Late one evening in March I received a call informing me that Drake was about to use a sample from Kyla – Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz remix) on the forthcoming single from his much anticipated album ‘Views’. A wave of excitement came over me for what this could potentially do for UK artists, especially Kyla. However, within days that feeling of excitement was replaced with a tinge of doubt as April Fool’s Day drew closer.
A week had past and I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the announcement to be made that evening. It didn’t come and my faith was slowly dissipating. Then, the following afternoon, after regularly refreshing my internet browser, an announcement appeared on my Twitter feed. It was true, and finally after a week of having to keep this enormous secret to myself I could share it with the world.
‘One Dance’ by Drake ft Wizkid and Kyla was released on Tuesday 5th April 2015 on the same day as ‘Pop Style’ by Drake ft Jay Z and Kanye West. At first I wasn’t sure a song could win me over as much as ‘Controlla’ had done over the previous fortnight. I’ve always been a huge Drake fan and had been prompting people to listen to leaked versions of ‘Controlla’ and ‘Faithful’ unaware that I was about to have an association with one of his biggest hits yet.
Working closely with a dedicated team we devised a strategy for how best to position Kyla for long term success off the back of ‘One Dance’. My role was to help define her brand and maintain good brand relations. Throughout the campaign we established some amazing relationships, Filling Pieces being one of them. They are a footwear brand based in Amsterdam who I hugely admire for seeing our vision for Kyla from the jump. Such relationships helped us to pinpoint Kyla’s style and brand positioning, key elements for showcasing her talent on a global scale.
Working with Kyla
None of my hard work would have been possible without Kyla, the brand, Kyla, the person – who also happens to be an amazing singer, wife, mother, and now a great friend. I first met Kyla during the ‘Do You Mind’ campaign in 2008. I’d been friends with her husband, DJ Paleface, since meeting in 2004. For the ‘Do You Mind’ campaign I was helping out with project management and positioning key members of the team for tour management support, a highly visible street team, and establishing an online presence.
I saw Kyla again very briefly at the ‘Do You Mind’ video shoot, and soon after at a Christmas party. Fast forward eight years and I was to find myself in daily contact with the humblest, most down to earth person I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. The ‘One Dance’ campaign has been a huge success for a plethora of reasons beyond which can be assigned to any one person’s doing. However, the real success for me has been in witnessing Kyla’s approach to the whole situation.
Let me take you back a bit. Kyla has had a burning desire to sing since the age of three. She started her music career by working part time in retail and saving up to buy a PA system so she could perform in pubs and clubs. Always envisioning the next step Kyla saw an opportunity in which she could book popular acts like N Dubz to perform in her local area of Huntingdon, a small town in Cambridgeshire, which is about two hours drive from London and doesn’t have many if any gigs.
At these bookings Kyla would perform on the same stage as the headlining acts positioning herself as an equal. She made enough money from the shows to fund her first music video which may I add cost a pretty penny back then. This video is what lead to Kyla being discovered by her now husband, DJ Paleface, co-writer and producer of ‘Do You Mind’, the track that established their musical union and relationship.
Being around Kyla is such a pleasure, but being the person I am I’m always keen to learn from every situation and observe how individuals apply their talents. I will do my very best to convey the single most important lesson I have learnt in the last four months. Kyla developed a great work ethic early on, and by the time ‘Do You Mind’ started to gain traction she tenaciously performed up and down the country on almost a nightly basis for years until she fell pregnant and was unable to continue doing so. All the work Kyla put into ‘Do You Mind’ is what subsequently brought the song to international superstar Drake’s attention.
Make your own luck
I’ve heard people call Kyla lucky, and lucky she is, but let me say this, having been out of the music industry for several years Kyla was taking steps to relaunch her career when she received a call from Drake’s team out of the blue for her to feature alongside him on ‘One Dance’. Nobody could have anticipated the juggernaut the song went on to become spending fifteen consecutive weeks at number one in the UK, ten weeks at number one in the US, going to number one in twenty countries around the world, selling over 1.4 million units worldwide and breaking streaming records to become the longest number one of the millennium so far. Kyla was the first female to go to number one in the UK charts in 2016, and like a true professional she was ready to record, ready to work hard, and ready for success, performing night after night and hopping on and off of international flights and festival stages like she never left.
What is the biggest single lesson I’ve learnt from working with Kyla? Well, as the saying goes, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” My biggest take away from being part of such an amazing experience is to always be prepared. No matter how ‘lucky’ the situation may appear you still have to put in the work. You make your own luck. Kyla has taught me that luck happens when you are prepared for it.