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STRAND Showcase Spotlight: In Conversation With Kayleigh Noble

Image courtesy of Kayleigh Noble

Welcome to our STRAND Showcase Spotlight series, where if you haven’t yet bought a ticket to the live music showcases we support, we show you why you should.

Kayleigh Noble joins our Zoom meeting room all the way from Dublin, Ireland. She tells me the music scene has been thriving there lately, and it’s easy to see why with someone like her taking stages across the city.

A genre-fluid artist who has racked up impressive credentials on stages and on streaming services alike, Kayleigh’s next destination is FEMMESTIVAL’s live music showcase in London on 2 April. Nevertheless, it’s not the first time she’s come down to England’s bustling capital to perform. “I lived in London when I was 18, to study vocal performance at university, but I soon dropped out,” she tells me. “I used to leave class to go and record music with my friends. We used to rent a looper pedal and play around with it, layering our vocals with harmonies. We thought it was way more fun than being in class, and so we decided to just leave and pursue music outside of university!”

“It was actually very impulsive — I probably should have thought it through a bit more,” she admits, laughing. “I remember lying to my mom as well — she asked me, ‘How’s class?’ and I said ‘Oh yeah, it’s amazing’. At that point I wasn't even in college anymore, I was working full time in a bar!”

I ask her what she thinks of the difference between the music scenes in London and Dublin. “I feel like Ireland a few years ago didn’t really have what you’d call a ‘music scene’,” she says. “There was no place for up-and-coming younger people to just make and perform their music: you had to already be someone [of note] to be a musician in Ireland. But now, it's so much more underground — unsigned artists are big at the minute, which is really refreshing to see.”

“Back when I started out in music, I just remember leaving Dublin to go to London because I felt like there was no music scene in Ireland. But now that I'm back in Dublin at the minute, I feel like there's a huge scene. It's great.”

Speaking of up-and-coming younger artists, I want to know a bit more about how Kayleigh’s career in music started at age 18. “Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I’ve always used music to vent how I felt. For example, I came up with my first single ‘Stay’ while sitting on a bus in Amsterdam. I had a huge crush on a guy I knew at the time, and I wrote the lyrics about him! Making music is a very therapeutic process for me.”

The emotional intensity of her projects has clearly carried over into her later music, including her debut album Just A Girl, which Kayleigh released on 19th October last year. With its thrillingly dynamic array of songs — from the bumping bad-girl anthem ‘duh!’ to the heartrending collection of recorded voice notes on ‘Hot Mess Interlude’ - the album tracks everything it means to be ‘Just A Girl’ in the world. “I started writing a lot of the songs while I was still in my last relationship. Interestingly, all of those songs were really heartbreaking and sad, which was my first sign that maybe this wasn’t a good relationship for me to be in. 

“That relationship turned into a shit-show soon afterwards, and once I left that situation, I just wrote about my whole experience. That was when the album started coming together.”

Nevertheless, it wasn’t all “I hate you, you make me sad, I'm so lonely”, as Kayleigh puts it to me. “There was a turning point as I wrote some of the other songs, like ‘Flirtin’ W My Dealer’, ‘Duh!’ and ‘You Make Me Sick!’. which were more about bouncing back from the relationship. I feel like the album followed me through every stage of the breakup, from leaving the relationship to the aftermath, and I liked that there was that contrast across the album.”

That contrast also influenced the title of the album. “There’s a song on the album called ‘Sad Girl’ and I thought maybe I’d name it after that. But then I decided to call it ‘Just a Girl’, because I didn’t want to tie myself down to one thing. It’s about all the emotions I went through, not all of which were sad.”

I find it inspiring to hear her push back against the boxes which the music industry so often wants to place women neatly into. I soon find out her sound isn’t the only area in which she refuses to be pinned down — so is her image. “My image changes as I change as a person.”

“For example, for Just a Girl it was all about a very delicate time in my life, so we went for a kind of ‘doll’ aesthetic for the music video and branding. Our concept was the idea that ‘to be a woman is to perform’. It was very white, soft, and angelic.

Image courtesy of Kayleigh Noble

“Whereas for the new music I’m working on now, it’s the opposite of that. I'd like to say it’s ‘Maneater’, but it’s not even ‘Man-eater’ — it’s just ‘Eater’!” She laughs. “It’s a lot more fierce. To put it another way, it’s like the reference has gone from Just A Girl to a woman.

“I would never narrow my image down to one thing — it’ll always change as I change, and as my music changes. I feel like sometimes people don't really get that, but I don't really care what they think!”

Kayleigh also takes an admirable approach to uplifting other women in music: from start to finish, she ensured that Just A Girl was almost exclusively worked on by all women, in areas including artwork, photography, styling, creative direction, production and mixing. This makes her an even more perfect ambassador for the upcoming all-female FEMMESTIVAL showcase, where she’ll be sharing the stage with fellow firecracker artists Mara Liddle and Fleur Rouge. With a glint in her eye, she tells me she’s already curated a setlist for the occasion: “I consider things like the age group, the venue, and the others on the lineup. This is the best part about not putting myself in a box with genres when I make music, because I do have more dancey songs and I also have more intimate, quiet songs, so I have the freedom to curate a specific mood in this way. I have some good songs lined up!”

Does that include any new ones, I ask? “For sure!” She says. “I’m working on some new music at the moment. I have a three-track release coming out in May, which I can’t wait to share. I also have some remixes left to release from Just A Girl, which are so sick.”

I can’t wait to hear Kayleigh’s soundtrack to girlhood (and pending ode to man-eating womanhood) performed live — but of course, with just a few weeks to go before the big day, I want to know how she’s feeling about it all. “I’m so excited! I love performing in London! My best friend, and all my other friends from college, live there. The fact that I've known them all since I was 18, and now they can come and see me play a show there, is such a nice feeling.”

Don't miss out on catching Kayleigh perform second at our 2 April showcase — tickets cost £9 and can be purchased via DICE.