I came home late after a local rock show, and posted a few photos on Instagram around 2:00am. A new name popped up as “liking” one them. That name was “Kayla Nichols Music.”
I decided to check out her music, came across her video for “Illusion” and was immediately obsessed. I loved the smooth groove to the song, the dark, sultry vibe of the video, and even more…her voice.
So, I reached out to her to see if was interested in doing an interview. Luckily for you and me, she obliged.
Before we get into the interview, here’s a little insight on Kayla:
Kayla Nichols is a blues pop rock and roll artist based out of Redding, California. Her sound is a fusion of old-school blues, rock and pop. It has a curtain, electric driven vibe that is inspired by past and present pop rock and roll icons such as B.B King, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Jackson, Joan Jett, Jimi Hendrix, Greta Van Fleet, and Janis Joplin. Through her music, Kayla desires to give people something real and relatable that will infuse them with hope and freedom and will inspire them to live life to the full from how loved they are.
Steve: Let’s jump right in. What captured my interest in your music was your video for “Illusion” which was your concept, and you also directed it? Tell us the story behind that.
Kayla: How I got the concept for the music video for this song is actually a pretty funny story. About a month or so before I was going to release my blues pop rock and roll album “Illusion”, I saw a kid with light up shoes and thought to myself, “I wonder if they make those for adults?” I honestly just really wanted some. So I went on Amazon and sure enough I found some hi-top light up shoes and bought them on the spot, just for fun. About a week later, the entire concept idea for the music video for “Illusion” came into my head. I saw all of it in my head – light up drumsticks, glow in the dark guitar strings. I saw every instrument illuminated in some way. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that I had just bought those light up shoes. I knew was supposed to wear them in the video. I honestly credit the concept to God. This story is just one example of how things typically go down for me when it comes to my music. Usually God just gives me an entire vision for something in my mind and I just roll with it. Jesus has been portrayed as this really serious person. I love telling my stories because it shows that He isn’t this stoic person people make Him out to be. He’s creative and adventurous and He loves rock and roll music. I love that I get to show people that through my music.
The video was shot in the dark with lights for a specific reason. My song “Illusion” is a break up song I wrote about breaking up with things that you think will give you a real experience of life and love but are actually just an illusion. For myself, these were things like pornography and codependent relationships. Things that you think will be a true source of life, love, and fulfillment but they really only rob you of real life. I shot the video in the dark to show people the reality of where you are actually standing when you are giving yourself to a relationship with those things. You are actually in the dark but might not realize it. I wore light up glasses to almost say to those things, “I see what’s really going on.” I wanted to illuminated the instruments too almost to represent making a sound in the darkness that would wake people up from the “illusion” that these things will actually give you the life you’re looking for.
Directing the music video was an entirely new experience for me. When I got the idea for the video, I knew I only had about two weeks to film it because I wanted to release it the same day I was going to release my album, which meant I had to leave at least two weeks for it to be edited. I started ordering all the supplies and told the instrumentalists from the album that it was going to happen even though I didn’t have a videographer yet. I just knew that if God was giving me the vision for it, it was going to happen and he was going to connect me to someone. Sure enough, I posted about it on Facebook and an awesome guy named Jared Richard reached out to me. I didn’t know him at all but he said God told him that day that he was supposed to shoot music video and when he got on Facebook, my post was the first thing he saw. I knew he was the guy who was supposed to film it. He hopped on board about a week and a half before we filmed the video. Everything honestly just kind of came together. It was crazy. My friend Johnny Tumanello had concert lights and programmed them to my song for the music video. A local business owner named Charmaine let us film it at one of her venues. All of it came together within two weeks. I honestly didn’t realize I was the director of the video until after we filmed it and I realized I was the one who directed the entire process. It honestly just felt natural to me and made me realize I am a creator in many different aspects and am going to direct a lot of my music videos in the future.
Steve: You cite BB King as one of your inspirations. That’s not common for someone your age. How did you get exposed to his music? What’s one of your favorite things about him?
