Throughout the ages, people have always used art to make sense of the world – our past, pain, grief. And one artist channelling her experiences of a particularly painful period of her life into powerful, introspective pop is Parisian singer-songwriter DAYLA.
The London-based artist’s brand new track “Lighthouse” simmers into life via minimal distorted synths, before her ethereal vocals and intimate lyricism float upon the languid melody. She hopes it will serve as a beacon of inspiration for anyone going through a tough spot, and here, the artist truly showcases that her strength comes from her perceptible vulnerability and rawness. And the DIY visuals are a trippy, melancholic insight into her universe.
We caught up with DAYLA below. Watch the video for “Lighthouse” below…
Congratulations on “Lighthouse”. I read it was born during a really hard time – can you tell us a bit about this?
Yes, I wrote it about 3 years ago: it all started because I wasn’t getting along with someone very close to me. My very good friend NBO TOWN, my musical other-half for this project, told me I should think about “bringing the light” to this person who was quite negative and depressed. That’s how the idea of writing ‘Lighthouse’ came to me. Then a few months after I wrote the song, my mom became very ill and I went back to Paris. Over that summer, the summer of 2017, I ended up taking care of her 24/7 until she passed away. That’s when the song took on a whole new meaning for me. It all suddenly made sense. It’s a song for anyone out there going through some hard stuff, maybe stuff that makes them feel hopeless, to just keep on being hopeful and trusting their instincts and their heart. The classic “there’s light at the end of the grim dark tunnel.” I hope the song will resonate with people, especially with what’s going on right now.
Is it really cathartic putting out music that is so personal and raw to you?
It very much is. There’s real beauty in taking pain and sadness and turning them into something inspiring and hopeful. It’s so fulfilling when you write a song that turns into a tribute to a moment of your life that was precious for your own growth; it memorialises it, it won’t be forgotten. I’ve always listened to artists who inspire me, who would make me dream of something for my own life. Music can have so much power. For me, I find it’s the best medium to express my emotions and bring people together. I also think this first EP I’m putting out soon sums up really well the difficult journey of figuring out who I am as a young adult while going through grieving and trying “to make it” as an artist all at the same time. The self-doubt, the pain, the depression which was something super new to me.
What’s the best feedback you’ve had on this track?
I know my family and friends can be pretty biased about my music and I’ve been singing and making music for a really long time so they all know it’s a big part of my life. But I’m very lucky to have a lot of artistic friends who are creative in all sorts of ways. So I always find it super encouraging when one of them hears my music for the first time and I get to experience their excitement about what I’ve made. They all have very different music tastes and it’s great to see them really liking the track and the way relate to it in different ways. It’s also the last track of mine that my mom heard when she was still alive, which makes it extra special.
How has moving between Paris and London influenced the creation of your music?
So moving to London was a key turning point in my life. I moved here 7 years ago after having enough of Paris and what it represented to me. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, improve my English, and learn more about music theory and arrangement. That’s how I started getting into production – writing with other people and finding my style. Then my friend NBO TOWN, who’s based in Paris, suggested we start working together on my music and it’s been super beneficial for both us. We’ve evolved side by side, me in contact with the London scene, him with Paris and Berlin. It’s not always been easy living so far apart, always having to work on other projects to help pay the rent at the end of the day. But boy, it was worth it. We put so much work into this, and took time to craft my sound. Obviously, after losing my mom the whole process slowed down for a while, but I guess it was all part of growing as a person and as an artist. I’ve met so many incredible people along the way, living in London and being part of amazing projects I’m so proud of like NYX (electronic drone choir supporting women in music), but always maintaining strong links with my friends and family in Paris. I love being fed by both cultures.
Have you always really relished the storytelling element of music creation?
Yeah, I think that it’s much more powerful to write a song that has different levels, that has depth. I enjoy music and writing that takes you to an imaginary place, a place of mystery that somehow makes a song universal because everyone can relate to it in their own way, even if it’s super intimate. Just take the album Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens which is also about grieving. It’s such a beautiful, intimate piece of work that makes me find comfort and transports me into his world. “Fourth of July” is such a beautiful song and resonates deeply within me despite the personal meaning in it that relates to Sufjan and his mom.
And how involved were you in the creation of the music video? What did you want to capture?
For the video of “Lighthouse” I worked with my friends at CY Collaboration that’s composed of Camille Luciani and Yehan Jehan. They’ve both know me super well for a long time and they know how much this music means to me. So we decided to try a different approach for this video and see what we could come up with shooting something in one day, with no budget. We only had a DV camera, a green screen and the natural light. The aim was to capture something spontaneous and raw. I had this idea of playing with shadows and natural light but that was about it. We tried things out and the whole composition took life in post-production. It’s a real struggle as a musician to get all the assets for a song done with little to no money so this experience was very freeing for me. And I guess a lot of people can relate to this especially at the moment, finding ways to create with not much. It’s so easy to get stuck with technicalities and budget so it’s great when you can do this without all that. But I can definitely vouch for working with people that inspire you and who know you quite well. I know when Camille films me she knows how to capture my true self.