Kaylee Lauren – Interview

Kaylee Lauren is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and currently 18 years old.  She hit the ground running in 2021, with her first original song, “Rollercoaster.” This song is so emotionally deep that it’s still hard for her to listen to! It was soon followed in May, 2022 with “Not Enough”, “My Hearts Not Yours”, “Make Believe” and “Life Saver”. Her autobiographical themes include the range of complex emotional teenage experiences: love, relationships, breakups, insecurities, damaging thoughts and consequences.  She has now garnered more than 2.5 million streams. 

Interview by Maria Passannante-Derr. Photographs courtesy of Kaylee Lauren.

Maria Passannante-Derr: You were fifteen when you started singing songs. Was there that moment when you said to yourself, “I’m going to write, compose, perform and commit to a music career and I’m going to be good at it?”

Kaylee Lauren: Yes, it was a time when I was going through something really dark mentally. I was depressed. I didn’t feel like my family or anyone around me understood me. My family suggested that I start writing songs because that is a large part of being an artist. You can’t just be a singer and have other people write you songs.  I never really thought about that when I was a kid. So, I started writing and it quickly became the most therapeutic thing for me. Success has come to me through writing music.

MP-D: Are you out of school?

KL: I’m in my freshman year at UCLA taking music business as my major. I love my classes and I am learning so much about contracts and every side of the music business that I wasn’t aware of.

MP-D: You are well organized and in control of your social media platforms. Do you have a strategy for accumulating more than two million hits on social media?

KL: Being very consistent on social media is one of my biggest strategies. Having content to push out every single day is important. I try to post at least two or three times a day on each social media platform: TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and  Pinterest. Building a social media presence is one of the most important things in any business for success nowadays. It is the key to reaching millions of people for free.

MP-D: What drives you as an artist year in and year out?

KL: Thinking about my future drives me; my future dream life, my dream career, my dream apartment. Things that I really look forward to is what drives me in the hard times and the good times of my career. I’m a big dreamer. I love to visualize my life and my dreams. That is one of the biggest things that keeps me going no matter what.

MP-D: You describe your sound to be like Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift. What is the live Kaylee Lauren experience like when you perform?

KL: I love small venues, small hotels in Hollywood, showcases in LA. I love making very dramatic intros and captivating the audience right from the get-go. I try to connect with my audience as much as I know how to at that moment.  At my shows, I always have one song in my set list that involves audience interaction. Through this and my music I connect with my audience on a deep level. I hope to go on tour soon and meet more of my fans and hug them and sing with them. I am looking into playing at Rockwood Music Hall, New York City soon.

MP-D: What does your back up consist of?

KL: For the last few shows I’ve been playing with a band called “Fantasies”. They are well known in LA and really great musicians. There is a bass guitar singing. We rehearsed for a few sessions before the show and we clicked right from the start. I also perform acoustic or with just a piano. I collaborate with my friend who is an amazing musician. We love performing together so those are more stripped down kind of shows.  

MP-D: At Rockwood, are you performing solo?

KL: I actually found really talented musicians. They’re at NYU right now and we were going to meet for the first time and just play and rehearse together. It’s really cool to meet new musicians and band members and to play together in different cities.

MP-D: On a live performance on your website, you refer to your pianist as your producer/collaborator. What is the dynamic with your producers? What if he or she is taking you creatively someplace you don’t want to go?

KL: Usually what I like to do is create a playlist, or send them a few inspirations and influences. They usually go with my creative vision and add their magic to it. I am not afraid to speak my mind and give my opinion because at the end of the day this song is under my name. This is music that I’m putting out into the world. I want to love it. I want my producer to love it. People can feel the tension if you don’t 100% love it.

MP-D: Your original song, “Make Believe”.  How was that song created?

KL: “Make Believe” is a song about feeling like you don’t exist. It stems from an inner child emotion that I hadn’t dealt with, hence the title. I think it’s an interesting phrase, not childish necessarily but childlike, how a child would describe how they feel. I wrote this song by myself in my room. I was feeling like no one understood me and that there were a lot of invisible strings from my childhood that connected me right into the lyrics. The production was very important and special to me. I incorporated my influence of 60s music, specifically Leslie Gore and one of my most favorite songs, “You Don’t Own Me… I am not one of your many toys.” There is a part in that song where it’s just instrumental, violin and piano, no vocals. I took inspiration from that song. It has a dramatic production style that I wanted on one of my records. A lot of the artists’ art is autobiographical whether you’re a painter or a singer, performer or musician, it’s basically all autobiographic.

MP-D: You have garnered quite a bit of recognition at this point. How has this recognition affected you?

