We’re always on the lookout for promising artists even as want to honor the seasoned veterans by sharing their stories. One indie pop artist who has grabbed our attention in recent days is KYOSi, an artist based in NYC who has worked with Richie Beretta (Diplo) on past tracks. Check out her newest song “Just Lines” below and read on to find out more about her musical background and what else is on the horizon in 2016.
Stereo Subversion: Given that you studied music in college, is it safe to assume you were raised in a musical family?
KYOSi: Hell, no! My family loves music but that’s not the same as being from a musical family. Both my mom and dad have great singing voices but it’s mostly about singing in the car or in the shower— if you mention Linda Ronstadt within a mile of my mom, you’d better be ready to hear “That’ll Be the Day” at the top of her lungs.
Two of my younger brothers are incredible dancers — I didn’t get that gene — which I think speaks to our appreciation of music. The youngest is also a really talented vocalist which I like to claim credit for. One of my nephews is just starting a rap career which I’m excited about, but besides the three of us, there aren’t any music makers in the fam.
SSv: What is your earliest musical memory?
KYOSi: I have a vivid memory of composing an on-the-fly song about a tree in my front yard. It was super late night and my Aunt Patti, who was babysitting, had to come in and tell me to quiet down and go to sleep. “No more singing tonight!’ she said. It’s either that or totally sobbing as an angsty pre-teen while listening to anything Boyz II Men.
SSv: At what point do you decide, “I’m going to make a go of this on my own?” Was there a specific moment you recall or turning point?
KYOSi: There wasn’t a specific moment. Music has always been my reality, it’s just who I am. I am good at lots of other things, but working in music is the only thing I’ve ever been motivated around.
I was a terrible student in high school, hated homework, skipped first period all the time, who knows what else. But I was president of the chorus, the lead in the school musical. I think it drove my teachers nuts. Like, if you can be so present with this just think of what you could do in chemistry! When my first college semester report was sent home my parents were shocked at how well I was doing. They couldn’t believe it. The biggest change? I was studying music and it was applicable to my life.
SSv: You were initially making music under the name More Dani, so why the switch?
KYOSi: More Dani was something people used to shout when I was a backup singer in Ithaca. Literally, I’d be behind the lead singer and there was a small but dedicated crew of people saying, “More Dani!” and “Let her sing!” It meant so much to me, gave me so much validation. When I began writing things on my own, I needed a name and More Dani was what popped into my mind. KYOSi has a way more cosmic origin and when the word came into my life it was crystal clear that I needed to do something with it. Also, KYOSi is a name and More Dani is a slogan, so there was — as with many things — a little marketing involved.
SSv: You’ve been involved in music education and clearly you’ve benefitted from this as well. Do you think you’ll always be involved in it at some level?
KYOSi: I’m so glad you asked this! My experiences teaching music production have been so intense and beautiful. The first time I did any major teaching, I was running a place called Unity Studio at the Southside Community Center in Ithaca, NY for “inner city/marginalized” students.
The second major experience was teaching at the MacCormick Secure Center, which is a maximum security juvenile detention center outside of Ithaca. That situation was particularly heartbreaking. The residents/inmates were so so young and many had committed horrible crimes like rape and murder. They were so kind to me and told me time and time again that my class was what kept them going.
For one hour a week they were able to go into a room, make beats, sing, rap and get it out. I would leave that place sometimes and just cry with so many mixed emotions. Even thinking about it now makes me teary-eyed. I loved working with those boys.
But to get back to your question… Yes, I have benefitted greatly from teaching all students and look forward to that door re-opening in the future.
SSv: How long have you known Richie Beretta? And how did you initially make that connection?
KYOSi: I’ve known Richie for a few years now. We met while working at Dubspot. Working with him was awesome. He is pretty hilarious and we both have the ’80s baby, Italian thing going, so we bonded over that. Not to mention he’s a nasty musician on all fronts.
SSv: What else is on the horizon musically for you in 2016?
KYOSi: More songs, more shows and more collabs. My dancer brother, who I mentioned before, wants me to compose some music for him to dance to. It’s outside of my day-to-day thinking around music, but I’m always down for something new and creating something with my brother would be so special.