By Jennifer Lynn
Rarely does an artist come along who sends music heavyweights and the fash pack into an equal state of frenzy, but 26-year-old Kyla La Grange has done just that- without even realising.
“I didn’t know I was a favourite of the bloggers,” she laughs, when asked how it feels to be the latest icon for the online style set. “I never really know what’s going on in the blogs, because I don’t like looking. I’m always too scared in case I read horrible things!”
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could be horrible about the shy Watford-born starlet, who US Vogue described as “heart-swelling”, and whose edgy style and Rapunzel-length dip dyed tresses saw her photographed for InStyle UK earlier this year.
“I really like wearing nice things to shows,” she says. “It makes the whole experience more magical. I have a very definite style, especially on tour, but I’ll wear one outfit for like 5 or 6 nights in a row because I don’t like to spend too much time worrying about it. When I’m at home writing I just wear baggy t-shirts and things.”
Fashion aside, Kyla is equally reluctant to believe in the hype surrounding her music. “I think maybe I’m just a natural pessimist,” she says. “I always stay too grounded, in that I never think anything good is going to happen.”
So no diva-like tantrums on the horizon, but where did the inspiration for those emotive lyrics and epic vocals on debut album Ashes come from?
“Just from personal experience really,” she sighs. “I’ve always written when I felt sad or angry about something, it’s a compulsion I have; when I get sad I have to write about it. It comes very naturally, like I have to get it out of myself.”
Kyla, like many artists, also has her parents to thank for much of her musical influence. “My mum and dad are from South Africa and Zimbabwe, and they listened to a whole massive range of music when I was growing up,” she explains. “They’re probably the reason that I became interested in singing, because they’re such big music fans and they listen to every genre under the sun.”
Her heritage provided the catalyst for her invite to hop aboard the Africa Express. The brainchild of ever-eccentric Damon Albarn, Africa Express essentially takes a huge collection of Western and African musicians, puts them on a train departing from London and sends them on a whirlwind tour across the UK.
“Nobody knows exactly what they’ll be doing on the tour,” explains Kyla. “It’s all meant to be a very organic process, so we jam together, some people will play their own songs and others will do covers. It’s all improvisation I guess, so I’m very excited to see what’s in store.”
With an impressive line-up including Rizzle Kicks, The Temper Trap and Mr Albarn himself, who is Kyla most looking forward to performing with?
“I’m a massive Bombay Bicycle Club fan, so it will be nerve wracking to work with Jack Steadman who’s their frontman,” she says. “But it’ll be amazing! And also Fatoumata Diawara, we played with her before and she was absolutely lovely, so it will be nice to see her again.”
Despite being none the wiser on what delights the Africa Express will bring, we guarantee it’ll be an unforgettable show.
You can catch Kyla and the rest of the gang in Glasgow at The Arches on Tuesday 4th September. For tickets and further information check out www.thearches.co.uk.