[INTERVIEW] Rising Talent & Lifelong Nomad, Layla Introduces Her Unique Sound

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Having arrived right on time for lovers celebrating the Valentine’s Day holiday, New York-based singer-songwriter, Layla, recently shared a buttery-smooth new single titled, “Vacation.”

Despite its name, “Vacation” isn’t a call for visiting somewhere new and different with a loved one. Rather, it’s an opportunity for listeners to recognize that sometimes, being with that special someone is an actual vacation; be it from work, stress, or anything else. Or as Layla herself says, “This song is about my love for that person, and about how no matter what we were doing, or where we were, life always felt like a vacation. Sweet and easy.”

And if you’re loving the Culpa produced “Vacation” as much as expected, stay tuned for her forthcoming EP, NOMAD. It features this track and more fire from this rising vocalist, who chose the title based on her lifestyle that has taken her from country to country over the years. It’s also had a major influence on her music, which you’ll hear on the EP as well.

We caught up with the Eritrea born, New York transplant to talk about her new single and her upcoming EP.  Read the full interview here…

Parlé Mag:  Tell me your whole inception into music; when did you first gain interest, and how did things begin to take shape?
Layla:  My mom is a bass guitarist, and I grew up going to her shows. She first picked up the bass guitar in Eritrea in the late ‘80’s, and to this day she still tours and performs all over the states. She is the one who really inspired me to do music. I also used to write a lot of poetry and music as a kid. It helped me get through a lot of what I was going through at the time.

Parlé Mag:  Tell us about your upbringing, and emigrating from Eritrea to New York City…
Layla:  I was born in Asmara, Eritrea, right after the Eritrean-Ethiopian war. We moved to Seattle when I was about three, and the four of us—my mom, dad, little sister and I—all lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment. My dad worked a bunch of different jobs to support us, because my mom didn’t have the papers to work. A few years later, our family owned a convenience store, but 9/11 and a series of hate crimes kind of pushed my family out of that. Growing up though, my parents always stressed education. They were super strict on us to get good grades, and get into good colleges. To them, education was the key to a better life. I moved to New York in 2015. I got a job here after college, and I’ve been living here and pursuing my music ever since.

Parlé Mag: Who do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
Layla:  I’m super influenced and inspired by Chris Brown, The Weeknd, Drake, and Rihanna… just a lot of people who are on and have been on for years. That’s the type of longevity I want to have, so of course I seek inspiration from those artists. I’m also super influenced by Eritrean music, and just African music generally. I love Afrobeats!

Parlé Mag: At what particular point in time did you opt to pursue music on a professional level?
Layla:  2017 is when I really started taking this seriously. The opportunity to pursue music kept falling in my lap, but I was too afraid to really do it. But in 2017, I got my ass into vocal class consistently, was writing four full songs a day for that entire summer, and was recording almost every weekend; as much as I could afford! My first song, “The Mission,” dropped in May of 2018.

Parlé Mag: How do you classify your overall sound and style?
Layla:  Good question… my sound is definitely still growing and evolving. Right now, my sound is just vibe-y. You know? It’s chill, it’s soft, it’s genuine. Whether it’s an R&B vibe, or a chill Afrobeats vibe, the tone of my voice, my production choices, my lyrics… it’s just a vibe.

Parlé Mag: Your latest single is entitled “Vacation” —Tell me about this track specifically; how did it even come to fruition?
Layla:  This track is about someone I once loved very much. At the time, I was investing so much money in my music that I didn’t have any leftover to just go travel like a lot of my friends were doing. But it was okay, because the relationship I was in at the time felt like a vacation in itself. It was a kind of refuge from the daily stressors of life and the music grind.

Parlé Mag:  “Vacation” comes courtesy of your upcoming EP, NOMAD — Conceptually, what does that title represent to you?
Layla:  Nomad is who I am. It is my upbringing, and a core part of my essence. I’ve been blessed to see so many countries. And I plan to see so many more! All of these experiences contribute to who I am, what I care about, and the music I want to make.

Parlé Mag: NOMAD is a Nomad Entertainment project—Is this your very own boutique imprint? Why indie versus major route? And, what are your future plans / goals for the label?
Layla:  Yes, it is! I first launched Nomad Entertainment to get my publishing in order, but more importantly I launched it to preemptively lay the foundation for something bigger. So when the day comes and I am offered a situation that makes sense, I have a stake and I have a say. I want to use Nomad Entertainment as a vehicle for change. Yes, I want to sign artists and put them on once I have the resources to do so. Yes, I want to launch a series of different businesses under the Nomad umbrella. But ultimately, the goal is to use the revenues from Nomad Entertainment to invest in the things that I care about: world hunger, access to education for underrepresented communities, women’s empowerment causes…things like that 🙂

Parlé Mag:  What do you feel you bring to the music industry that we don’t already have in other performers?
Layla:  I think I have a pretty unique story, and a pretty unique motivation for why I am doing this.

Parlé Mag: Have you encountered any problems in getting to this point in your career?
Layla:  So many! This road has been everything but easy… so many snakes and traps. I’m just happy God has brought me this far.

Singer Layla
Parlé Mag: 
What do you want people to get from your music?
Layla:  I want them to feel comforted, loved, and inspired. I love people, and I love to care for others. I want to put that empathy towards everything I do; my songs, my performances, and once I grow the platform—the choices I make that can help other people.

Parlé Mag: If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Layla:  Chris Brown! He is so talented, and I’ve been a fan since he first came out.

Parlé Mag: If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Layla:  I really want to do Afropunk or Coachella. One day Madison Square Garden.

Parlé Mag: One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
Layla:  I have a track called “Who Got You” that is going to be on the project. I am going to let you listen to it, and not spoil it for you 🙂

Parlé Mag: Do you have any other outside / additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
Layla:  I was recently accepted to Columbia University for my master’s degree. So I’ll be juggling that with my music career. Other than that, I’m not sure. I’d like to make money, travel, and maybe get married and have a family one day.

Parlé Mag: Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
Layla:  In five years, I will probably be on tour. In ten years, I’ll probably be sitting in a meeting at Nomad Headquarters, planning my artist’s tour.

Parlé Mag: As for the immediate, what’s next for you, Layla?
Layla:  Get the “Vacation” music video shot!

Parlé Mag: Any “closing” thought(s) for our readers?
Layla:  I’m grateful for everyone’s support. Thank you so much <3


Stay Connected with Layla Online:

Instagram: @laylaondabeat

Twitter: @laylaondabeat

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laylaondabeat

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4tJ8MiNtxoX8tRD9dHeuhg

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Todd Davis
Veteran music journalist and indie publicist Todd Davis, who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, and has contributed to a variety of national, regional, online, weekly and daily media outlets; including The Source, XXL & Billboard, to name a few, is happy to report that he has recently joined the Parlé Magazine family. Looking forward to many great things to come...