Emerging singer-songwriter Jayla Darden took the industry by storm this past year. Her breakout record “Onto Something” currently sits at half-a-million YouTube views and even more combined streams. However, there’s far more to Detroit-born R&B singer than meets the eye.
At a young age, Jayla Darden got exposed to music through choir and instruments, gravitating to the likes of Aaliyah and Frank Ocean. Since starting her career, Jayla moved to Atlanta at the early age of fifteen in aspiration of becoming a star. She released a slew of projects, including Ideas, Vol. 1 and Ideas, Vol. 2, before inking a deal with Interscope subordinate S!ck Projects last year. Her major-label debut, Onto Something, dropped back in November. The seven-track effort has amassed millions of streams, spawning fan favorites such as “Sweating Me” and “Goofy.”
Months removed from her recent release, Jayla has steadily built an audience around her haunting voice and soft melodies. In our chat, I spoke with Jayla Darden about her upbringing, creative direction in the studio, and inspirations amongst other things.
How would you describe growing up in Detroit versus living in Atlanta?
I pretty much had a normal upbringing, a lot of my family is from Detroit and still stays there. Compared to living in Atlanta, Michigan was a normal childhood. Once I moved, the goal was for me to do music so I was really in that headspace the whole time I was in Atlanta. I was on a mission.
How did you initially gravitate to creating music?
I’ve always been singing even before I started taking it seriously. My mom always made sure I stayed in the choir in school as well as in church. One day, the choir director in Detroit came up to us after service and told us about his studio. At the time, I wasn’t really writing or producing so I ended up having my mom, who’s a poet, write some songs for me. That’s how I got into music, because the song she wrote, I wasn’t really feeling it. She’s like twenty years older than me so I found myself critiquing what she was writing.
As far as singing and songwriting, are there any artists who sort-of paved the way for you?
Most definitely. When I was younger, I got cut off from secular music for a good chunk of my childhood from age five to when I was finally able to have my own phone. Before then, my mom would still let me listen to Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé. When I realized how much I really liked R&B, I started branching out to Brandy and Aaliyah. My brother put me onto newer artists like Frank Ocean, Jhene Aiko, and J. Cole, who’s my favorite rapper.
Not too long ago you inked a deal with Sickamore’s S!ck Projects, what made that the perfect label for you?
It felt the most organic out of the other offers. It felt as though they already understood my vision and that they wanted to do with it versus taking advantage of me as an artist.
You released ‘Onto Something’ EP towards the end of 2019, what has the response been like? How did it feel to finally put that project out?
The responses have been great, I’m still getting new people who discover me to this day. Putting the project out was a new experience for me. Before, I was just putting music out without shooting videos or having a planned rollout. I feel like that would be the biggest difference from my previous works.
As far as the project, I like all of the tracks. It just depends on how I feel at the moment because I can still relate to them. I know sonically, “Onto Something,” I played that song a lot before I let anyone hear it. I really love the vibe of that song.
What about the music video for the title track, how did the visual concept come together?
My A&R Ashley Monae, creative director Harry Israelson, and I sat together and brainstormed ideas. I knew I wanted to have the production in the video, but from there, we brainstormed together and came up with that concept.
What inspires your creative direction when writing songs or recording in the studio?
It depends because I do multiple things in the studio from songwriting to producing. The majority of the time, I just sit at my laptop and work on whatever comes to my mind during projection. I usually start with drums and build off of that or move onto the next idea if I’m not really feeling it. Sometimes I go through beats that I forgot about and catch a vibe to something.
When I record music it’s mainly just me. I’m usually at the crib by myself, but I definitely want to branch out this year and work with more artists. Everything I’ve released so far has been just me. The ones that I pick out will be the songs I bring to people and let them hear.
Looking five to ten years into the future, what type of legacy do you want to leave behind?
I feel like Onto Something was me introducing myself, but I want to be more open to collaborating. The main goal is to inspire people. I feel like it’s always easier to see yourself do something when someone else along the lines has done something similar. Also, with my music, I want to be able write songs more personal so that when people hear them, they feel a connection. I want to let them know they’re not the only one going through that situation.
Is there any advice that you would give to young women aspiring to follow in your pathway?
For sure, just stay consistent and believe in yourself. I feel like other people will understand the vision and come along the way because if you don’t believe it, it’s hard to get anyone else to.
By: Malcolm Trapp