Emerging from the eclectic streets of New York City during the worldwide COVID shutdown, dynamic R&B singer LAYA blessed music fans with her song “Sailor Moon” during the pandemic. Self-directed, self-produced, and self-edited, the visual for her song “Sailor Moon” was enthralling and it wrapped the viewer up in her universe like something they had never seen before.
Out of necessity, LAYA learned her way through photography, videography, graphic design, and special effects tutoriald on Youtube to do everything on her own - the definition of indie. Combined with production from rising duo ORA, LAYA has found her sound, and everything is clicking.
But LAYA had to build this movement from the ground up with a limited budget, experimenting and adventuring beyond just her own musical and vocal abilities. LAYA’s music is more than just the sound, it's the style, it’s the mood, and the texture of her music that makes her so unique.
This is a DIY, figure it out on your own, no excuses type of artist and she’s seemingly found a way to make her dreams come true by being adventurous and taking risks with her career.
She’s brought the world into the LAYA-verse and now we get to dive in and find out what brought Laya to this pinnacle of her music and style. Check it out below as we get to know this multi-talented dynamic artist who is no doubt a one-of-a-kind artist for the ages.
Ok so just getting into things, your style is so different. In every photo or video, you look different. Can you talk to us about your unique sense of style and how that works for you. It's so cool how you’re always serving up so many different looks and styles…
“It's a mood thing, it's all about the mood and I believe in having just like signature stylings, you know like my hair is typically always black and my change up the style but it typically always black, I got my bleached brows. But outside of that, I like to play with moods and ideas almost like characters. I feel like every look is a different character, every mood is a different character and sometimes I give them names. I got this like ghetto mullet wig and its got these T-Boz strands of hair and that’s my Leona look. Is a mood thing.”
So your singing style is soulful and kind of takes us back to the early 90’s, where did you learn how to sing and get the sound that you have as far as your vocals?
I always have been singing. My family is very musical in the sense of my father's side was always into musical theater, singing, dancing, and acting. During the holidays everyone is gathering around with instruments and singing songs together. Growing up singing was always a part of my household culture, so I was always singing forever. I always knew it was what I wanted to do.
Growing up the singers and artists that I would listen to were the R&B girls and the girl groups like Destiny’s Child, and 702, and Brandy, and Monica, and Mya, and Aaliyah. That era, that whole era and sound was just so fly to me. It was sassy, fly, and confident. It still had soul to it with stacks and harmonies with all that good stuff that we love sonically. I just always knew it was in my spirit, I just always knew that’s what I wanted to be, I wanted to be one of those R&B girls. I knew I wanted to sing, but I was just very influenced by that golden era of R&B.
So when do you think you found your sound, was there a producer you clicked with, or was it something else… a particular song you did maybe?
I knew where I was trying to go with my sound, but it definitely clicked when I met with my producers - they go by ORA. They are the duo of Dante Carter and Chad Paul and when I met them, I met them through a mutual friend, but when we met and they sent me some of their beats, I was like oh my gosh, I feel like they are in my head you know?! Like, Woah, this is going to be so sick!”
So I started working on some of their stuff and they felt the same way and it was just like this sonic chemistry and we just all knew where we all were coming from and it just clicked. We’ve been working together ever since. They produced the whole Um Hello EP and all of those singles that came out. So yeah, It definitely clicked with them, and then I also feel like when you're honing in on your own sound, it’s best when it's just coming from an organic place, whether it's entirely you or it's a small group of people that you can connect with and work with, I think that’s key and I definitely found that. So we were really able to expand and zero in on a certain style and have fun with that and grow that from the ground up. Definitely when I met my producers
Yea I can hear the synergy and just connecting with the producers there, so shout out to ORA. Moving forward you shot, directed, and edited all of your music videos. That includes the hair, makeup, and wardrobe, wow, can you talk about how you did all of that!?
