Toronto-based pop singer-songwriter Kayla Diamond acknowledges she was a late bloomer, in terms of songwriting. “I was 22 and at university when I wrote my first song, ‘Crazy,’” she says. She hit a home run in that first at-bat, as the song helped her win the lucrative Slaight Music “It’s Your Shot” Contest in 2015.
That prize brought a publishing deal with Slaight Music, and a distribution deal with Pheromone Recordings/Cadence Music Group. It also sparked a major career change for Diamond, who was well on her way to becoming a lawyer – having just finished her first semester at law school (University of Detroit Mercy) when she heard she’d won.
“I hadn’t intended to leave law school to become a musician, but this meant someone had recognized me. To not take advantage of that would have been a disservice to myself,” she says.
One of her professors was especially supportive of Diamond’s decision, pointing out that she could always return. “I gave myself three years to get on the radio, or else I’d go back to school,” she says. “I’m not sure I’d have stuck to that, as I caught the writing bug, but within 18 months ‘Carnival Hearts’ was Top 40.”
Diamond released her debut EP, Beautiful Chaos, in 2017. lts breakout track, the aforementioned “Carnival Hearts,” has now notched more than 2.5 million streams, while another 2017 single, “What You’re Made Of,” was a Top 10 radio hit.
A follow-up seven-song EP, Dirty Laundry, was released in August of 2019, and Diamond acknowledges that, as the title suggests, this is a darker, more introspective collection of original material.
“I look at it now as rather my art piece,” she says. “It was something I needed to get out, to air my dirty laundry. l ‘m not an angry person by any means, but l had this built-up anger. How do l channel this in a way that’s not going to be self-destructive? It was kind of my therapy.”
A crucial song on the EP is “Lie Lie Lie,” a co-write with Ria Mae and Diamond’s frequent collaborator and producer, Craig McConnell (Celine Dion). “That song pretty much started the album,” recalls Diamond. “l wrote it literally the day after a breakup. l decided then to stop masking who I’m singing about, and l became public with being gay.”
“I gave myself three years to get on the radio, or else I’d go back to school.”
Other co-writers on the EP include Joel Stouffer, Justin Gray, Matt Dubois (12AM), Lauren Mandel, and Alexandra Soumalias. Diamond thrives on creative collaboration, welcoming feedback from her co-writers and producers. “When I work with a producer, I can’t be, like, ‘You need to work for me and make it my style.’ I want the producer’s sound in my sound.
“I never come to a session empty-handed, that’s too much anxiety. I usually have a chord progression in my head, and I usually write what I think could be a chorus, though it often ends up being a pre-chorus.”
Diamond credits one early co-writer, Liz Rodrigues (Celine Dion, Eminem), with “a valuable lesson. At our first session, she said, ‘Write something that you can sing, then write a part where you can put the mic out to the audience and they’ll sing it with you, and that’s the hook.’”
Her style is an eclectic one, drawing from hip-hop and dance music as well as pop, with Diamond citing such diverse inspirations as Metallica, Dire Straits, Lana Del Rey, and Gospel music.
Diamond has also been a featured vocalist on two major international EDM hits, Kiso’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” (with more than 4 million SoundCloud streams) and Anevo’s “Feel Something” (more than 3 million Spotify streams).
A return to law school is not currently in the cards!