Hailing from New Jersey, Kayla Calabrese always loved to sing. After attending a Broadway musical with her mom, Calabrese knew she wanted to pursue music professionally. After taking voice and moving to Nashville, she released her first EP in 2013 and is currently preparing for the release of her second album sometime next year. Kayla graciously took the time to speak about her roots, her single “Give” and more.
When you were younger, you were a “hairbrush singer,” but then at sixteen you decided you wanted to pursue music professionally. Was there a lightbulb moment for you that spurred that decision?
I always wanted to sing, but I was too afraid to tell anyone! Then I saw Wicked on Broadway and the whole time I was watching the musical, I was like, I want to do that, that’s what I have to do. So when the show was over, I looked at my mom and asked her for voice lessons, which I started when I was seventeen. And the rest is history.
Was your first love musical theatre?
Broadway will always be my love, but once I started singing, playing guitar and writing, I gravitated towards country music because I loved telling stories.
When I was a kid, I listened to N'SYNC and Hanson, but my dad always listened to country and once I started really listening to it and understanding it, I knew that was where my heart was.
Who then are your inspirations or influences on your singing, writing or playing?
Ever since I saw her in Wicked, Idina Menzel. In terms of country I love Sara Evans, Martina McBride and 90’s country, when it was all about the song. I think we have gotten away from that lately and I want to bring that back in my songs by telling stories and connecting with people.
You recorded your first EP in Nashville with Kent Wells, who worked with Dolly Parton. How did that come about?
It’s actually a funny story. I was talking with someone who told me about Kent Wells. They mentioned that I should check him out, so I looked up his phone number and called. I got his assistant and basically said, “Hey I heard about you and want to work with you” and she was like, “Well honey, it doesn’t really work that way.” She asked me to send her some music, which I did, and I really never expected to hear back from her, ever. About twenty minutes later, she called me back, we set up a meeting and I got to work and record the cd with him. Then I met Jimmy Nichols who produced my second EP, which is going to be released next year.
Some great company to be in.
What can you tell us about the new EP?
I recorded it at Starstruck Studios, which was just an awesome experience! There are six songs on it, one of which I co-wrote and five that I did not write. For this EP, I had the opportunity to have songs pitched to me, so I went through listening to many and I finally narrowed it down to ten. Then I chose the five songs I connected with and that had a message that I believed in. I am super proud of how it turned out and am really exicted for everyone to hear it!
One of the songs on the EP is your current single, “Give.” What is the story behind that song?
That’s one of the songs I did not write, but it’s one of those where you’re like, ‘Why didn’t I write that song?’ I love "Give" because it is exactly how I live my life and how I think people should live their lives. If we all lived our lives that way, the world would be a better place.
With this song, I had the opportunity to do charity work with Ronald McDonald House in relation to National Make A Difference Day. I had the 'GIVE' campaign where fans could find links to my charity on my website, learn about it and donate. Continuing on with the message of “Give,” I am encouraging listeners to give back during the holidays in some way to any charity that is close to their hearts, like Toys for Tots.
That's defintiely a way for others to continue to share the message of "Give" through the season.
Switching back to the album, why did you title it Glass Stiletto?
Glass stiletto is a lyric in the one song I co-wrote on the EP. The song is called “Happily Never After” and there’s a funny story behind it. I was talking with this guy back in New Jersey who was obsessed with Disney, which is weird, but I went with it (laughing). We were talking for two to three months and then he texts me one day asking if he could ask me a question. So here I am thinking he was going to ask me to be his girlfriend and instead he asks me for my friend’s number so he can ask her out! Turns out fairy tales are not true, so I turned that one into a song. I thought it would make a good album title and we rolled with it.
Do you play out often?
As much as I can. I went to school, got my RN and I now work in the emergency department. It’s challenging at times, but I work and then whenever I am off I focus on music whether it is scheduling a performance, an interview or writing. I am busy, but it’s definitely a good busy.
That’s quite a balance.
So next year, in addition to the EP release, is there one thing you would like to accomplish?
I would like to hone my craft by writing more. I would also like to play out more. I would go out with anyone, but I wouldn’t mind Sam Hunt, he’d be a good touring partner! (laughing)
Finally, what do you like to listen to on your downtime?
I listen to a lot of different types of music. I love Sara Bareilles, Carrie Underwood and Clay Aiken…he’s a not so guilty pleasure of mine (laughing).
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