Hayley Kiyoko

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What'd I Say

Hayley Kiyoko

S1, Ep. 6

We speak with singer-songwriter Hayley Kiyoko about singing on family road trips, middle school angst, and her dream of being in a boy band.

Episode Transcript

Intro: Hello and welcome to What’d I Say, where Atlantic Records talks with artists about songs they made, songs they like and songs they’d like to have made. It’s an inside look into the craft of songs from the artists themselves.

In the fall of 2016, the singer, songwriter, director and actress Hayley Kiyoko, featured as one of Rolling Stones’ “10 New Artists You Need To Know,” released her major label debut EP, “Citrine.”

For the release, she directed the music videos for “One Bad Night” and “Gravel To Tempo.” To date, her videos have collectively amassed over 140 million views on YouTube. In early 2018, Hayley released a new song called “Curious,” the first official single from her debut album, “Expectations.” This spring, she will perform at Coachella. Stopping by the Atlantic Podcasts Studios, we caught up with Hayley about singing on family road trips, middle school angst and her fantasy of one day fulfilling her dream of being in a boy band.

Tom Mullen: Hayley, are you ready?

Hayley Kiyoko: I’m ready.

Tom Mullen: Okay. What was your first favorite song?

Hayley Kiyoko: In life?

Tom Mullen: Yes. It can be embarrassing, it’s okay.

Hayley Kiyoko: My first favorite song was “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne.

Tom Mullen: Okay.

Hayley Kiyoko: It was so good. I remember playing my orange drum set to it, being like, “Why’d you have to come?” Literally, it was angst. It was good angst. And at that time, in middle school, that’s all you needed.

Tom Mullen: All you needed.

Hayley Kiyoko: Was angst. Because you were just angsty.

Tom Mullen: Do you remember the first song you memorized?

Hayley Kiyoko: The first song that I memorized was Linkin Park, “In the End.” “One thing, I don’t know why, it doesn’t even matter how hard you try, keep that in my…” Well because my mom was working in Utah, doing the Olympics, and we would drive road trips to Utah. We had nothing to do. So, I made my brother be the backup singer. I was Chester. Oh wait, no, Thatcher. My brother was Chester.

Tom Mullen: You were Mike.

Hayley Kiyoko: Yeah, I was Mike. And so my brother’s going, “In the end,” singing in the back. I’m like, “No, Thatcher, sing it …” We would be practicing for 14 hours. So we memorized the whole album.

Tom Mullen: Was your mom driving this whole time?

Hayley Kiyoko: No we were going to visit my mom. My dad was driving.

Tom Mullen: So your dad was like-

Hayley Kiyoko: So my brother also knows “In the End” as well.

Tom Mullen: Do you remember the first music that you remember buying?

Hayley Kiyoko: The NSYNC album.

Tom Mullen: Which one?

Hayley Kiyoko: It’s the first one. I forget what it’s called. What’s the first one? White, it was a white cover, and they were in blue. They wore all blue. Slight, with a little yellow on it.

Tom Mullen: I bought that record for some reason, I don’t know why.

Hayley Kiyoko: Because it was great.

Tom Mullen: It was.

Hayley Kiyoko: I waited outside Tower Records.

Tom Mullen: You did?

Hayley Kiyoko: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Mullen: Wow.

Hayley Kiyoko: So I was a big NSYNC fan. Because my goal was to be in a boy band. It’s still my goal to be in a boy band. But I’m trying to make those dreams a reality through my solo music. I just want to feel like I’m in a boy band. I just want screaming girls everywhere.

Tom Mullen: I love that.

Hayley Kiyoko: I just want to do dance moves onstage and I want screaming girls.

Tom Mullen: Was there a song recently, that you discovered, that you had to share with your friends immediately?

Hayley Kiyoko: Yeah, that’s a good question. Yeah, there was. F, I can’t remember.

Tom Mullen: If you remember, we can go back to it.

Hayley Kiyoko: Oh we’ll go back to it. But yeah, there was one that I was like, “Oh my God, this is a cool song.”

Tom Mullen: Was there one of your songs that you were writing that you realized you were taking it to the next level? Like when you finished, you’re like, “Wow, I’m on another level.”

Hayley Kiyoko: Can I be honest with you? I feel like that every time I write a new song.

Tom Mullen: So every new one.

Hayley Kiyoko: Yeah, every time I write a new song, I feel like, wow, I’m on to the next level. This is the one. And then you write another song, and you’re like, “Wow, this is the one.” And then you hear it and you’re just like, wow. It’s like, every time you just get better, and better, and better and you’re progressing, so.

Tom Mullen: What elements of a song, could be yours or somebody else’s, that grabs you first? I know you were a drummer really early on.

Hayley Kiyoko: The beat.

Tom Mullen: It’s the beat?

Hayley Kiyoko: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it’s like, it’s the kick and the snare. Yeah.

Tom Mullen: That’s it?

Hayley Kiyoko: Yeah.

Tom Mullen: And then you’re in?

Hayley Kiyoko: I’m in.

Tom Mullen: Is there an artist that we’d be surprised to find out is an influence of yours?

Hayley Kiyoko: Yeah, there’s some guilty pleasures.

Tom Mullen: Now is the time.

Hayley Kiyoko: Is it the time? Is it the time? Oh man. Let me look at my phone.

Tom Mullen: Okay. And also look for that song.

Hayley Kiyoko: I know, I just sent it to my friends.

Tom Mullen: Do you feel like that? I feel like that sometimes-

Hayley Kiyoko: I’m so unhip.

Tom Mullen: -where if I don’t have it in front of me and it’s something digital, I forget quicker.

