If Things Go South / Biography 2022

Self-actualization happens through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. At 22-years-old, Kaya Stewart has already weathered the turbulence of growing up, doubt, heartbreak, and mental health. However, she walked out on the other side with her head held high and a scorching signature style in her hands. With the heart of your favorite nineties alt songstress, the guts of a tried-and-true punk, and a whole lot of sass all her own, she formally introduces herself on her forthcoming sophomore LP, If Things Go South [Bay Street Records], due September 2022.

“This record is one-hundred percent who I am now,” she declares. “This is the Kaya I was working towards all along.”

She most definitely put in the work to get here. As the daughter of legendary GRAMMY® Award-winning Eurythmics co-founder, producer, creative, and 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame® inductee Dave Stewart, music quite literally ran through her blood. Obsessed with art and creativity, she made a deal with her parents. “My dad told me I could drop out of middle school if I wrote five songs I really loved,” she recalls. “I showed him the five songs, and he let me do it, but I just had to complete homeschooling.”

In between, she uploaded music of her own to Soundcloud and caught the attention of Warner Records, inking a deal at just 13-years-old. She dropped her self-titled album, Kaya Stewart, and tallied millions of streams. Going independent, she headed to Nashville and cut the Miss Kaya EP with Jamie Lidell behind-the-board as producer. Earning critical acclaim for this partnership from NPR and more, The FADER hailed the single “California” as “an airy song about the left-coast with Kaya's powerful voice and a lot of wobbles courtesy of Jamie.”

In the midst of the Global Pandemic, she was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder.

“It was the weirdest time of my life, because I had this life-changing diagnosis that explained so much for me,” she admits. “I wasn't planning on making an album; I was actually thinking of taking a break for a little while. I called my dad, and he said, ‘Why don't you just come to Nashville and write a couple of songs?' By the time I left, we had If Things Go South. I was able to be myself in the studio. The album is the most honest thing I've ever done.”

Under the influence of Alanis Morissette and Debbie Harry, she uncorked a hypnotic and hard-hitting sound of her own with full creative control and complete independence.

“I've always been a music fan, first and foremost,” she observes. “The album shows my love for all my music. To me, it's soulful Americana with a little bit of rock ‘n' roll.”

The first single “Honey” hinges on a snappy guitar riff as her smoky and sultry intonation simmer on the chantable chorus, “Just like Colorado, you're colder than I thought and I wish that I could give you, give you all I got.” Adding a cherry on top to close it out, she simply coos, “Honey.”

“I needed to have a straight up rock ‘n' roll song on the record,” she goes on. “At the end of the day, I'm a live performer. The reason I started making music is my love for playing love. I wanted something to rock out to on stage. I knew I wanted to be a part of rock's resurgence.”

The title track “If Things Go South” pairs her stark delivery with sparse acoustic strumming as she wails, “If things go south, I'll figure it out. Nothing keeps me going quite like myself.” This subtle opening gives way to a danceable break uplifted by a head-nodding bass line.

“If things go horribly wrong, I'm going to get through it, because I've gotten through everything else,” she explains. “I was always so worried. A lot of this album is about having OCD and constantly thinking about what can go wrong. It's common for so many people. It's hard to take that leap, but I know I'll figure it out.”

Elsewhere, the opener “Getting Closer” cuts deep with gritty lyrics a la “all the plants inside my house are dead, so are all the voices in my head, so I guess that it's alright.”

“It's definitely the most personal tune on the album,” she reveals. “It's about getting the OCD diagnosis and realizing there's something I need to work on to get better at—and I can actually focus on it.”

The album culminates on the emotional exorcism of “Hope You're Happy” where Kaya's vocals crack with raw vulnerability.

“Even though I'm self-evolved, I will always hate my ex-boyfriend, and I needed to write a song about that,” she notes. “Every girl has been wronged by a guy, so this was my one ‘fuck you'.”

In the end, it's this kind of truth that makes Kaya a voice we need right now.

“Even though we seem different, we're all the same inside,” she leaves off. “We feel the same things and go through a lot of the same things. As musicians and artists, we're supposed to give people a voice for their feelings. I'm thankful I have this creative outlet, and I'm using it. I have a lot more confidence. I'm a lot tougher than I was before. This is Kaya.”

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