Meet Khya, a talented singer-songwriter at Belmont University who is already making a splash in the indie pop genre.
Signed with The Convergence Management, she wrote and released her debut song “city lights” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her recent releases “the problem” and “CRIMINAL” secured spots on editorial playlists like Fresh Finds and Fresh Finds Pop, and her self-directed music video earned a spot on Vevo’s New Music Friday.
Her latest and highly anticipated single, “witching season,” dropped on October 6th. Make sure to catch her performance at The Belmont Showcase on October 28th!
VandyRadio and The Music Room had the pleasure of sitting down with Khya to learn all about her songwriting, background, and new song. Check out the Q&A below to learn about all things Khya and “witching season.”
How did you get into music?
Khya: I kind of always grew up around music. I was in my first musical when I was six and I did musical theater for forever. My family is a big music listening family. So I just kind of always had music around me. I was always in choir. I was in a rock band in high school. Just everything that I did involved music. It’s always just been a big part of my life. And I’ve also been a huge music listener my whole life. I always have one headphone in when I’m going places and I’m always listening to music. It’s just always been my number one love.
How did you get signed by The Convergence Management? What was that process like?
K: It’s actually a funny story. I think he found me on TikTok, just by chance. And then he tried to reach out through Facebook Messenger, but I mean… I don’t check that very often. So I didn’t see it. He found my sister, and a song that my sister put out that I was featured on was nominated for the Arkansas country music awards or something like that. He found me through there and eventually he found his way. And then we met over the summer and it’s great. I’ve had a lot of cool opportunities thanks to him. It’s awesome.
How would you describe your music’s style?
K: It’s definitely in the indie pop, bedroom pop, dream pop sort of world. My biggest influences would be Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and Gracie Abrams in that kind of world of emotional, vocal heavy way…It’s very, lyrical heavy, I think, because for me, focusing on the emotion and the lyrics of the song is the most important part. I like capturing a feeling in music.
What got you interested in songwriting?
K: I always kind of did it as a joke. When I was little, I would sing songs into my flip phone about princesses and kissing frogs as every little girl does…my sister is a songwriter, and she would always songwrite, and I [thought] that’s cool. That’s not my thing, but that’s cool. And then I remember when I first heard Lorde’s sophomore album Melodrama… I think that’s when I first opened my eyes to songwriting. I was like, wow, she has such a cool way of saying things and capturing feelings in songs. That [was when I] was in high school. So I started kind of playing around with writing music then. And then it wasn’t until close to the end of my junior year that I started to actually be like I might actually want to do this as a career and release music.
What is your songwriting process like?
K: I honestly usually do lyrics and music at the same time…I don’t write as much as I should, but I usually will start a song when I have a gut feeling to write a song. That’s kind of how it goes and so I will either be experiencing an emotion really intensely that I need to get this out of my system, or I will literally just have a draw to an instrument and be like I need to write a song right now. I usually will just turn on my voice memos and kind of just do a stream of consciousness either with piano or guitar…and then whenever I come up with a line or a melody that I think is cool I’ll go from there. It kind of changes every time, but I feel like lyrics are probably first, but I feel like the melody is usually either intertwined with lyrics or it comes super quickly after.
Your sister Sierra is also a singer-songwriter. What is your relationship like as sisters who are also singer-songwriters? Do you both come from a big music family?
K: Me and Sierra are a little over a year apart in age, so we’ve always been super close. It’s challenging at times because I feel like we both get jealous of each other sometimes, like if we write a really cool line. If she writes something really cool, which she always does, I’m like, oh, I wish I wrote that. But most of the time, it’s just really cool..we mostly inspire each other and kind of help support each other more than other people could understand because we’re in the same industry. So we are able to help each other and understand each other a little bit better. It’s honestly great. We live together in college, we go to each other’s shows, she’s been in my band, I’ve been in her band. It’s great. It’s a really cool experience to get to share.