Hayley Kiyoko: I know, I know, I feel the same way. I feel the same way. Okay people would be shocked by the fact that I’m influenced, that you were asking me?

Tom Mullen: Yeah.

Hayley Kiyoko: Let’s see. I wouldn’t say influenced, but I think people would be shocked that I listen to Nas all the time. So when I’m working, I listen to Nas. I just go to Spotify, I click on Nas and I push play. It’s like, my work music. So there’s that.

Tom Mullen: I like that. Do you remember some songs that you shared?

Hayley Kiyoko: We’re still back at that.

Tom Mullen: I’m interested, because I think you’re avoiding.

Hayley Kiyoko: Honestly, I don’t remember.

Tom Mullen: Okay.

Hayley Kiyoko: I can’t remember.

Tom Mullen: Okay, that’s fine. Do you remember the first time you heard one of your songs in public?

Hayley Kiyoko: I never hear my songs in public.

Tom Mullen: Oh no.

Hayley Kiyoko: The first and only time I’ve heard my song in public, I was in the airport and I want to say it happened two months ago. We were in the airport, and it was a remix of one of my songs. Was it a Sephora? Or was it MAC? It was MAC. But I was in the airport. And all of a sudden I hear, “this is where I need” and I was like, where is that coming from? Where is that coming from? And I started trying to find my voice, I’m like, my ear, I’m trying to find which store it’s coming from. And then I found myself in the MAC store. And then I just stood in the MAC store and listened to it for the whole time. That was really cool.

Tom Mullen: They didn’t notice you doing that?

Hayley Kiyoko: Oh yeah, they all watched me like a weirdo. And I was like, “Oh this is so cool.” And then I walked out. But my song just started playing on the radio, and all my friends have heard it except for me. So I’m waiting. I feel like I’m missing out on all the fun. But that’s okay. I feel like, everyone’s trying to keep me on my toes.

Tom Mullen: I like that. Is there one song that gives you goosebumps all the time, every time you hear it?

Hayley Kiyoko: Coldplay.

Tom Mullen: Which one?

Hayley Kiyoko: “The Scientist,” probably. Or “Fix You.”

Tom Mullen: “Fix You,” yeah.

Hayley Kiyoko: My God, kill me. Just stab me in the heart, Jesus, lord.

Tom Mullen: Do you have any more guilty pleasures? I’m kind of excited, you’re scrolling.

Hayley Kiyoko: Okay, you know what?

Tom Mullen: I feel like you were skipping over stuff.

Hayley Kiyoko: Okay, you want to know one of my influences?

Tom Mullen: Yeah.

Hayley Kiyoko: All-American Rejects.

Tom Mullen: Really?

Hayley Kiyoko: I love the All-American Rejects.

Tom Mullen: How did that start?

Hayley Kiyoko: In middle school.

Tom Mullen: Okay, did you see a video? Did you hear-

Hayley Kiyoko: No, I just-

Tom Mullen: Warped Tour?

Hayley Kiyoko: That album. What was that album called, with?

Tom Mullen: “Swing, Swing?”

Hayley Kiyoko: “Swing, Swing” on it and “Paper Heart,” literally, I could sing the whole album to you.

Tom Mullen: Really?

Hayley Kiyoko: Yeah. I saw them perform at a hotel café, they did an acoustic session. And I literally was geeking out like a fan girl. It was embarrassing.

Tom Mullen: Self-titled debut.

Hayley Kiyoko: It was so good. It had that little old, vintage thing on the front. The turquoise? I only see color, I don’t see anything else. Yes, that’s the cover. “Please just don’t play with me, my paper heart will be.”

Tom Mullen: That’s probably one of your karaoke songs, right?

Hayley Kiyoko: You know, I was like, I was just a hopeless romantic. And that album really spoke to me and I, for some reason, thought I was going to get into that style of music. That’s what I thought I was going to do. And man, I loved that album.

Tom Mullen: Maybe we should find Tyson.

Hayley Kiyoko: I’ll tell you, I listened to a lot of random stuff.

Tom Mullen: I like that.

Hayley Kiyoko: I listened to the All-American Rejects, they were one of my, I loved System of a Down, loved them. But that’s because I was a drummer.

Tom Mullen: You have to for them, they’re so… Great percussion.

Hayley Kiyoko: Love Michelle Branch.

Tom Mullen: Okay.

Hayley Kiyoko: That album, oh my God. That was a great album. I’m just a sap. I really liked; I love P!nk. She was great. Anyways, we’re going down a deep, dark hole.

Tom Mullen: I like this Spotify playlist already that we’re making.

Hayley Kiyoko: No.

Tom Mullen: Do you know how you can get-

Hayley Kiyoko: We can call it Hayley’s the guilty, guilty, guilty pleasure playlist.

Tom Mullen: You know when you listen to Spotify too much and it tells you those mixes? And each one of them’s a little cringey. There’s one where you were like, wait a minute, why is all that in there?

Hayley Kiyoko: My whole iTunes is a cringe. But good cringe, I love it so much. I love cheese, I love the cheese.

Tom Mullen: I like that.

Hayley Kiyoko: The emotion. The angst. See? I was angsty. I was like, love me please, look at me. So.

Tom Mullen: Thanks, Hayley.

Hayley Kiyoko: You’re welcome.

Outro: Thanks to Hayley Kiyoko for coming on What’d I Say. For additional information and updates, please visit HayleyKiyokoOfficial.com. That’s H-A-Y-L-E-Y K-I-Y-O-K-O Official dot com. Our theme music is by Max Frost. Be sure and catch up on all of the Atlantic Records podcasts at AtlanticPodcasts.com. Thank you for listening.