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Interview: Alayna Talks Collaboration and Musical Journeys

Interview: Alayna Talks Collaboration and Musical Journeys

Fluffy / Wednesday 21st November, 2018 1:08PM

Auckland-based neo-soul artist alayna has some impressive accomplishments on her musical résumé. She's worked with prestigious producer Josh Fountain of RnB supergroup Leisure, as well as long-time Billie Eilish collaborator Finneas O'Connell, not to mention racking up in-excess of five million Spotify streams. The artist is celebrating the recent release of her already hugely successful debut EP Sweet Soul with a launch party at Auckland's Anthology Lounge this Friday. Fluffy caught up with alayna via email to give the low down on her time in the US, working with Hillydilly blogger Chad Hillard's label 20XX and her recent Outward Sound-sponsored trip to the UK...

For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little about alayna and your music? What style of tunes do you write and what inspires you to create?

Over the years of writing and performing and discovering music I've developed my own style of tunes. I was brought up on a lot of folk music, and discovered my love for soul music when I was about 18. So I guess what comes out is a mix of my influences and what I love. I love the lyrical content of folk, I love RnB grooves and organic instruments balanced with electronic elements, and most of all I love challenging my voice and creating beautiful melodies, soul music taught me how the voice can say so much more than just the words it is singing. I am constantly writing things in journals and notebooks and in my phone. I need to express myself and to try and make sense of my emotions. I can't not create. I need to document or get something out that is on my mind.

Can you tell us a little about your musical journey and what led up to you relocating to the US?

My musical journey began when I was six, I started writing my own songs later in high school, and I went on to study music. I started working on my first EP when I was 18, and only just released it this year. It took me a while to pull all the pieces together but the journey has been important. When I finished studying music I felt really stuck, both personally and musically. I knew I needed to push myself, to get lost for a bit. So I moved to New York with not too much thought. Just kind of stepped into the unknown. I wasn't scared, I just knew I needed to do it if I wanted to grow.

You recently dropped your debut EP Sweet Soul, of which, the vocals were recorded by Leisure’s Josh Fountain. How did that collaboration come about?

Thank you! I first worked with Josh Fountain in 2013 when I was first recording demos of 'Bliss' and 'High Off You'. I've spent hours in the studio over the years, especially doing vocals. I love working with Josh, as he makes the studio feel comfortable, and always encourages me to keep going til we get the right take. I always get the best vocal takes with Josh, and I think it's because we've worked together for so long, and because he is a brilliant producer and person.

The release party for that will also be happening at Auckland's new-venue-on-the-block Anthology Lounge. 

I love this venue. Stone Cold Records, the guys putting on the show, recommended it as we were looking for a classy, intimate space for this gig. I've been to a couple of gigs there already and it has such a cool vibe. Auckland needed this venue. This gig is going to be so, so good. I'm playing all my released songs plus some new ones from my next project. I'll also have some limited edition physical copies of the EP there too! I've only made 100, so they'll be pretty special. I've also sneakily put the live renditions of each song on there, that I recorded this August at Roundhead studios. Godfrey de Grut arranged my songs for a string quartet and band. I'm so proud of the finished result, they'll be up on Youtube too.

You’ve also worked with Finneas O’Connell, who’s a longtime Billie Eilish collaborator. How did that team-up come about?

Chad Hillard, my independent label head set that up. Chad owns the music blog Hillydilly, which was the first blog to push out Billie Eilish when she uploaded Ocean Eyes to SoundCloud. Billie and Finneas have a good relationship with Chad and the blog, and so we set up a writing session early 2017.

How did you come to be involved with 20XX, the label of Chad Hilliard who also curates renowned music blog Hillydilly?

The best thing about Hillydilly is that they are always trawling the internet, looking for new music and talent. Chad somehow found me on Soundcloud when I had maybe 2,000 plays on my only song. He reached out and we started talking from there.

Your set at Going Global Presents 2018 in September was crazy tight! Can you tell us about that experience?

Thank you! That was so much fun. It was my first show back after living in New York and spending the last couple of years writing and recording. I got a band together of awesome guys, some who have played for me for years, and we just had fun. I'm excited to keep performing and working on the set.

Did you find that performing to industry delegates opened new doors for you or lead to positive, valuable conversations?

A good conversation always comes out of those gigs. Whether it's industry professionals or just other creatives in the audience. It's always going to be beneficial in some way.

You’re currently in the UK on music-related business?

I applied for some funding from Outward Sound to go on a market visit to London to do some writing and performing. London is my top city on Spotify so it's been really cool to check it out. I played a show on November 5th and I met a couple of supporters who have been following me right since I released 'Falling Autumn', people were singing along to 'Sweet Soul'. It was so cool to see that over there. I'm also having sessions with some producers to continue working on my second EP.

What’s next in the musical journey of alayna?

I've finally just sorted out some management in Chicago, so that will help out a lot in setting things in motion. More music to be released! And more shows - I'm aiming to do some more gigs over summer in New Zealand. I've already got an album concept and so many ideas. I'm so excited to create and continue to grow as an artist and a person.

You can catch alayna at Auckland's Anthology Lounge on Friday 23rd November. Head over here for tickets and more info.


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Alayna - Sweet Soul EP Release
Fri 23rd Nov 8:00pm
Anthology Lounge, Auckland