KL: It has affected me in only a good way. I feel so grateful that I’m able to connect with so many people. I see them as my family. I see them as people who get me. I love speaking with them. I don’t let the numbers or views get to my head. I’m more like… Wow! Look how many people are connecting with this feeling that made me feel so isolated.

MP-D: Do you think there’s a conflict between being true to your sound and being commercially successful?

KL: I think authenticity is what makes or breaks artists at times. There are always people who change their looks or change their styles or change what their album will look like, Taylor Swift for example. But she always goes back to her authentic self. All artists should feel comfortable changing their style.

MP-D: Where do you want to go next as you continue on your music journey?

KL: One of my biggest dreams is to go on a headline tour, or tour with another artist. Moving to New York is a big dream for me; Winning a Grammy; Being a successful, famous singer-songwriter; Being able to touch more hearts and lives and connect with millions of more people, writing authentic music. 

MP-D: Your songs and words are an intricate pattern of tightly woven phrases. Do you have a particular style for composing, lyrics first, or music, or a little a bit of both?

KL: I get an idea in my head like a light bulb. I write it down on my phone and I usually just start writing rhymes or verses. I organize it in a way that I think melodically makes sense and lyrically makes a story and then figure out the melody on the piano. I don’t know how to play the piano, I only play by ear. That is how I write my songs. I don’t know what chord I’m playing but if it sounds good, I go with it.

Then, I go into the studio and we alter it a bit depending on what my producer thinks, but he usually doesn’t override what I do. He just makes it better. I usually go in with a few songs and decide which one should be on the next project. Sometimes I am very passionate. The studio is where your feet are in the fire. That is where you can change things and where really amazing experiences happened musically. That is where the creative sparks come from.

MP-D: You were 15 when you started three years ago. That was at the end of the pandemic. Did the pandemic affect how you started your music career?

KL: Definitely. I was very nervous when I started posting my singing videos on TikTok. I always knew I wanted to be a famous singer. I wanted to be in the music industry in some way, like a pop star. When I was a kid and I would get bullied at school for being different than other kids. I always had a business going ,or I would be doing social media content that no one else was doing. People would make fun of me. They would play tricks on me and I was afraid to post singing. I would run little businesses and make $500 a week! I would do social media stuff but never sang because I was nervous.  

When COVID happened in 2020, everything shut down. I wasn’t at school with these people so what was the worst that could happen? Send me videos and make fun of me in group chats? text me? There was no in person interaction so they couldn’t bully me in person so I thought, ‘I’m just gonna try it’ and I did.  I have never looked back. I am very happy that I made that decision. My first singing video I posted got 100,000 views and I was like, ‘Whoa! This doesn’t really happen all the time. Maybe I am on to something. Singing, and then writing.’

MP-D: “Rollercoaster” was your first release?

KL: I was writing a little before that. I unintentionally secluded myself in my bedroom while my mother was preparing dinner. My family apparently called me but I was so focused on composing and writing that I stayed in my room for hours and did not respond to their calls. The chances of me writing my first ever record that day was pretty slim considering that I was supposed to go down for dinner. “Rollercoaster” was a deeply emotional song for me. It’s hard for me to listen to it even now. I felt like everyone around me was telling me, ‘No, that person is bad for you, you’re not allowed to see him. You’re not allowed to miss him. Go to therapy and just forget about him.’ For me, he was the only person who understood me.

MP-D: What else would you like the readers to know about you personally or professionally?

KL: I am posting on my YouTube channel vlogs of productive days because I think my fans want to see more about what my everyday life looks like. It’s busy filming interviews. As you become more recognized, and famous, people want to know personal things about you including: what time you get up, if you exercise, what you eat for breakfast, how many people are in your family, what the holidays are like for you and your family, etc. I think people will want to know the kind of stuff they crave about Taylor Swift or any other really famous artist.

I did social media as an influencer before I started my music career three years ago. I had 50,000 followers on TikTok and I was working with big brands and going to events. I loved the marketing aspect and all the clothing brands that wanted to work with me. However, I put that on halt for my music. I’m a big believer in manifesting and I asked the universe the other day to show me in my dreams what I can do to get to my New York apartment and my famous singing career. I woke up with this urge to start my YouTube again and to make money and make new connections.

I have an opportunity now to be an influencer. That takes up a lot of  time away from my music or I can align the two which is what I am trying to do. People criticized me for being an influencer and not a singer, but I believe having a social media presence can change everything for you: more streams equals more connections and you can still find your focus and your career. 

MP-D: Is there anything else you’d like your fans to know?

KL: Yes, look out for a tour soon. It’s going to be great!!

Click here to learn more about Kaylee Lauren!