Clapper Sounds with Kyla Gabka

For our 28th Clapper Sounds Interview, we’re highlighting Kyla Gabka!

Kyla (@KylaGabka on Clapper) is a Chicago-based singer, songwriter, and producer. When not working on one of her own projects, she’s likely teaching vocal lessons or producing music with the group Musicality. Kyla’s newest album is all about discovering who she is and finding herself in her late 20’s. In this interview, we talked about her artist’s journey, her thoughts on keeping up with trends in the industry, her advice for musicians, and more.

Clapper Sounds is meant to be an intimate musical experience, and we want that mission to translate into our written interviews too. Listen to her music as you read to get to know Kyla Gabka and her unique sound.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is your first memory of being involved with music? How did you start your artist journey?

My first memory would be probably my first piano lesson when I was four years old. The teacher was also my dad’s teacher going up, so my family knew her very well. But I didn’t know her yet and I was covering my face because I was so scared to go in! I have videos of me playing on the piano when I was even younger, but I don’t remember that. My parents also put me in violin lessons not too long after – I think I was still four or five.

What really triggered me to want to do this as a career would be when I was around 8th grade. I did a musical called Cinderella Goes to The Hop and I was one of the stepsisters. Growing up I did not like singing, but in that moment I was like “Wow, this is really fun.” Then in high school, I joined this group called Musicality and in college I decided to study musical theater and music vocal performance. I was able to join Musicality again as a staff member, and then I became an associate director, and now I’m a producer and a member for the group. And I’m working on my third album with a label right now. It’s busy!

What is your songwriting process like?

I usually get an idea, or something will happen in my life, or I’ll watch something and it sparks an idea of a story to write about. Everything is very musical theater based story-wise, so I create this story, then I’ll usually write the lyrics, then the chords. After that, maybe I’ll make a track and create a melody. Sometimes I’ll do the opposite! I’ll have a melody and then figure out the chords, then write the lyrics and the track. So it can really depend on the idea and what has come to me in the moment.

For my third album, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a label so it’s been really amazing. I have a producer making my tracks for me, and I was able to bring on another songwriter. He’s absolutely insane, super talented, and he’s been writing a bunch of songs for the album. It’s really nice going from doing everything by myself to having a team working to help me kind of make my dreams come true.

What are your thoughts on content creation as an artist? How do you feel about artists having to balance their social media presence and still be committed to their art?

I struggle with it so much. But it’s important in the era that we’re currently in, because everyone’s using social media. That’s the easiest, freest, way to put your music and your art out there. And you can do so much with your creative process, you don’t have to do everything separately. You could have behind the scenes footage of you recording in the studio – that’s literally the easiest way to create content. I did February Album Writing Month on Twitch, just writing live with other people watching and spewing ideas at me. Those are clips that I can post on social media and use as content. If you’re able to grasp a way that works for you to balance everything, it can work. It’s figuring out how to manage and schedule your time better. That is something that I am constantly trying to improve upon, as a master procrastinator. 

How often and for how long do you practice?

I wish I could say every day. However, I also teach private music lessons and my voice can only handle so much. For example: these past few weeks I’ve had really bad acid reflux, so my vocal chords have been on fire. I haven’t been able to really sing much at all, but thankfully it’s starting to get better. Even if I don’t have time to practice, I will at least try to do vocal warm-ups, just to keep my voice in shape. But I do utilize my singing voice pretty much every day because of my teaching. I’m showing them how to do things with their voice, using my voice, so it’s kind of every day, but not exactly.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest musical trends? Or do you not care so much about the trends?

I want to care! But I have such a hard time staying up with pop culture. I think it really depends on what you’re doing: for what I’m doing it’s a little bit more important, so I do try to care. But it can be very difficult because it requires a bunch of research into what’s working for other people, what’s popular right now, and what’s going on. So I feel like I’m a little bit behind when it comes to that, but I’m trying to get into it. I would also say that I don’t think it’s always important to focus on what’s really popular. A lot of things that are more obscure or more indie are really awesome and can also be beneficial.

Deciding to be an artist can have its ups and downs. What advice would you give to that young artist who is just learning to play guitar, or starting singing lessons and whose dream is to be a musician?

What I like to tell my students is: I don’t care if you make a mistake. This is the time to make mistakes, while you’re a beginner. I want you to make mistakes, and that’s how you learn, that’s how you grow. And don’t be afraid to put out your art even if you don’t think it’s great. Your first thing probably isn’t going to be great and that’s okay. We all have to start from somewhere. You don’t come out of the womb being amazing – you have to learn how to do those things and the only way to learn is by doing. Even if you’re scared to put something out there, you still should and don’t care about what other people think. All that matters is that you’re doing what you love and that you’re growing and getting better while you’re putting these things out. Don’t focus on what other people are saying. Don’t focus on being so perfect that it takes you years and years and years to put something out. Just give it a try and you never know, it might be really awesome too.

Make sure to check our recorded live session on our account Clapper Sounds and in our reels on Instagram. Enjoy the Clapper Sounds Live Session with Kyla Gabka!