Music can often be more than just an escape. It can be paradise. That’s precisely what it is for singer and songwriter Hayley Kiyoko. Her 2014 EP, This Side of Paradise, unlocks a brand new realm for pop music, expanding boundaries with alternative daring and electronic warmth.
She explains it best though, “This Side of Paradise is this safe zone. It’s a place to dream and fantasize and make yourself feel fulfilled.”
In many ways, Hayley has been working towards this solo release since growing up in Los Angeles. At five-years-old, she started pounding away at a drum kit that her dad bought. In junior high school, she eventually picked up guitar and bass, learning how to record on a four-track simultaneously. After a stint in popular girl group The Stunners, she immersed herself in cultivating a musical statement of her own, drawing from a range of influences including everything from Metric to Sia.
“I wanted to challenge what pop already is,” she declares. “There are electronic elements in what I do, but it’s organic and live at the same time. I aimed to find a happy medium.”
In order to build that middle ground, Hayley enlisted the talents of UK producer and songwriter James Flannigan with whom she collaborated on 2013 fan favorite “Rich Youth”. She flew Flannigan out to Los Angeles, and they built a makeshift studio in her parents’ garage. They literally ate, breathed, and slept music while making the EP for two weeks. Moreover, Hayley wrote or co-wrote the bulk of the five-song collection herself.
Among those tracks, “Given It All” tempers airy and elegant production with an unshakable and anthemic hook, showcasing her vocal prowess. “That one is about being in a relationship and giving everything to someone,” she explains. “It’s got this big, powerful, and positive sound, but the lyrics tell a different story. You’re really giving so much energy to the other person that you feel drained to the point where you can’t give anymore. I love juxtaposing those two feelings though within the sound.”
Meanwhile, “Feeding a Fire” couples a stirring beat with breathy delivery and another scorching refrain. “It’s pretty self-explanatory,” she goes on. “After a relationship ends, you can end up getting stuck in a certain limbo. You’ve got to move on, or you start feeding this fire with your ex that will eventually burn out. I think a lot of people have been in that position.”
The EP’s title comes from the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic of the same name. While writing music, Hayley noticed the book on a shelf and immediately felt inspired. “I loved the whole notion it implied,” she adds. “It’s my point-of-view though on what paradise can be.”
Outside of that world, Hayley remains an in-demand actress. She’s starred in everything from ABC Family’s The Fosters to The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, and she’ll also star in both Jem and the Holograms and the highly anticipated Insidious 3. However, her musical journey has only just begun.
“I always hope I’m relatable in whatever I do,” she leaves off. “Everybody should feel like they’re in my world when they’re listening to the music. I want them to play the EP over and over again and feel great.”