Ahead of her EP release, named Xanadu after a story about mythological Greek muses, rising U.K. R&B singer-songwriter Kyra opens up about her biggest muse.
Kyra and I are ready to chat, but her son has other plans. In the middle of a shopping centre, he is throwing a fit, as two-year-olds do. Eventually, he falls asleep. And as he sleeps, his mother explains how he has awoken her. “Before I had the mindset that when you have kids, it’s all over,” Kyra says over the phone from London. “But it’s quite the opposite.”
When Kyra found out she was pregnant, she was in the beginning stages of writing her upcoming EP titled Xanadu—after the 1980 film of the same name. When Kyra was just a kid herself, five years old, she fell in love with Xanadu. Her aunt gave her the VHS, and she’d watch it on repeat, pausing it only to go the Sainsbury’s car park by the supermarket and roller skate just like Olivia Newton-John did in the movie. The plot saw Newton-John as Kira, an immortal Greek muse, returning to Earth to help artists Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) and Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) fulfil their calling. In a way, Kyra’s son was sent to her at that particular time for the same reason.
“I’m still who I am, but I guess motherhood has given me a bit more desire to leave a legacy and to make sure that my art is very intentional,” she says. “I think now when my son is 25, and he’s looking me up on YouTube, what will he find? Leaving a story for him. It means now that I’m actually a little [more] thoughtful about what I’m putting out because I want it to mean something. So it’s all about a personal legacy.
“As much as I obviously want to reach people and be successful, aside from all that, it’s very much a personal diary in public.”
The first page of Kyra’s so-called diary is “Cause & Cure,” released on Aug. 29 as the first single off of Xanadu. Under the analogy, “Closer Than Close” served as a prologue. Kyra redid Rosie Gaines’ original 1997 version and put it out in March. It will not be on Xanadu, but she wanted to start with something people may already be familiar with before revealing her own sound.
“Cause & Cure,” and four other tracks on the EP, was produced by The Garden. “Cause & Cure” gives listeners the first glimpse into Xanadu in terms of sonics and story. “I guess it’s like the start of a conversation,” Kyra says.
Kyra and The Garden had countless conversations over the past three years while developing Xanadu, and working so closely with one producer allowed for a cohesive project. “Just him and I, for so long, that the songs really feel like a body of work,” she says, “and I really wanted that with this EP. So, there’s ethereal vocals, dreamy falsettos, but then there’s this underlying dark synth sound. We wanted that oxymoron because I wanted, even sonically, demonstrate this difference between heaven and earth.”
Paired with the music are cinematic visuals to fully convey the EP’s theme, which takes from the original Xanadu’s link to Greek mythology. In the video for “Cause & Cure,” for example, Greek fabrics are worn. Kyra descends upon the beach, waves crashing in the background in the way she has into her love interest. “I surrender to your touch,” she sings. “You’re my prescription to my pain/You’re the cause and the cure.”
There also will be a video accompanying her next single off the EP titled “Stampede,” and it too was supposed to centre around falling in love with a man at first sight. Only, it ended up being about her son. “Someone barging into your world and just filling up your heart,” she says.
The unexpected twist “Stampede” is symbolic of the project’s trajectory as a whole, and it all landed in an utterly unpredictable place.
“It’s actually been such a magical process,” she says. “Sometimes, I listen to these songs and I actually cry. I message The Garden, and I’m like, ‘What the fuck did we make? I can’t believe it.’ … Even if it reaches like 10 people or 10 million, I’m so happy because I think in time it will resonate.”
In other words, she can’t wait for her son to look up Xanadu on YouTube in 20 years.
Listen to “Cause & Cure” below:
Photographer: Jessica Gates @jessicagatesphotography
Retoucher: Rachel Stewart
Stylist: Karine Jones @aestheticcandy
Styling Assistant: Laurel Hunter @lahuntergatherer
Makeup Artist: Sukhy Bhandal @sukhyb_mua
Creative Director & Hair Stylist: Rohmarra Kerr @rohmempire
Nails: Tyler Phoenix @_tylerpheonix_nails
Set Design: Sheena Brobbey @sheenabrobbey