It’s funny because my parents aren’t super musical…we always laugh. Everyone’s like, where did you get it? And we’re like, I don’t know. But my family is a big music loving family. From whenever me and my sister were both born, we were going to musicals, listening to all different genres of music, and going to concerts…we got a really cool experience of getting to experience all sorts of genres, and then live performance experiences as well. So I feel like that’s probably a big reason why we’re both in music is because it’s just kind of been around us our whole lives.
As “city lights” came out during the pandemic, how has your songwriting evolved in the past few years?
K: I feel like my songwriting has changed a lot. I’ve changed a lot. I was 16 when I wrote “city lights” and I’m 20 now, so time has kind of flown, but I’m definitely a different person. I’ve been through two years of college now. I’m on my third. I feel like my songwriting is more mature; I have a clearer image of who I am and that helps in my songwriting to know what I want to say and how I like to say things. Also, now that I’ve had so much more life experience, I have more to write about.
You know, when I was 16 in high school, all I could write about was [how] someone broke up with me and I’m sad. I was kind of experimenting for the first time with what it would be like to record my own music. I kind of was relying on the way other artists sound a lot to create my sound…after a few years of songwriting and recording, I kind of have been falling into more of what I sound like as an artist. The world is insanely different now than it was then. I feel like there’s more inspiration now. I grew a lot over the pandemic…I’m coming more into myself and into my sound.
What was the inspiration behind “witching season”? What was the creative process like?
K: I went into the studio with my friend and producer Austin Bianco, who wrote the song with me. And I had no idea what I wanted to write about…I remember I walked in and I saw this really cool, vintage blue piano in his studio that was not there before. [I thought] that is so cool. And he [said] it’s really cool, but it’s super out of tune…you can play it if you want.
So I was playing it and I was like, this sounds so cool. We should use this in a song…so then he just started recording me playing random stuff on the piano, and we kind of fell into what the piano is now on the song. And then basically I just sat down on the couch and wrote it. He was producing the track and I was kind of just in my notes app writing down ideas. I feel like when I went into the studio that day I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to write about, but I was feeling very weighed down emotionally and a lot of buried stuff came up with that. Song. I feel like it makes the song a lot more real…
I started writing this song and it started to kind of be about resentment, regret, guilt and anger and all of the weird, complex emotions. And once I started writing the chorus, I was like, what’s something that I can say that’s kind of an insult, but it sounds cooler than “you’re a jerk.” What’s something cool that I can say? I was just sitting there forever thinking about it. And I remember Austin had incense burning in the studio. Maybe it’s something kind of Halloweeny, and so then I came up with witching season.
I also wanted to play around with the name that I call the person, or the thing that I call the person, to be more of a feminine name because I feel like a lot of times, the bad guy in a song usually is a male. What if this person or this thing is more feminine? And so, I came up with witching season…When writing the rest of the song, I was able to put in little, witchy things, like in the second verse [I sing] “there was witchcraft in your bones.” It was so much fun because I love Halloween.
Why did you choose to attend Belmont University? Has it helped with your songwriting at all?
K: I actually chose Belmont for musical theater originally. So my freshman year I was in the musical theater program, and I chose Belmont because I visited and thought it was awesome; the campus is super great and all of the people that I met were super nice and genuine.
I also chose Belmont because it was in Nashville…even though I was going into musical theater as my major, I knew that I was still really interested in being an artist as well as songwriting. Nashville is the perfect place for me to be, to be able to do both of these things at once. I realized that there’s one of these things that I should be doing right now and that I want to be doing.
Also, when you go to Belmont, all of your friends are putting on shows all the time. And I didn’t know that that was something you could do, that you could just go book a show and play a show with your friends. That’s been so cool to see my friends play, and then also that [made me think] I can do that. So, last year I put together a band of my friends and we played a few house shows and stuff. The people around you are really inspiring because they’re all doing really cool things and writing really cool things. And there’s lots of different genres happening. Three of my four other roommates are songwriters as well. So it’s everywhere, but it’s awesome.
Check out Khya’s music on all streaming platforms and see her live at the Belmont Showcase on October 28th.