The world is her playground

Cate de Leon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - I felt like my listening habits were getting stale. I stopped listening to new music. Throwback was so in, right? There was a time when it was all about the ’90s, and when you went dancing, you wanted to dance to the music you had when you were young. But I started thinking, if it’s throwback every day, how will we create? And how will we allow other people to create?”

It’s 10 in the morning in a café right outside ABS-CBN, and Karylle is perky, alert and on time, despite a recording session that ran till the wee hours of the morning. She tells us she was working on a collaboration with husband Yael Yuzon — the details of which she can’t disclose for now.

“It’s hard because we have different styles, obviously. I was so frustrated. He was also kind of frustrated. I couldn’t understand what he wanted me to do, so we were almost fighting. I was like, ‘I can’t say the wrong thing right now.’ We had to figure out how to really blend. But we finished, and we figured it out, sort of.”

“It was also cute,” she continues. “’Cause he was the one on the computer, and I was like, ‘I could never kiss the sound engineer before,’ and I started to kiss him.”

Playing around with the music

Currently, Karylle is promoting her new album, A Different Playground under PolyEast Records. As a songwriter, the songs in this album reflect the positive state she chooses to be in. Where once she used to write a lot about heartbreak, Karylle’s music now is inspired by the things that make her happy, from her husband to her travels. “Sunflowers, for example, was inspired by when we went to Dubai. When I’m away, I’m just so happy and super excited about everything, and that’s when I start to write,” she tells us, eyes widening as she remembers the sparkly, bling-heavy fashion aesthetic in the Middle East.

Back home, Karylle makes it a point to watch gigs and scour YouTube for new music — even if they’re not of her favorite genre. “Himig Handog was really good. They had 15 new songs, and I try to support them. I feel that if people are listening to new stuff, then there’s hope.”

Justin Bieber was also a big inspiration for her at the start of the year. “I watched him in LA. And oh my God, we were up against each other on Magic 89.9’s countdown (her Half a Million versus his Company). I was so flattered, even if he doesn’t know me. Ang feeling, diba? As if naman I’m on his radar,” she laughs.

“It’s stupid, but yeah, I was into his music. And just the fact that he was making so much music made me want to make music. Minsan kasi ganun. I get inspired not by an exact song. Like that Keira Knightley movie Begin Again where it was just about them making songs? It was just so inspiring for me.”

New music, old flavor

While Karylle doesn’t believe in the throwback obsession, she admits to loving old music — and this is evident in her new album. More than being close to her heart, the classics have also always been a really good fit for the timber of her voice. She included the standard Tenderly in her list of songs. “I saved it for a time na medyo na-establish ko na that I write songs,” she says, citing how hard it can be to break out once you’re labeled as one of those cover artists.

Now she’s starting to write songs that kind of sound like standards, but with a current flavor. Sunny Daze is one example, with an old sound contrasted with contemporary lyrics. “I’m figuring out how to do it,” she says.

“The other night, we went to Chef & Brewer, and we were just singing oldies. You couldn’t get me off the stage! We were dancing to Abba and The Beatles. Sabi ko, I’m really old. That’s the music in my heart. Even Can’t Shut Up is a shoop-shoop kind of song. I guess it’s because as a kid, I’d listen to my dad’s tapes in the car. So my main influences are mostly those: Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra…”

Building inroads for one’s craft

Apart from her voice, one of Karylle’s biggest strengths as an artist is her being a campaigner. It’s second nature to her to keep talking to people about the music and entertainment scene. She talks to her friends from LA, who have great perspective from their own scene. She hustles and bugs her contacts, successfully getting her songs into Vietnam, and now, she’s trying to penetrate Malaysia through connections she met when she was part of Kitchen Musical. “Singapore already responded,” she tells us. “So I’m trying to wrack my brain, like where else can I take the music? And it will be a way for other people to get their music out there also.”

Where once she thought that she had to do better than others, Karylle now believes in being happy for other people’s successes. “A healthy music scene is a good scene. That’s become my main attitude. That’s why I like to support other people, and I acknowledge that a lot of people do support me as well.”

“You just have to keep doing it,” she continues. “I took a workshop before with Jim Paredes. He taught me that sometimes you just have to keep on making music. Sometimes that’s how the gold comes out. Sometimes through the (I don’t want to say sh*t), you’ll find the gold somewhere there. But you have to keep producing.”

“You can’t keep complaining about piracy, or digital advancements. Everything is new, and we’re still learning how to get the music out there. But as long as there’s always new music, I think that’s a good thing.”

* * *

Get Karylle’s latest album, A Different Playground, at leading stores nationwide, as well as on iTunes, SpinnrPh, Amazon, and Deezer.

Tweet the author @catedeleon.

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