photographer / Rony Alwin
stylist / Wilford Lenov
makeup / Sinem Citen
hair / Sarah Dougherty
story / Jordan Blakeman
“Every song that I write is always based off of a real feeling and emotion and then from that I create a story and kind of a world within each song,” Hayley Kiyoko shares from a venue in Denver. “For me, I always start with a drum beat. Some people go into writing sessions and there’s already a chord progression written. I don’t like anything. I like to go in, I like to lay down a kick and a snare or just some kind of groove. I like to sing the song entirely over the groove and then once the verse and the chorus is laid out I put in the chord progressions. The last piece is the lyrics because if I do the lyrics first it pigeon-holes where the song can go. As the song is being built and created, the lyrics kind of speak to you through the music in a way.” Her words are quick and exact. She knows exactly how she likes to work.
Kiyoko first got our attention on the small screen in commercials and more youth-oriented work in an effort to fuel her passion. “I started doing commercials in middle school to get money to build a music studio in my parents’ garage. I started doing a lot of commercials that involved music really. I did some K-Mart stuff where I’m like rocking out so I never really took it too seriously.” After making her mark in shows like Vampire Diaries and The Fosters, Hayley earned herself a spot as series regular in CSI: Cyber where she will be playing Raven Ramirez, a tech hacker originally poised for jail time until being recruited by Patricia Arquette’s character to work for the FBI as part of their cyber crime division. She will also be gracing our screens later this year in Insidious: Chapter 3 and the live-action reboot of the classic ‘80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms – so expect to see a lot of Hayley soon over the next year.
While acting has turned into her career, it’s music she strives for. As an unsigned artist, Kiyoko doesn’t have a label pressuring her to put out music by x date or handling her image to ensure it fits with what’s on trend in the industry. She has to be the one setting goals, making decisions, and pushing the whole project forward while juggling her film schedule. “It’s definitely been a challenge. It’s not a piece of cake. You have to be very organized. I have goals every two months that we reach and then after that we keep going. You’re really functioning as your own record label, but it’s been very rewarding, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my musical career, because I’ve had full artistic control.” She and creative director Alexander George work together to shape and mold her vision from the album cover to stage design.
After spending a few years as part of pop group The Stunners, Hayley decided to embark on crafting that vision. She released her first solo EP, A Belle To Remember, two years ago. Immediately after its release, she went to London on an artist sojourn. “The mantra of the trip was just to write music that I loved and not try to create a story with an EP or create a vision, just to write and to write something that I groove with,” she shares about her experience with producer James Flannigan while working on what has now become This Side of Paradise.
“I couldn’t really find an avenue for myself because both avenues that have been paved wasn’t right for me so this second EP was really about finding that middle road that fit where I wanted to land down the line and make myself happy with the results as well.” When they returned to Los Angeles, they built a makeshift studio in her parent’s garage to start recording. Since they had moved from her childhood home, the duo had to start from scratch bringing in their equipment to set up on her brother’s video game console table and setting up a Japanese shoji screen as a vocal booth next to a ping-pong table.
“I’ve always been a songwriter ever since I was young so just picking up new instruments was kind of my cup of tea. I started playing drums when I was five, and that was my first main passion. Rhythm was my main passion as far as music was concerned.” When she gets on stage is when it all feels right. “It feels comfortable and it feels like I’m heading in the right direction. I love the challenge of trying to do better every time.”
top, Delahooke. earrings, Artelier mx. cuff, Amarilo. cuff, Push&co. denim jacket, Faubourg Du Temple. top, N12h. cuff, necklace, Amarilo. sweater, Pride. overalls, Topshop