It really was just out of necessity, I released Sailor Moon as a single during quarantine and it started just kind of bubbling and doing its own little thing. Nobody knew who I was, and I was just recording and mixing all this stuff in my bedroom and just putting it out and just trying to cast our net out into the universe. And so the song kind of started flourishing and catching on and people started asking for a video and it's still quarantine and people are like “We need a video, we need a video!” So at the time, I wasn’t working I didn’t have any money, or barely any money. Everybody is at home and nobody is really trying to communicate with each other and so I was like, “How am I going to do this?” So I’m a proud graduate of the school of Youtube. If there is anything I want to learn how to do or learn I find it on there.
I wanted to build a set and do all these things based in my apartment and I was talking to my dad about it and he was like, “Why don’t you just get a green screen?” I resisted because of what every other green screen music video looked like and I basically realized I can do anything. It's like Photoshop for video and I’m great with Photoshop.
So I got a cheap green screen kit and I was like let me play with this idea. I used my iPhone 7, I took a piece of a tripod and tied the phone onto the tripod with a hair tie and I just made it work. I filmed all the footage on my phone and learned as I went along. I had never edited green screen footage before and I literally just learned as I went and watched tutorials about how to do it, and that’s how I created the Sailor Moon video. I just cropped myself into the Sailor Moon universe. It was like arts and crafts on my computer and I was having a blast. It took me about two months but I shot the whole thing by myself.
So take us into the world of Sailor Moon and how you came up with this song title and the overall concept within the song.
Well like I said the song was released during quarantine. I feel like I had watched everything that was on and so I started getting back into Sailor Moon. I mean I remember Sailor Moon from back in the day when I was a kid, but I started getting back into it and the boys (ORA) had sent me the beat.
To me it felt like it went with what I was watching at the time. This anime and all these girly vibes and they sent me this beat and I was like, ‘this feels like what I’m watching!’ And I really just approached the song from writing from the perspective of Usagi, Sailor Moon, who has this mad crush on Tuxedo Mask and she just loses her shit every time she sees him and starts bugging out.
I just wanted it to focus on that innocence of having a crush on somebody and like, ‘Oh I would take you to the moon and if I could just have a moment with you and just, Oh my gosh.” Just gushing over somebody, but I think music sometimes can just be moving too fast and I was just focusing on that moment when you are like, ‘Oooh, I like you I want to be your friend.” It's just kind of living in that moment and that’s what it means to me.
Can you tell us what fans have in store for your live shows? You have some shows coming up with Alex Isley right?
I’m going to be touring with Alex Isley, fans can definitely expect me to bring elements of my universe to the stage. By my universe I mean, throughout my videos I’ve created a universe and a world of my own so I’m definitely gonna bring some of those elements to life to kind of bring the audience into my world honestly. I’m a very fun person and a showman at heart so, I love just putting on a good show and entertaining the crowd and transporting them. I think a really good show is transporting your audience into another place. I mean that’s why we go to things like that, things like concerts. We go to escape to have fun, so the fans can definitely look forward to all of that.
You did a cover of Missy’s “Sock It To Me” for AMAZON, how did you pick that song to cover or how did that come about?
Amazon approached me about doing an original with them, pretty much a cover of any song, any song of my choosing that would pretty much live on their platform exclusive which it did for a while.
The first song that came to my mind was “Sock It To Me,” it's one of my favorite records by Missy Elliott. I actually used to cover it at this old bar I used to work at in Manhattan. It was just always a song that I love to sing. So when they asked me to do a cover that was the first thing that I thought of, I sang that song a million times.
So now that I’m working with my producers and my team it was just like a really fun project to work on and to be able to try to flip it and make it our own. Just new if that’s even possible because again, it is a classic and it still slaps to this day. “Sock It To Me” is still a slapper, so we just tried to have fun with it and you know just make it sound like it was a Laya record. Like, how would I do this if this was my song? It's a lil more sleek and a lil more cat-like than the original, but it's still a lot of fun.
Timbaland if you are out there, we need to you work with Laya. I feel like he fits your sound. Timbaland is the legend, it would be cool to see that happen. Well is there anything else that you would like to tell the fans?
I would just like to share with the fans that there ain't nothing you can’t do and I would just love to live on and be an example of a testament to show that you don’t need a giant budget or a giant team or anything like that. All you need is your own belief in yourself and there is nothing that you can’t do.