Hayley Kiyoko, known for her hits “Girls Like Girls” and “Gravel to Tempo,” played the second-to-last show of her tour Friday night at A&R Music Bar. Before her set, she talked with The Lantern about her music as well as her acting career.
The Lantern: What was your first passion growing up?
Hayley Kiyoko: My first passion was rhythm — so like drums. I got a drum set when I was five. And then my dream was to be in the “Stomp” musical, you know where they play drums and tap? So I took tap dance lessons, and I was drumming at a very early age.
TL: So you’ve also directed some of your videos, right?
HK: I’ve directed all my videos … I’ve directed five videos now.
TL: What do you like about acting, and what do you like about directing?
HK: Acting is nice because you can kind of like, surrender to the scene and just, like, let things happen and let the director, you know, direct you, so you’re more in a surrendering position. And then as a director — I love it because I love having a vision in my mind and being able to fully execute that, and being able to go, “That’s exactly what I had imagined in my mind,” and that’s how I feel with a lot of my music videos. Some music videos are more surprising, like, I’ll watch it and be like, “Oh I didn’t exactly imagine it like this but I love it like this,” like, “Gravel to Tempo” is a good example where I imagined the video exactly like that as I was writing the song, so it’s always cool to see that.
TL: I’ve noticed that a lot of pop music writers say you should listen to anything but pop while you’re writing it. So, do you have any musical influences that are like, radically different than what you do?
HK: Yeah, I don’t really listen to pop music, so I guess I would agree with that. I tend to not listen to a lot of current music, because I don’t like that to flood my brain. Like, when I was writing “Citrine” I was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder. And then like in general, in my free time I love listening to Arcade Fire, that’s like my zen, my escape — like the “Funeral” album, Metric and that kind of stuff. So different (music) than stuff that I do.
TL: How do you think that configures into your sound?
HK: I think it just keeps my sound open, and complex in the sense of like melodies. When I go into writing a song, there’s no rules. I don’t go, “Oh, well you can’t do this note, and I can’t do this riff,” or whatever. I’m just free, and I think that listening to that type of music keeps me open and free to do what I want, and explore and discover what sounds I’m going to make.
TL: How do you think your sound has evolved over the years?
HK: It’s evolved a lot. Immensely — like in middle school, I was doing like, Evanescence type music, really just dramatic kind of stuff. And then I went and did more emo music, and then in high school I was doing singer-songwriter music, like Fiona Apple type stuff. And then, “A Belle to Remember” was kind of like confused pop, and then “This Side of Paradise” was a little more indie pop, and now “Citrine,” I feel like I’ve kind of found my sound. And, I mean it is pop music, but I do think that it’s fresh pop music.
TL: Do you think you’ll keep acting?
HK: Oh yeah, I mean, I shot a movie that’s coming out this summer. I was in a movie on Netflix called “XOXO” last year, so I’m still acting.
TL: What would your dream role be?
HK: Probably to be like Orlando Bloom in “Lord of the Rings.” So like, an elf on a horse with a bow and arrow, with long blonde hair.
TL: Have you ever been writing a song where you had an initial idea, but then the finished product really surprised you?
HK: Yeah, on a lot of my songs I’ll like — it’ll be about one thing, and then when I release it, it’ll turn into being about another thing. Which is so exciting about songwriting, because it’s a journey that starts to teach you a lesson, in a way.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for length and clarity