Kyla LeBlanc (Kytami): Canadian Electronic Musician
In a phone conversation, I asked Victoria-based violinist Kyla LeBlanc (Kytami) about her musical inspirations, her creative process and her career. She started playing the violin when she was three years old, but she didn't start playing original music until much later. She explains, "I'd been playing in an Irish pub for a few years, but I wanted to combine my violin playing with the music that was influencing me at the time. I wanted to create original sounds but I didn't know anybody else who was doing a similar thing. It was definitely very experimental for me."
Another big step for her was getting her own studio space in Victoria. Kyla says, "Having a space that I could go to and not worry about time constraints or paying by the hour really upped the level of creativity for me. It have me the absolute freedom of a space where I can explore anything that I want to explore."
Kyla's latest EP Renegade fuses drum n' bass rhythms with her melodic violin playing. She points out, "We went into the project with the idea of writing tunes that capture the energy of the live show. I knew that I wanted the umbrella to be drum n' bass, I knew I wanted the compositions to be complex because I wanted them to stand on their own."
The producer of Renegade played an integral role in creating the album. Kyla says, "Phonik Ops moved over from Vancouver to do this album with me. When we first started talking about it, he was just going to help me out. We were going to get other producers to submit tracks and he was just going to help me record. As we got into it, we just started creating together and it turned into a collaborative project with him. He's responsible for 50 percent of the end result."
Kyla also mentions Beatsmith’s contribution to the album She says, “He’s a talented young sound designer whose work is featured on most of the tracks of the EP.”
The creative process for the album was an intense process of experimentation and collaboration according to Kyla. She says, "I'd come up with a plucking line that I liked or he'd be messing around in Ableton and come up with a sound and I would start jamming with that and then we'd start recording. We decided that if we had a strong melody, we'd set it to the side because we didn't yet know where it was going to fit. We'd have five different pieces of a song and we had to figure out how the hell we were going to put it all together."
There are a number of challenges that she's had to overcome in her career as a musician. Kyla explains, "I have a daughter and I've never stopped playing so I've had to balance having a career with being a parent. Doing it on my own and trying to get the balance is still a struggle, but it's always been that way and we've found a way to make it work well. I've definitely missed a lot of things being on the road, but I really enjoy that I've been able to keep my career going at the same time."
Another challenge that Kyla faced was being part of a band that broke up after five years together. She says, "I had to relaunch myself and that was probably one of the biggest challenges in my life. I was afraid. I wasn't sure if I would be able to have a career at that point. I worked really hard and just went for it. I'm glad now, looking back but I didn't know if it was going to work out at all. It was super stressful!"
She is self-managed and has found it rewarding to take that path. Kyla elaborates, "I like learning about all the angles of the business. I wish I'd known more earlier but I've enjoyed being hands on with all the aspects of my career from booking my own tours to putting out music to hiring other musicians to getting merch. I like making decisions about where to put the money back into my career. It's been an interesting journey."
Kyla doesn't like to get too far ahead of herself when it comes to her future plans. She says, "We're just about to go on a big tour. I'm opening up for Datsik on seven dates which is probably the biggest opening slot that I've ever had. I want to do more of that. I do a lot of touring on the west coast but I'd like to break out more internationally. A major goal of mine is to get over to the U.K. so I'd love it if everything came together and that happened."
She'd also like to get back into the studio more often. Kyla adds, "I want to have music come out on a more consistent basis. It's been a two year gap since the last album but if I could keep it going now, I would be fine with that!"
Inspiration comes from many sources for Kyla. She says, "I get inspiration from going out and playing shows. I also get inspiration from hearing other people's music and meeting other bands and producers to learn about what they're doing. I don't feel any lack of inspiration really. It's all around and I feel lucky to live where I live. Victoria's not the biggest city but people are bringing really great music through and because I get to travel a lot I hear things from different regions and that keeps me going as well."
© 2017 Karl Magi