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Kaya Stewart Biography

Kaya Stewart can tell you the moment she knew she wanted to be a performer. “I was watching The Grammys and all these artists were getting up onstage to perform, one after the other. I remember saying to myself, ‘I want to do that. I want to be able to perform the songs that I write live to a real audience, not just the people sitting in my kitchen who I’m forcing to listen,” the London-born, L.A.-bred 15-year-old says with a laugh.

That captive audience included Kaya’s father, songwriter-producer-musician Dave Stewart, her musician brothers Sam and Django, her photographer mother Anoushka, and whichever artist her father was working with at the time. Sometimes the audience included family friend Annie Lennox, her dad’s former musical partner in Eurythmics and a musical mentor to Kaya. “There were always huge personalities and creative people coming in and out of the house,” Kaya says. “My favorite time was when they’d get out a guitar and I’d sing with them. But I think the fact that there were songwriters living in the house really made me want to write my own songs rather than just sing other people's. All we talked about were lyrics and songwriting. That was how I learned to appreciate what it takes to come up with something good.”

Over the past year and half, Kaya has devoted herself to her craft, feverishly documenting her experiences for the songs that are featured on her upcoming debut album for Warner Bros. Records. First single “In Love With a Boy” strikes a universal chord with lyrics about having a crush and being afraid to tell anyone, while “Jonah” is about having a friend who is very difficult to communicate with. On “City Lights,” Kaya expresses her frustration with the pervasiveness of social media in lyrics like, “Why can’t we go out tonight / Have a conversation under city lights.” “I remember going out with my friends for dinner one night and they were all on their phones,” Kaya says. ”There were ten of us at this really long table and I was the only one who didn't bring my phone. I felt so out of place. What do I do? Stare at the ground? So that song is about social media being a huge part of teenagers’ lives now.” “Drive” chronicles Kaya’s experience entering the music business, which she describes as like being on a “crazy catapult.” “The only thing I knew was singing alone in my room and writing these songs on my piano and computer, and suddenly I’m in these huge recording studios with 50 different pianos freaking out!”

One of the most striking songs on the album is “Mary Had A Car,” which was inspired by a story Kaya’s father told her about a friend’s mother who seemed to have a normal life, but one day drove her car into a brick wall with her kids inside. “They later found out that she was trying to kill herself and the kids,” Kaya says. “That story hit me really hard, so I wrote a song about it.”

The album was produced by Dave Stewart, who sets Kaya’s naturally soulful voice atop a sound that channels rock and R&B elements into pop songs driven by edgy electronic beats. “It's a combination of all the genres I love, plus all the tricks I’ve learned,” she says. “I love R&B and soul, but I also love electronic dance music. I love a good ballad. I think all of that is on the album. I never wanted anybody else to produce it because I work so well with my dad. He is amazing with dynamics, where to bring a song up and where to bring it down, which I do vocally, but he does it with the sound underneath.”

For Kaya, making the album enabled her to preserve her experiences with an eye toward looking back on them with more perspective. “If something is upsetting me that day, I'll write a song about it, then a couple of months later I'll look at the lyrics and think, ‘Wow, I totally remember when that happened. It wasn’t even that bad. I was being so dramatic.’ And that makes me feel better. But I can't just write something that's totally for myself. I need to write something that other people can relate to as well. I want other people to hear the songs and feel better too.”

This spring, Kaya brought her live show to the public for the first time, performing on the High School Nation tour, a traveling music and arts festival that exclusively visits high school campuses around the country. Kaya played to over 10,000 kids at concerts in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. In July, she will join the annual punk-pop spectacular Vans Warped Tour.

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