Kayla: I had heard of B.B. King but had never listened to his music until I started writing blues rock. When I started writing this album, I honestly didn’t even know I was playing blues. I had never listened to, played, or studied blues before. I remember sending a clip of one of the songs I was writing to my dad and he was the one who told me I was playing blues. He started sending me artists to listen to for inspiration and B.B. King was one of them. I think one of my favorite things about B.B. King is he felt everything he played. I watched so many videos of him playing and it was like he was so lost in what he was playing that it didn’t really matter where he was playing or who was watching. He had a genuine love for playing guitar that is inspiring to any musician. I think sometimes we can get so focused on where we are trying to go with out music that it’s easy to forget the reasons we started playing in the first place. I remember when I first learned to play guitar. I would sit on my bedroom floor for hours just because I loved to play. It didn’t matter whether or not I was playing for anyone. I just loved to play. Watching B.B. King play takes me back to that place.
Steve: You have a trumpet player in your band, which is also not very common. Tell us how that came about.
Kayla: B.B. King was actually the reason why I decided to include trumpet on this album. I was driving home from work one day listening to his music when I heard trumpet in one of his songs. I instantly imagined what it would sound like to have some power trumpet hits in my songs, but I had no idea how to find a trumpet player. I had never worked with brass instruments on a music project before. But two days later, a friend invited me to a jazz night in my city (Redding, California), and as soon as I walked in I saw a trumpet player on stage. I told her about my album afterwards and asked her if she wanted to play and she was down so she started hopping into rehearsals with the rest of us. Her name is Faith Hornby and she’s killer. Honestly, figuring out the trumpet parts for the album was probably one of the most challenging parts or orchestrating out the instrumentation for the album because I had never had brass instruments in my music before. I knew what I was hearing in my head but had no idea how to communicate that to her. It was a process for sure. I kind of just told her to play stuff in rehearsals and then I would tell her whether or not it matched what I was hearing. I would say a couple of months into rehearsals was when I realized I was hearing a mo-town vibe and we started to nail it down, but it still wasn’t set in stone even when we went into the studio to record the album. Bruce Turgon, the guy who recorded my album and the original bass player from Foreigner, was the one who really helped us nail down the trumpet parts in the studio.
Some rapid fire questions:
Waffles or pancakes? Pancakes
Favorite cartoon as a kid? The Land Before Time
Go to comfort food? Pizza
Cat or dog? Dog
What’s the fastest you’ve driven a car? 110 miles per hour (don’t tell my mom). Haha
Steve: You’ve just been granted the ability to resurrect one musician to play a gig with onstage. Who are you choosing, and why?
Kayla: I have two. I’m a huge fan of pop music and rock and roll music, so if we’re talking pop music, I would definitely choose Michael Jackson. If we’re talking rock and roll music, I would choose Freddy Mercury. I feel like I would be choosing both of them for the same reasons, though. Both of these artists were musical geniuses when it came to writing, creating, and producing music. They weren’t just writers – they were visionaries and they were catalysts. They pushed the limits and took risks in creating music that was “outside the box”. They also weren’t afraid to express themselves on stage and were incredible passionate performers. They inspired people to be fully themselves, to dream big, and to take risks creatively. Those are all things I aspire to be as an artist.
Steve: I’m a live music junkie, so this one is purely selfish. Are there any tour plans in the works?
Kayla: I do not have a tour planned right now. Right now my biggest focus is putting out new music videos for my current album as well as writing and producing new music that is going to be catalytic compared to what I just released.
Steve: What are your hobbies/interests outside of music?
Kayla: I love traveling, seeing new places, going on adventures outside, spending quality time with friends, seeing live music, hammocking, playing basketball, and watching movies and TV shows.
Steve: You recently posted some short videos on social media of you working on new music. What can we expect from that, and when do we get to hear it?
Kayla: I’m hesitant to answer this because I’m trying really hard to not give anything away haha. I am going to be releasing a music video for another song off my “Illusion” album as well as a new single and music video for that single all in the next month. My new single is going to be very different from the music I just released. The song is going to be a fusion of pop and rock and roll and is very inspired by Michael Jackson.
Steve: Anything you’d like to add?
Kayla: I recently released a short film telling the story behind my album. I directed and edited the film myself and in it, I get really real and raw about what I was going through in my life during the time I wrote the songs. My greatest passion as an artist is to encourage and inspire others to be fully themselves and to take risks on pursuing their dreams and that’s a huge reason why I decided to create and put out this short film. It’s available to watch on my YouTube channel!