Producer and label head Kayla Diamond, who’s written songs with Strumbellas, Eden Golan, Sofia Camara, and Tynomi Banks, feels her start as a recording artist gave her the education she needed to start Kolossal Records with partners Awesome Productions & Management.

Diamond, the featured singer on Kiso’s cover remix of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” and Anevo’s “Feel Something,” has racked up more than 50 million streams for her catalogue, she says, which includes her own songs and cuts for others, like Madalen Duke, Dom Vallie, Morgxn, Jeanick Fournier, Chloe Florence, Sophie Grenier (a contestant on La Voix, the Québec franchise of The Voice), and Alex Schulz.

“It was a really interesting experience for me to be an artist first, because you don’t see a lot of labels where the president knows what it’s like to be in the artist’s shoes, the songwriter’s shoes, and the producer’s shoes,” says Diamond. “Having that experience seems like the pre-requisite for exactly what I’m doing now.”

Amarii, Bad Guy, video

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the Amarii song “Bad Guy”

Now part of a rare group of female entrepreneurs who own a record label in Canada, Diamond’s first signing is a young man, Amarii, from Vancouver Island, whom she met when his then-manager asked her to remix “Bad Guy,” a sad piano ballad, which to date has more than 54,000 views on YouTube, and is approaching 350,000 streams on Spotify. Diamond is developing him now, and doesn’t expect to release any of his music until 2025.

“I’m purely based on, ‘If you wow me, then you get my attention,’” Diamond says of her A&R philosophy.  “I want people to succeed purely based on their talent, and not their gender or their sexuality. He’s this young kid [of 21] and has a crazy, beautiful backstory. He came from the foster system, and he’s super-strong with what he’s overcome. He showed me one of his songs, and there’s a lot of depth.”

“What appealed to me about signing with Kolossal was the fact that Kayla started off as an artist like myself,” says Amarii, whose real name is Martin Rupprecht. “She’s been in my shoes. Because of that, she can help guide me in the right directions in the music industry.”

Born in Toronto, Diamond was destined for a career in law, like her uncles, brother, sister-in-law, and six cousins (yes, that Diamond & Diamond). In 2015, she was in her first year of law school at University of Detroit Mercy when she entered the very first song she wrote, “Crazy,” into the Slaight Music It’s Your Shot competition. The prize was a publishing deal with Slaight and a deal with Pheromone Recordings/Cadence Music Group. She won.

The resulting EP, Beautiful Chaos, in 2017, written primarily with Craig McConnell (Celine Dion), and a few others, like Liz Rodrigues (Celine Dion, Eminem) and Mickey Shiloh, included the single “Carnival Hearts,” which garnered more than 10 million cumulative streams, and the follow-up single, “What You’re Made Of,” which made the Top 10 on Adult Contemporary radio. However, her 2019 EP, Dirty Laundry, which again included collabs with McConnell, as well as Joel Stouffer and Ria Mae, among others, was “poorly promoted and a big flop,” says Diamond.

A year later, she was all set to tour the U.S., starting with an appearance at SXSW, when COVID-19 derailed those plans. She and her wife were in the process of building a new home in Montréal, and she decided to put a recording studio in the basement.  “I had always wanted to learn how to produce,” says Diamond. “When I was an artist, I would sit behind producers and ask them how things are done.”

“We’re bringing back artist development”

With the free time she had, she learned the digital audio software program Logic Pro from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. each day. When she felt ready, Diamond says, “I started taking sessions with smaller artists to see what it was like to be in this new producer seat, while also writing the song at the same time.  I started getting better and better at it. Then, I felt confident enough to start taking sessions with bigger artists. From then on, people were like, ‘Wow, there’s another female producer. That’s crazy, we can count maybe five on our hand.’ And so, I started making a name for myself, especially in Montréal.”

In 2021, she officially left Slaight, on good terms. “When you’re an artist signed to a label, there’s this negotiative (sic) dance that you have to do, because these are people investing in you, and they’ve been in the business way longer than you. So, you’re trusting a lot of what they’re saying, and you’re applying it. So, I just started absorbing, and absorbing, and absorbing.

“But I was a little bit more in tune with the way the music industry was changing every single day. There was a TikTok boom in 2020, and I was really pushing for TikTok, and social media. I saw the trajectory of where it was headed, and Slaight’s business model wasn’t entirely working for my project anymore. I was like, ‘Well, what can I do to make it better, but not with myself as a subject?’ So, we’re bringing back artist development, because a lot of the major labels have abandoned it. That business model isn’t as efficient for them anymore.”

Because she wanted to continue as a producer, Diamond partnered on Kolossal with industry veteran Asim “Awesome” Awan and artist manager Jermayne Clayton, of Toronto’s Awesome Productions & Management – whose roster includes Vandelux, Dylan Sinclair, and DijahSB) – and who already have distribution via The Orchard, owned by Sony Music Entertainment.

“We now have a vehicle to release the music and help artists, but I get to be head of A&R at my own label, and they’re involved in production and songwriting,” says Diamond. “I needed to look for partners that were going to allow me to foster that in myself.”

Where will Diamond shine next?

What’s next for Diamond? On June 1, 2024, she became the first female producer to move into Planet Studios, the biggest recording facility in Montréal, with three main spaces, one mastering room, and 10 production suites. She’s been invited to attend what’s billed as “the world’s largest songwriting camp,” Anti Social Camp, in New York, June 10-15, 2024, alongside more than 200 producers, artists and songwriters. And on the day of our interview, she was going to write with The Strumbellas again, with whom she collaborated on “Let Down,” “The Hurt,” and the single “Hold Me,” for their latest album, Part Time Believer.

She says they also have a joint venture with Grayson Music Group’s SNGL “to act as the sync department for Kolossal, “so any artist that we sign is maximizing their opportunities while developing.”

Meanwhile, Diamond’s idea is to build custom teams for each artist, not “cookie cutter teams,” she says. For Amarii, they’ve set up a vocal coach and studio sessions. “Once we have his EP ready to go, I’ll take on the next artist,” she says.

The other plus of being in charge is, all the songs she has in the can might yet find a singer. Sometimes, a great song comes out of a session or song camp, and once pitched to an artist, it’s “on hold,” and the writer(s) has to sit and wait for a yes or no. Diamond, who’s also written with Good Grief (Bryn McCutcheon and Kirstyn Johnson), Nicolina Bozzo, Sam James, and Halo Kitsch, has lots of songs in need of homes.

“We just did a singles deal with Madalen Duke for a song called ‘Bones’ that I produced,” she says. “The deal is structured as a partnership with SNGL songs for sync. We also did a singles deal with Willa for the same. So, songs that I truly believe in, that I’ve written and produced, I offer a single deal to these artists. And I say, ‘Hey, let’s put it out together through Kolossal, and we’ll take care of the artwork, production, mixing, mastering.’”