Before Kaia locked up one of the Museum of Pop Culture’s 12 artist slots for Sound Off! 2020, she was a fan of the MoPOP program showcasing premier 21-and-under musical talent from the Pacific Northwest. At that time, Kaia recalls witnessing a semifinal round featuring singer-songwriter-producer Parisalexa and rapper Travis Thompson, two former Sound Off! standouts who have since gone on to find success in the industry.
“To see where they've gone and all that they've accomplished is crazy,” Kaia says. “I’m super excited to be sharing the same stage with people who've done the exact same thing.”
When Kaia steps on the mic at Sky Church for the first Sound Off! 2020 semifinal on Saturday, February 15, the Edmonds native and Seattle-based singer-songwriter will look to channel some of those successful Sound Off! moments she’s been in the crowd for. A self-described “indie R&B” artist who draws inspiration from artists like Jimi Hendrix and Kehlani, Kaia’s effortless vocals float over guitar melodies and piano instrumentals, delivering sultry R&B laced with an old-school vibe.
We caught up with Kaia to hear what she had to say:
What was your initial reaction when you found out you were going to be part of Sound Off! 2020?
Kaia: I was super excited. I've actually been coming to Sound Off! since I was a freshman in high school, so it's kind of a surreal, full circle experience to now be taking the stage. I'm very excited to be part of Sound Off! 2020.
How would you describe your sound?
Kaia: I've made music since I was 8-years-old. My dad was one of the best guitarists I've ever met. I grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, and Kiss, and then my mom listened to R&B and hip-hop. So my music is definitely kind of a mesh of both of them. I'd say it's kind of has twings of Jimmy Hendrix with flares of bedroom-pop and Clairo and Kehlani in it. I'd say indie R&B is kind of what I took from my upbringing in music and brought me here.
What are you hoping to achieve through your music?
Kaia: Through my music, I really want to spread a message. I feel like music is a way that we're really gifted to be able to say something to people and if people listen or choose to take what they want away from it, I think it's a really important thing. So I want to be able to spread a message and let people know that I have something to say and if they want to listen to it, I'm glad to do it.
What messages are you hoping to spread through your music?
Kaia: I think a lot of it comes from where I am in America. I'm a black woman, so I like to spread messages that show where I am, where my family is, and where I want to go. I kind of have a few political messages, police brutality, things like that. But also sometimes it's a love song. I want to spread a message of relatability and share with people how I feel.
If you could describe your sound or your music as an animal, what would it be and why?
Kaia: First thing that comes to mind, a koala. They're super cute, cuddly on the outside, the music is vibey and you listen to it, but when you really get into a koala, they're a little bit vicious, a little bit aggressive, and the music sometimes can be a little bit of an aggressive message when you listen to the lyrics. But on the outside, it's cuddly and vibey with it.