What grabs you first, both when listening to Kalysta’s music and when speaking with her, is her absolute enthusiasm for life. The Michigan-based artist sings mostly R&B and soul, funneling her 21 years of life into her talented voice. It was immediately clear that music infuses her day-to-day — she was singing to herself at the beginning of our call.
Right off the bat, she talked about her immersion in music as a child. “I’ve been singing ever since I was little,” Kalysta told The Daily. Growing up, she was inspired by the music of Motown, with Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder swirling around her brain. Soon, musicians like Lauryn Hill and KC & The Sunshine Band were added to the mix. Her resultant sound is a flexible pop R&B, one that revels in the twists and coils of her voice, and delights in letting the listener know exactly what she thinks.
This is exemplified on her new single “Can’t Get Enough,” featuring the rapper Fling. It is a bold tune to release in the dead of winter — a song to which she wants you to “put your windows down and just jam down the road with your friends and have a good time.” Although that might be difficult to do in below-freezing temperatures, it is nevertheless an easy love tune to bop along to. It doesn’t require any effort from the listener, an uncomplicated piece of music that finds catchiness in its simplicity.
But just because her music is simple doesn’t mean she doesn’t take risks. Her fearlessness is apparent in her tendency to experiment with different genres. She recently recorded “Not Me,” a Carrie Underwood-type rock song. Based in Saginaw, a community that favors rock and country, she tailored this track to her fanbase there.
But the rock track “Not Me” is also balanced by her desire to appeal to listeners in Detroit’s music hub. She consciously combines the nostalgia of Motown’s soul with a more modern take. And yet, among this careful consideration of audience appeal, there’s a wish to escape this creative box of expectation and profit created by the public.
“I think that’s a really cool concept … to be genreless,” she mused. “If you just like to sing, why can’t you do it in multiple genres of music?”
This kind of blanket popularity works with Kalysta’s philosophy for music. Like so many musicians before her, she sees music as a vessel of connection. “I think that’s the one thing that everybody can hold on to, and it’s going to be here forever. It’s timeless,” she said thoughtfully. “Any music that anybody releases, it’s a piece of history, really.”
Forming parts of the human story is what her songs are all about. The music she has released touches on basic, universal emotions that are widely relatable. Anger, heartbreak, the excitement of love — her music doesn’t ask to be groundbreaking but instead builds on this tie between musician and listener. That is Kalysta’s goal. Music’s popularity is a profit margin, sure, but to her it’s also much more than that. It means she’s able to share herself with a larger group of people.
After all, it is clear from the way she conducts herself that connection with others is what she seeks at all times. When I jokingly mentioned that I sang to myself around the house all the time, she endearingly asked, “Are you a singer? Do you like to sing too?”
Whether her attachment to others is romantic, as portrayed in her songs, is a link made through music or even just a small bond found in a casual conversation, Kalysta is someone who reaches outward, exploring new ways to relate to life and those who surround her.
Daily Arts Writer Rosa Sofia Kaminski can be reached at email@example.com.