People can be broken down into an array of pairings; tall and short, early birds and night owls, introverts and extroverts, and so many more. The latter though, that’s the one many talk about daily as being on the shy side of life can be one of the largest hurdles to get over. This is something I dealt with my entire life, and something artists like KAIYI can attest to as well. She too struggled with shyness but in the end, slowly inched her way towards the spotlight. Which is the title of her latest single. We talked about that “Spotlight,” her time behind the scenes, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: What initially got you interested in working in music because your background is in producing and engineering?
KAIYI: I grew up playing piano and violin, and in high school, I started playing jazz drums, viola and formed a pop trio with two of my friends called GloMonCho. We performed and jammed so much that in the winter of our junior year, we decided to record and release an album. That was when I first started getting into production and recording. After our album release, I never stopped producing, learning how to mix/sound engineer as I went.
Kendra: As someone with a foundation in more behind-the-scenes aspects of music, do you feel that helped your music have a more personal feel because you can be very hands-on from beginning to end?
KAIYI: Definitely! Because I never liked to use my voice until very recently, I was adapted to try to tell a story with just the production alone. I love using samples that add to the narrative, chopping up sounds, making sounds feel like my own. Now that I record my vocals, I’ve also learned to process and record my vocals exactly how I want it to sound.
Kendra: You wrote your debut single, “Spotlight,” amid a quarantine in 2020. Were you thinking about stepping into your own as an artist before that, or was the time at home the push you needed to make that move?
KAIYI: I wrote “Spotlight” last summer as a vocals recording assignment for an online mixing course that I was taking, so even then I didn’t commit to becoming an artist, though a secret part of me always wanted to (as heard in the song). I knew I wanted to mix for other people and release songs as a producer, but the thought of sharing my original songs was extremely scary–that’s one of the reasons why it took so long to release “Spotlight.” My mindset gradually changed in the past year as I realized that I love making my songs and that being scared is sort of silly. Still working on the mindset! But I’ve definitely come away from where I was a year ago.
Kendra: The idea behind this track really resonates with me both figuratively as someone who is innately a shy person, and literally as I am not a fan of my Minnie Mouse voice. For you, what have been some factors in your life that sort of caused you to be wary of your voice, and did writing this help break some of those feelings down and allow you to own your voice more?
KAIYI: I’ve always been stage shy. When I was young, everytime I had a piano recital I would briefly bow and walk off stage as quickly as possible, and no matter how many times I’ve performed in front of people, I never really got over that feeling of embarrassment. Playing an instrument in front of people was scary enough, so singing just felt like the last thing I would ever do, especially because I’ve never been a particularly skilled singer. That’s why I’ve always admired people who can pour their heart and soul out on stage. Writing spotlight made me realize I wish I could do the same. I try really hard to own my voice more and more every day, posting covers on Instagram and SoundCloud and releasing “Spotlight.” But there’s a lot of room to grow.
Kendra: Born in Hong Kong, living in New York City – these are two major cities with their own unique stamps on the world. For you though, which metropolis do you feel “Spotlight” vibes with more, and why?
KAIYI: To me, “Spotlight” isn’t affiliated with Hong Kong or New York City, or any city at that. “Spotlight” sort of lives in outer space where there are no rules, it’s SUPER large, nothing really matters, anyone can be anybody there.
Kendra: Lastly, it’s getting a little easier with the vaccine rollouts, but it’s still kind of hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
KAIYI: As an artist, I have a couple more singles on their way in the next few months! As a producer and mix engineer, I am excited to work with artists like Eva Westphal, V!CTORIA etc. on their EPs. I am also always looking for more artists to work with so that I can become a full-time producer and mix engineer by the time I am done with college, so the rest of 2021 will also be a lot of grinding towards that goal!