For Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Kaylee Johnston, music is a way of life.
Singing on stage for the first time at her kindergarten talent show, Johnston quickly became hooked on the rush live performance gave her.
“I was five-years-old and I sang ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin,” Johnston told Vancity Buzz. “I was pretty much sold after that.”
She continued writing songs and singing as a hobby, but it wasn’t until 15 that Johnston began to take the art seriously. Locking herself in her bedroom, she taught herself how to play guitar in just a week, began playing open mics and recorded her first demo not long after. This dedication helped her develop as an artist, while connecting emotionally with her material and subjects.
“What I love most about music is the way it allows me to express myself and connect with others,” she says. “When I song write I always have some kind of breakthrough, and there’s nothing more fulfilling than when I get to share that with my audience, and they connect with it.“
For Johnston, songwriting is a way to connect with herself and her past. While she says most of her material comes from relationships, she attempts to go further than the surface emotions associated with love and loss.
“I always try and dig a little deeper and figure out what the exact emotion I’m feeling is, and why that person brought it out in me,” she says. “I’m so fascinated with the way we live our lives. The way we turn a blind eye when we’re in love to things we shouldn’t. How in a moment, our perception of someone can completely shift. In the end, I just want people to make good decisions and be the best person they can be, so I hope that reflects in my songs.”
The album represents a life-time of work. Having written hundreds of songs, the pieces that made it on the album reflect specific periods in Johnston’s life, and the emotions associated with them.
“The songs I chose for my album are all very close to me. They’re all about situations I was in that I was trying to ‘figure out’, and by writing the song, I was able to gain some clarity,” she says. “I was going through a break-up, and I was experiencing what it was like to be single for the first time in a long time. Everything from dating the wrong guys, to feeling the sting of someone not wanting me back, all a midst trying to get over a guy who I was still in love with. I was writing so much, and this collection of songs in particular empowered me every time I felt lonely. Some of them took me to a higher place, and some just helped me validate what I was experiencing.”
With the album coming out in 2016, two music videos on the way, and her first single – “Are You the One” – sitting at 60 thousand plays on Spotify, Johnston says there’s no end in sight.
“No matter what, I have to continue creating,” she says. “Sometimes I can get very bogged down with the planning of everything, but in the end, I’m here to be an artist.”
Are You The One is available for free download on Sound Cloud right now.
Kaylee Johnston – Try