kayla Brianna, a fresh up-and-coming R&B star, who released her music video “If You Love Me.” We spoke to the 18-year-old UCLA sophomore about balancing her Music Business major and her career and the life of a college-student pop star.
College Lifestyles: How did you get into music?
Kayla Brianna: I’m 18 years old and currently balancing music and school. So if I’m not in the studio or writing or running around trying to do something with music, I’m in school and I have night classes at the moment. And I sing classic R&B, as I like to call it. Basically it’s R&B, but when I look back at my lyrics, what I’m talking about I think, OK, this is a litlte edgy. And I don’t want to call it edgy R&B, so I put sassy R&B to title my music. Right now, I have my music video, it’s “If You Love Me” and eventually that’s going to go to radio or do a different single that I have. It’s really exciting and I’m glad I’m able to do both at the moment.
CL: What do you think is the most difficult of balancing school and work and how do you go about achieving that?
KB: I think the most difficult part is probably being able to keep up with your homework and what’s going on in class. you’re going to miss class, but i also think it’s important to communicate with your teacher. There’s emails, there’s so much technology around us there’s no excuse not to contact your teacher if you think you’re going to miss class. Because I’ve gotten knocked down so many times just for not contacting my teacher if I know I’m going to miss class. So I just think it helps that you contact your teacher, so you don’t get marked down as much.not
CL: Your father, Kenny Smith, is a retired basketball player. What was it like growing up with such a famous father?
KB: I think I was a lot younger when he was more in his prime, when he was actually in the NBA. I don’t really remember going to games and things like that. I think I’ve always been used to him just being “Dad.” He’s always just been Dad to me and I’m thankful for all that he’s taught me. Like to stay humble and just really be appreciative of what I have and what I’m going through as far as music and everything. He’s taught me a lot about how to stay grounded and stay on the right path because you never know what could happen. You get influenced by a lot around you, so he’s definitely taught me a lot and I’m so thankful of him being supportive of my career.
CL: Have you ever received any accusations of nepotism at all? Have people said, oh, she got where she is because of her dad? And if so, how do you deal with that?
KB: Oh, definitely. I just think that because of who he is, they think that I haven’t worked to get where I am. This was a 4-year process to me. A lot of people think it happened overnight. I was in girls’ groups before that didn’t work out. I’ve been trying to get deals with other labels and it didn’t work out. And finally, Interscope came along. And I’m just thankful that it finally happened the way I wanted it to, and it didn’t happen overnight. So I mean, I work hard and I think knowing your spot and what it took to get you here really equals out all the nepotism and what people said. It’s kind of funny to me. I’m like, really? I know what I went through. So it doesn’t really faze me. I think just showing people my talent and performing and things like that is what will – I don’t want to say shut them up, but you know.
CL: Do you follow basketball? What’s your favorite team?
KB: I follow basketball, and my favorite team right now is the Clippers. And a lot of people are like, oh, you’re on the bandwagon, blah blah blah. But I’ve liked the Clippers for a while. I’m from LA, so.
CL: Why did you decide that you wanted to become a singer? How did you get involved with R&B?
KB: As a child, I always admired and was so intrigued by the performances – if we were watching the Grammys or any awards shows, just the performances I was like, wow. The fact that they can perform in front of all those people, and then perform on the TV, and how many people they’re reaching. It’s so crazy. I was always shy as a kid. I always wanted to sing, but I was so shy. I was unbelievably shy. I never sang for both my parents till I was probably 10 or 11. That serious. But I finally got over my fear and I think just singing for them and being able to comfortable around them boosted my confidence a little bit and I got over the shyness and I think the feeling it gives me of being able to touch others with my singing or my lyrics is just amazing, that you can have that effect on people. So I just think how you get to inspire people is really what draws me into singing.
CL: Who would you consider some of your musical role models?
KB: Some of my musical role models…they vary a lot because I will take something from an artist, like how they perform, and that’s something that will inspire me, or how they write music. I would say Beyonce, Frank Ocean, I love his lyrics, Brandy, I think my sound is definitely influenced by her. So those are definitely people who inspired me and who I aspire to be like, eventually.
CL: How did you get involved with Interscope Records?
KB: Well I was in a girl group, and it didn’t work out but it really prepared me being in the studio and getting used to choreography and dancing and singing at the same time. So I was working on my solo project, and I was just recording demos basically and shopping my demos around. And then Vincent Herbert, who’s one of the major forces behind Lady Gaga, and many other artists, heard one of my demos, which is just crazy. Crazy. And he suggested that I work with these producers, called the Interns. And they have Big Sean Records, they have a song on Rihanna’s album. And with them, we did a remake of “If You Love Me.” And an executive, who works at Interscope, and said, I want to meet her. This was about 2 years ago. So I got to meet him, and he has worked at Interscope and worked with a lot of artists like Christina Aguilera, so I was so nervous. But he basically signed me to Interscope, and the rest was history.
CL: “If You Love Me” is partially your lyrics and partially a cover of an older song by Brownstone. Why did you pick that song?
KB: I think since we decided to do the remake, just the fact that it’s so universal. A lot of the 90s were very strong and very straightforward in their music, so I really wanted to portray that again. The lyrics are very universal and very straightforward. If you love me, say it. If you trust me, do it. I thought a lot of people could relate to it, because i want my music to be very personable and relatable, so I thought it was really important that if this is the first single it’s something universal. so that was our whole thought process behind it.
