Artist of The Week: Layna
Meet Layna: the Chicago-born, NYC-based musician who’s bringing a unique voice to the landscape of music as we know it. With a chameleon-like, flexible sound, Layna is a genre-fluid singer who holds a distinct sense of salience when it comes to suiting a variety of different types of production. Despite being only 20 years old (and a student at Parsons), she’s paving her own lane in the landscape of electronic-influenced “dark-pop”, with release after release of projects that show off different sides of her multi-faceted voice—the most recent drop being a single with English mixer, Flux Pavilion. With an innate talent that’s been nurtured and incubated in the city at the heart of creative innovation, Layna represents an emerging sound that demonstrates the immense potential of NYC’s artistic youth.
We sat down with the burgeoning voice that is Layna to chat with her about how she got her start in the competitive industry of music, what it’s like to collaborate in the age of social media, and how she sees her music evolving in the future. Be sure to check out the interview below, and get a taste of what Layna has to offer.
Where do you draw creative inspiration from? Do you draw from personal experience when writing songs?
I definitely draw from my personal experiences—I think it’s the main reason I write. Writing music is super therapeutic for me and let’s me process my emotions more so than other art forms I’ve done in the past. My approach to song writing varies every time. Sometimes I start with lyrics, and other times I’ll start just with a simple piano line depending on my mood.
How long have you been singing for? What made you realize that you had a passion for music, and that it was something you wanted to pursue?
I started writing my own songs when I was like 10 but it wasn’t until a few years after that, when I started learning how to produce my own music with Ableton. That was when I really started to find my own sound and develop a passion for music. Learning how to produce on my own allowed me to translate my ideas that come organically to me, in a sonic sense. While I love collaborating and working with new artists, sometimes it can be hard to find the right producer that understands your sound. Being able to produce on my own has also allowed me to give potential collaborators a taste of the end-vision I have in mind.
How would you describe your sound? What artists or genres have influenced your sound?
I’d say my sound is pretty genre-bending. From a young age, I’ve been inspired by Amy Winehouse’s vocal quality. When Lorde’s Pure Heroine album dropped, I was absolutely obsessed with her lyrics and the way she painted pictures for the listener. The production on her album resonated with me because it was the first time I had heard such a raw, unconventional sound on a more mainstream album. Around the same time, I also got into electronic music when I first heard Flume’s debut album—I loved the way he sampled the vocals on those tracks. This is really what inspired me to learn how to produce my own music. I guess when you put all those influences together you get kind of a dark pop sound.
What has it been like collaborating with other artists, even those that are abroad?
I actually haven’t met most of the producers that I’ve collaborated with. The majority of them live abroad and reached out via Soundcloud. It’s definitely a slower process compared to when working with producers in the studio. It’s kind of exciting though because I create a version and then send it off and when I get it back, it’s like a whole new version of the song. You can really see step-by-step how the song grows and develops into the finished product. Growing up in the age of social media has opened up my tastes far beyond what I can experience just here in NYC, and has widened the scope from which I draw inspiration.
What do you hope to express through your art? Are there any overarching messages that are consistent through your work?
I wouldn’t say that there is an overarching message. My songs are reflective of what I’m going through and how I’m feeling in that moment. I feel like there are two levels of a song you connect with—first it’s like the initial sound and vibe and the other is the lyrics. My hope is to connect with the listeners on both of those levels. Most of my songs start pretty simple and then other producers make it a little more upbeat and club-friendly. With my latest single with Flux Pavilion, “Symphony”, I like the contrast between the darker, more personal lyrics with Flux’s dance vibe. It allows the listener to get different things out of it.
What are the prospects for a full length album? Will you be working on any more exciting music projects for the rest of 2018?
I’m heading to LA next month to start the early stages of an EP. I’ll be collaborating with a few artists that I’ve worked with in the past and some new people as well. So I’m really excited to get in the studio and keep exploring my sound with these artists!
Stay tuned to Milk for more up-and-coming NYC artists we love.