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Blooming and Growing; An Interview With Kyla Tilley

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When Kyla Tilley was writing and developing the song “Bloom and Grow”, she was living in Montreal, during the pandemic. Not long afterward, she and her husband were living in Newfoundland. The timing of the move wasn’t accidental coincidence. Here’s her account of those days…

“Our neighbour started out being passive aggressive about the music. I will also point out that I was playing a nylon string classical guitar in the day time. In the beginning, and what possibly makes it worse, is that she had a keyboard and liked singing, so she would turn her keyboard up really loud and sing whenever I would play. I naively interpreted this as her using the pandemic to improve her own music skills, and just using me as a tiny habit style trigger to practice when she heard me practising!

“It never occurred to me she was trying to make me angry by playing music. She probably didn’t realize that I am used to practising in a rehearsal studio where I can hear at least 10 other acts practising at the same time, so her attempt at aggression was actually quite comforting to me. Then she escalated to slamming doors and stomping, and finally banging on the door and screaming the second I would touch my guitar.”

So obviously, I read your write-up on BandCamp. Can you spill any more of the juice? Was the angry neighbour direct about what they perceived as your auditory intrusion into their space, or were they passive-aggressive, or both? Was it a campaign against your music, or one or more confrontations? You’re in Newfoundland now… are you in a safe place to talk about it yet?

“The landlords were quite understanding as they knew I was a musician and that this was my job, so when I said I thought the only thing that could be done was for us to move, they let us out of our lease with no issue.”

You tell about how the song “Bloom and Grow” was inspired as a kind of letter to your inner child. I’m curious about the place where the child of the song is cavorting – is it a real place? A purely imagined place? A compilation of places? Are there a couple of places being compared and contrasted? The imagery is so compelling that I want to know about its origin.

“No, not a real place, and not quite a compilation. More the archetype of a place I suppose. I was writing in my very stuffy, hot, Montreal one bedroom apartment, but we were on the fourth floor, so when I cracked open the window just a bit, this fresh, wet, almost cool, spring breeze would come through. It made me think about summers in Newfoundland where there is a real sense of renewal when a nice day finally comes and you take the plastic down and open the windows for the first time in 6 months.

“I was thinking about cabins in the woods, old farmhouses in Saskatchewan, and probably even the houses described in the British children’s books I grew up on. All those old houses with old wooden windows that always have chipped oil paint and mould on them. There’s always cabinets and wardrobes with drawers where things have been shoved away and forgotten. A layer of dust that builds in a house that isn’t lived in year round.

“In the course of writing, with that breeze coming through the window reminding me of these types of places, I began to think that I could go for an old cabin or farmhouse away from the heat and the noise. I think I definitely had the idea of a house in an overgrown meadow in my mind’s eye as I was writing.”

I had an uncle – guy had a great vocabulary, definitely a great deep voice, fancied himself a poet. He was absolutely devoted to rhyme. You are not devoted to rhyme, as such. Can you help us understand your less-frequently-rhyming lyrical aesthetic?

“I like to tell stories and convey ideas with my lyrics, and so I focus on finding the words that tell the story, rather than finding words that rhyme. I spend a lot of time searching for words that will flow nicely together, and I do enjoy a mid-line rhyme if it makes sense, but I always put meaning over rhyme scheme in my lyrics. When I listen to music, I will often find a rhyme very jarring if it seems to me that the author chose the word more because it rhymed than because it made sense in the context of the song. I do enjoy a good rhyme in poetry and recitation though. Something about the spoken word seems more conducive to rhyming to me.”

It happens that we follow each other on Twitter already. You’re quite involved in social media and you interact a lot with your audience. What got you into it? Did it feel organic to you, or did you “Bloom and Grow” into it too?

“There was definitely a period of Blooming and Growing into it. I was adamantly opposed to social media for a long time.  I’ve always been a fairly private person (despite writing some very personal songs) and I am not good at processing a lot of visual stimuli, so I never really understood the appeal of social media. At some point I accepted that I had to have it, (there was a period when bars wouldn’t book you without a Facebook account) but I still didn’t get it, and I really didn’t use it. At the time, I think it was really sold to musicians as a promotional tool, rather than a place to expand artistic expression and make new friends.

“When the pandemic shut down my incredibly packed spring and summer, I saw it as an opportunity to finally figure out this social media business. If I don’t enjoy something, or see it’s worth, I simply can’t do it, so I hired a coach who helped me see social media differently, and helped me find ways to use it that felt natural to me. Once I started seeing it as a place to hang out rather than a place to advertise my upcoming shows, I started to really enjoy it. It is very organic for me now. I’ve always loved interacting with my audience in a live setting, now I’m able to do the same online.

“I’ve started to have a lot of fun with the creative aspect of taking pictures and videos and coming up with amusing ways to tell people about me and my songs, and I’m really enjoying getting to know more about others through their posts. I’ve come to appreciate the social aspect immensely, and have made many friends that I hope to meet in real life some day. (Some even contributed to the album!) I now view the media aspect as a record of my time here on earth.  (A record that I keep back-ups of as all those sites could all disappear at any time!)”

(Post-amble: In our email correspondence, Kyla mentioned that she had also lived in and attended high school in Calgary, Alberta, as well.  Even before touring as a musician, Kyla experienced life across a huge swath of the huge country of Canada, and as such can be said to be a truly Canadian songwriter – although her songs are not limited by the location of the nation, but emerge from her artistic vision and spirit. You can check it out for yourself through her single “Bloom and Grow.”)

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