I suspect most readers of FYI Music News have had that “forever” moment hearing themselves on the radio for the first time. There’s no denying – it’s electric, etched in memory – a moment that never fades. You could write a book on “first radio plays” and more than a few Kleenex would pass hands.
Hit records are as rare as panning for gold. Everyone knows there is a formula, but few grasp it. It’s still all about the song, the community of players/managers/producers and advisers.
Kayla Diamond comes to this from an unusual place . Not incubating in a loft with a crowd of musicians, Diamond was a law student with a passion for music. It just happens music won out!
With a top single – “Carnival Hearts” - in play, I thought it time to sit down and have a chat at the beginning of the cycle. During the big climb!
Carnival Hearts – have you heard it on the radio?
Yes, I get excited every single time – it’s like the first time.
When was the first time and how did you feel?
I heard it the day it was featured on radio, on 99.9 Virgin Radio, and I started crying. I couldn’t believe it.
I remember the Beatles and Rolling Stones talk about the first time they heard their songs played on the radio and were driving to gigs – they pulled off the side of the road, sat there and listened. It’s a special moment.
It is, I’d never actually heard myself on the radio. I’ve been on Sirius XM EDM channel because I’ve done some remixes for the EDM world but I’ve never heard my music, and it’s an incredible thing.
Are many major reporting stations playing you?
I think about 15 or 16. It’s going incredible. For me, this is a major accomplishment.
So many artists go at this every week, yet it still comes down to the song – a song that connects. "Carnival Hearts" with its background in an amusement park is unique and entertaining. How did the song come about?
I do my best writing at my parent’s house. I live in town, and it’s a busy city, a lot of noise, but when I get to my parent’s outside the city, it’s quiet and peaceful. They have a grand piano for me, and it’s my sanctuary – I do my best writing there.
I’m a bit weird in that I have this sick obsession with abandoned things. I love the concept of abandonment and exploring that aspect of places. The amusement park for me is where I have the best memories. My dad would take me out of school for a day, and I’d play hooky, and he’d take me to an amusement park.
I was thinking I’d explore something that was once so beautiful and causing so much happiness for people. What if it was abandoned and no more. You walk through this place that was once splendor and is now in decay. It’s insane to me that can happen over time.
I write notes on my phone and came up with the opening line - “In this abandoned amusement park, we come to life when it’s dark.” It was pouring out of me.
I had a writing session with Craig McConnell and Liz Rodriguez. I said, “hear me out, I know this is going to be weird."Craig is so open to anything, and it was before Liz came into the studio. I said, “Let’s just write a song about an abandoned amusement park – walking through and discovering things – sort of, reclaiming youth. What was once effervescent is now completely decayed. Empty and void of anything. Let’s infuse it with something."
Where did the body of the song come from – the melody/chords, beats?
When I first wrote the opening line down, I sang it. Liz Rodriguez helped with the verse melodies and everything. Craig just gave it that Craig thing, you know. He put in some awesome beats and made it as I had envisioned.
When did you finish production?
A year ago. It’s been waiting. It was a lot slower when we wrote, about 83 bpm – raised to 90 to give a more upbeat tempo.
How about listening sessions?
The minute we wrote the song we knew it was special. Craig sent his demo back to us and said, “I think this is what we’ve all been waiting for.” It was June 2016; I heard it, and then the tears started to flow. I realized this is what I have been waiting for, the kind of music I want to write.
Sitting on this a year must have been hard to do? It’s about knowing when the right moment is.
You want to keep writing. If I think something is the best in my repertoire I want to keep writing and beat it. Since then I’ve written an additional forty songs, and that still seems like the first to me.
You have a six song EP coming.
It’s all done. Throughout the EP you are pretty much listening to a story. I let the listener know where they are, what’s about to happen, how I feel, how they should feel. “Carnival Hearts” was the sort of a light-hearted disheartening song for me. The song is upbeat until you listen carefully to the lyrics, it’s not very happy. I disguise a kind of mourning for youth. We all grow up. We all get older. Through the other songs, I have flashbacks to my youth. First time falling in love – kind of the story of my life.
Where were you ten years ago?
I was in grade ten in high school. My mind was elsewhere – just fooling around being a teenager. My mind has always thought musically. Even outside hearing a car horn – ah, that’s a F# - depending on the car.
Slaight Music sent me to Berklee College of Music for a week of specialized programs. They had me as a visiting artist and customized a program for me to study whatever I felt like exploring. I had voice lessons and top-notch learning sessions.
You stepped into a great situation that came about because of Slaight Music’s It’s Your Shot 2015 contest.
I had just started law school, and in between undergrad and law school, I wrote my first song, “Crazy,” and put it out there for fun, not expecting anything. That September, I submitted to It’s Your Shot – completely forgot about, didn’t even know what Slaight Music was.
I then went to law school and completed my first semester. The day after my last exam I get a call from Gary Slaight saying I won. I said, “Who are you?”
I called my dad, he freaked out and said, “it’s too good to be true, just double check.” We Googled and found out it was very much legitimate. I couldn’t think law anymore. All I had on my mind was music. What am I going to write?
I need to jump on this.
How did the family react?
They were scared at the beginning.
They were thinking law. They are also so incredibly supportive.
A lot of people think just because my family is all lawyers I would be the black sheep, but they are on my side, rooting for me. I remember leaving law school, the drive home from Windsor. I walked in the house and dad looked at me and said, “You are not going back to law school. “ I looked at him and said, “What do you mean? What if it doesn’t work out? I have to be responsible.” He goes, “No, no, no, - you are going to be an artist. You are going to be a singer, and you are going to do this for your life.” I said, “You believe in me, that’s all right.”
That’s an amazing thing for a parent to say to their offspring. Pop music is about percentages, and those who achieve success are part of the .0001 per cent who succeed. You can make a living in music if you are well-rounded in production, composing, changing technology, - specific skills. What about performing?
I want to make sure my performance lives up to my story. I want that conveyed to my audience. I also want my audience joining in with me by the end of it.
I want to make sure I work on how I sing my song. I’m working on stage performance, the look of my band. You need lessons on how to own the stage and show your audience you are comfortable.
Coming from a piano background, I always had a piano in front of me. Slaight Music has given me many lessons with top-notch instructors. it’s helpful. I practice nearly every day in front of a mirror, aware of every little thing the audience picks can see and hear.