CL: What’s the best love advice you’ve ever received?
KB: It’s probably from a movie or something, but I think the best love advice that I always remember is to stay true to yourself and your beliefs. It sounds so cliche but it’s true. Don’t change for any man, basically.
CL: What’s your favorite part of your job? What’s your least favorite?
KB: My favorite part is doing all the choreography for the songs. Just practicing and going into that whole process because I’m so excited when I make an uptempo track, because I’m like, oh, I wonder what the dance is going to look like. I wonder what the video will look. So I think that whole part, the dance side, because I really love performing live and I really want my shows to be on point all the time. So that’s probably my favorite part.
The least favorite part is probably – there’s a lot of waiting around being a new artist. Some days you can be in the studio back to back to back, and the next week you could just be at home or just going to school every day. But it’s funny because a typical day could sometimes be going to the studio and going to the rehearsals and then going to class, or going to studio and going to class. But there’s definitely a lot of waiting and I’m so anxious to get this project off the ground. But that’s probably the worst part.
CL: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since becoming a singer?
KB: I think definitely trying not to feed into the negative energy because that can really bring you down, especially being new to the game and reading what everyone has to say can definitely weigh down on you because you start to believe it. But you have to make sure you maintain positivity and you know how well you are and remind yourself of how hard you work so that the negativity doesn’t affect you.
CL: What do you think has contributed the most to your success as a singer?
KB: I think so far the beats, the tracks, and the lyrics speak for itself. I think it could have aired on the radio and no one liked the song, but it’s a good song and people liked it. But that definitely contributed to where I’m at so far and where I’m going to continue to go.
CL: Do you have any personal traits that were really important in letting you get here?
KB: I love to perform. Just the feeling of onstage. I always make sure to leave my heart on the stage, each and every time. So just me being an all-around performer and being able to play piano, and write lyrics, and dance. I think it definitely contributed to where I’m at and where I’m going to go. So I’m just really excited to be able to perform for more people. I had fun at the NBA All-Star game, I got to perform there. But lately it’s been Interscope Record executives and things like that. So I want to perform for my fans that are out there so far, and you know my potential fans. So I’m just really excited to perform.
CL: What has been the most exciting moment of this job?
KB: Just seeing the progress and basically for a while I was just seeing all the behind-the-scenes things and anxiously waiting to put my music out. So finally when it’s out, and when people can hear it and be able to talk to me on Twitter or go to my website, just seeing the progress has been so amazing. And being able to talk to the fans I have so far. Just seeing how I inspired them and how “If You Love Me” touched them or how it got them through their day, listening to the car, or I don’t know. Just being able to see the progression.
CL: Where do you hope to go from here? What’s your ultimate dream?
KB: I definitely want to use my singing as a platform to be able to touch other people like with some kind of charity work or going on mission trips. I also want to do maybe my own clothing line or jewelry line or makeup line, something that us girls like to do. I also want to get into acting. I kind of want to put my feet in everything while I can.
CL: Are there any extracurriculars that you’re passionate about?
KB: I think anything to do with art – I really like to draw a lot and sketch. I used to play basketball. But I definitely like to keep in shape, so working out. i actually run cross-country for two years in high school as well, so that was interesting. besides from that, just being a normal teenager. being at home with family, or going out with my friends, or going to the movies. on the computer, on Facebook and Twitter. Just chilling, also. because a lot of times it’s go-go-go, so when I don’t have anything to do it’s kind of nice to just be at home.
CL: As a freshman (at the time) in college and living at home, do you find that odd at all?
KB: I think you get looked at differently sometimes. But I do have a lot of friends on campus, so I always just go to my friend’s dorm. I still have a lot of friends on campus. At first, it was kind of weird, but now it’s fine. I think once you find your set group of friends, it’s fine.
CL: What was the hardest part of you adjusting to college?
KB: I think the workload. I feel like senior year is such a breeze, second-semester senior was a joke. There was barely any homework, and if there was it was nothing. After graduating and having the whole summer and jumping into schoolwork was definitely, oh, I forgot what school was going to be like. Jumping back into the swing of things was the
CL: What exactly is sassy R&B? What do you mean by that?
KB: Well, I’ll just give you examples of songs on my album. There’s a song called “Nothing Like A Boy,” and basically it’s me talking to a boy, telling him that I don’t want anything like a boy. I want a man and I need you to be a man in this situation. It’s very straightforward. Each song on my album has a message that you’re going to know by the time you’ve finished hearing it. Oh, she was trying to say this. Oh, she’s going through this. Very straightforward and I have a sassy way of telling the boy or whoever I’m talking to in the song.
CL: Would you say that the majority of your songs are about relationships or do they cover a wider range of topics?
KB: It covers a wide range. There’s songs about love, there’s songs about me wanting to be alone in my quiet place. There’s songs about me dealing with the nepotism that we were talking about earlier, it’s called “Sweet Revenge.” What to do when dealing with a heartbreak. Instead of being upset and down about it, I say, look where you can go now that this happened. I was trying to be encouraging and positive about it. So I’m just really excited for people to hear it and get their take on it.
CL: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
KB: I would say always, every day, try to do something to better yourself or better your craft. Always be ready to perform or to sing at the drop of a hat, because that’s basically what I had to do. And it’s always better to be prepared than when finally the opportunity comes along and you’re not prepared because you didn’t think anything was going to happen. So just always better yourself if there’s an opportunity coming or if there’s not. It’s always going to benefit you in the long run.