Pop-country Californian Kylie Hughes talks with C&I about her new self-titled album.
Dividing her time between Nashville and Los Angeles, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Kylie Hughes has developed a sound that blends genres from across the country, crafting an album that is both original and diverse.
A follow-up to her 2014 Calipopicana EP, Hughes’ new self-titled album, released on May 26, dives into a more personal side. And that’s where her unique countrified California pop shines the sunniest. From the sad ballad “Love Somebody Else” to the inspirational rock-pop “Gotta Get Out” to the insightful “Hungover,” the album is an exciting emotional roller coaster worth the ride.
C&I recently asked Hughes about her new album and the creative process behind her music.
Cowboys & Indians: Your new self-titled album has gotten rave reviews. What aspects of the album are you most excited to share with your fans?
Kylie Hughes: I’m excited for people to hear the diversity on the record. It’s definitely a different vibe from song to song. It starts off very down-the-middle pop and then slowly crosses through rock, country, Americana, blues, and folk. Something for everyone!
C&I: Do you have a specific song on the album that you’re most proud of? What’s the story behind it?
Hughes: I can’t pick just one! But I really loved the creation process of “Always on Your Side.” The first verse was something I had been playing around with and holding onto for a few years, but it completed itself in Nashville. It then got recorded in L.A., and even in the recording studio it got more dramatic and captivating for me. I then sat with the song for a month and took it back into the studio again to add some bells and whistles, haunting undertones and background vocals. It feels like one of those songs that a dancer could interpretively do a contemporary dance to. It has so much raw emotion. It’s kind of my version of a ride-or-die song, especially when you know you’re probably gonna die.
C&I: What was the process of taking this album from concept to finished product?
Hughes: It was a two-year process! I think I changed everything I possibly could in two years. My personal life changed dramatically; my management changed; my producers and writing partners changed. The songs were all brand-new or rewritten. Only one song stood the test of time and was included on the album. “Little Did You Know” was an older song that just wouldn’t stop being powerful and relevant. It couldn’t be left behind.
C&I: Do you have any favorite stories from creating the album that you can share? Maybe about the creative Talladega Nights-inspired music video for “Heat”?
Hughes: I love movies. I constantly have movies playing in the background. [Moana is playing during this interview.] While brainstorming a treatment for the video, I’m pretty sure Talladega Nights was on TV and it just clicked. I knew the video had to portray hot cars and a hot guy, but I didn’t want it to be so obvious. I like a twist of humor. I’ve also dipped my toe in acting and some improv, so I wanted to combine the two to bring out the playfulness of the song. I try not to take myself too seriously.
C&I: You commute back and forth from L.A. to Nashville. How have those two cities influenced your music?
Hughes: Both are super-competitive in a way. It makes you want to step your musicality game up and write really good songs. I love L.A. because there’s a little more variety while also an importance to making everything accessible to mainstream music. There’s lot of different sounds being experimented with around town, and you can get inspired from going to other people’s shows. Nashville is obviously the country music hub, and as I continued to travel and write there, country snuck into the mix. It’s unavoidable and there is so much music history around you. I feel like Nashville artists are known for their storytelling ability, and that resonated with my writing style. Get personal and tell a story.
C&I: Where in both those places do you go to catch live music?
Hughes: I feel like you can literally go anywhere in Nashville. I like the Cannery Ballroom venue, though. There are also cute little barn showcases you can find invites to in Leiper’s Fork or Franklin or East Nashville. There’s music everywhere! In L.A., one of the best places to hear one of your favorite artists and actually hear their lyrics is The Hotel Café. They have terrific sound, and you always hear about some well-known person like John Mayer, for example, who will surprise people with a new song he’s trying to work out. But I also love all of the big outdoor venues in town like the Hollywood Bowl, the Santa Barbara Bowl, and the Greek [Theatre]. BYOB!
C&I: You alternate between rock, country, and pop on this album. It keeps listeners engaged and each song fresh. Your catchy pop tune “Gotta Get Out” in contrast to your twangy love song “Love Somebody Else” are great examples. What was it like to continually operate in different styles and genres?
Hughes: It keeps it really fun and fresh for me. I feel like if I’m not getting bored, then you’re not gonna get bored.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make it on the album that we can expect to hear down the road?
Hughes: Yes, there are a few that are “lying in wait,” as they say. And here’s a secret: I will play them at live shows from time to time.
C&I: What kind of touring will you be doing?
Hughes: I will be playing lots of shows between L.A. and Nashville and promoting at different radio stations. I also have a few music videos underway as well.
C&I: You’re originally from Malibu and graduated from Pepperdine University. What else would you like fans to know about you that they might never guess?
Hughes: If I couldn’t sing, I’d probably be in advertising or an interior designer, marine biologist, director, actress, comedian, [or] tennis player.
Watch Hughes’ creative music video for her song “Heat.”
For more information on Hughes and her upcoming events, visit her website.