Aqyila is one of those singers that are so talented, they can appear to be untouchable. But when you meet them, you feel like you could be friends. I sat down with her in the Sony Studio in her hometown of Toronto to chat about her new EP For The Better, and she managed to give great insight into her new project and make me laugh with LA horror stories and best taco recommendations.
Her new project, For The Better, is a 6 track EP that showcases her gifts and growth as an artist. After first going viral on TikTok in 2020, she made a splash in the music industry with her vulnerable songwriting and empowering anthems. Despite only being released a few weeks ago, fans have already resonated with the project and her social media has been flooded with messages from fans who can relate to her story. Below, she gives more insight into how she got started in music, how she’s evolved as an artist and what song she was most excited for fans to hear.
How did you get into music and how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I started writing songs when I was about 10. I wrote a song about my mom for a talent show and she loved it. I realized that I liked putting words together. I didn’t realize it was songwriting though. I thought it was poems. I learned about beats on YouTube so I started downloading those and then tried harmonizing with myself and imitating my favorite singers. Songwriting also played a huge part in my journey into music because, for me, it was like therapy. I’d write about my experiences and if I was sad or angry or whatever—the experience would go into the paper and I wouldn’t feel [it] anymore. I still carry that feeling with me now, when I’m upset, I write it out.
From there, I decided to start posting covers on YouTube. I did “Here” by Alessia Cara and she actually ended up DMing me which was an amazing confidence boost and made me feel like I was going in the right direction. I’ve posted videos on all of the platforms—YouTube, Vine, Twitter, and then eventually TikTok. I really started to blow up on TikTok in 2020 during the pandemic when “Bob For Me” went viral, and I’ve been going ever since!
A lot of your music is about empowerment and self-acceptance. What does vulnerability as an artist mean to you?
It’s the one time where you can tell your story and somebody out there is going to relate to it. That’s the beauty of music—you know you’re not alone. It’s very comforting. A lot of people resonated with my latest song, “Hello,” because people know how it feels to fall down. I think people resonated with the idea that you can think an opportunity is for you but it isn’t and something better [is] around the corner.
Your new EP For The Better encompasses a few different genres. How would you describe your musical style?
In that space of time, I didn’t really think about genres. I wasn’t going into it [saying] ‘I want to make an R&B song [and] then a pop song’. I just like to create. If the beat sounds great and the music and lyrics are flowing, that’s all I’m looking for. My sound is definitely a mix of R&B and pop, and I’d love to tap into neo-soul in the future. When I went to LA for the first time is when I got to expand my musical vocabulary. I learned so many different notes and ways to sing. It was totally different for me because I was used to singing in my bedroom, so obviously you think every idea is great. But when you sit in a room with someone else, they give you ideas that you never would have thought of, which only makes the song better.
That’s the great thing about collaborations! Did you collaborate a lot on your new EP?
I did a lot of work with Phinisey. He’s the executive producer for this EP. He was one of the first producers I worked with when I went to LA for the first time and we just became really good friends and went from there. He’s a true creative. It’s so fun to watch him make a song. You go from having absolutely no noise to having a full-on song. Working with him made me want to stay up all night working, it was so inspiring. I had never been in a studio or recorded with anyone up until then, and I was booking 2 sessions a day. I was nervous but I absolutely loved it!
How did you decide on the title for your EP?
That came from the song “Hello”. There’s a line in that song that goes “Some things really happen for the better” and that really resonated with me. I always remind myself that just because something doesn’t work out for me doesn’t mean it’s the be-and end-all. As humans, we sometimes get attached to certain things and think that if one thing doesn’t work out then it’s the end of the world. But I’ve learned that things keep going and when one door closes another one opens, which is a message I really wanted to share. In the whole EP, it goes from heartbreak to finding yourself again. It’s an album of growth so I thought the title was fitting.
Is there a song on your EP that is most meaningful to you?
“We Keep On”. That one is fire! I love it because it was made so randomly. We were working in the studio one day and I asked my producer to play some of his beats so I could see what he was working on. He played that beat and I was like ‘Let’s write to this’, so we were in the studio until 1 AM writing the song together. It’s about going through a repetitive cycle with somebody, and they keep telling you that they’re going to change and do better. As much as you want to believe it, you have to reflect on what you’re really getting out of this situation. I love performing that song live. It’s a whole different experience with the band and it’s so amazing to see people singing the lyrics back to me.
Do you have any more music videos or shows coming up in the coming months that people can look out for?
I have a visualizer that will be dropping with the project. It kind of closes out the chapter [of] songs I’ve been making for the last 2 years. I’ve grown so much in that time and I’m making a lot more love songs now. For The Better is all about things I went through and overcame and looking forward to what’s next. I’m also doing 2 festivals and a few other shows in Toronto and Ottawa so people should keep an eye out for that! I love doing live shows.
Seeing how much Aqyila has grown in the last few years has solidified her position as an artist to watch. She’s proven to be a shape-shifting artist who has the songwriting chops and versatility to keep growing in the music industry. I have no doubt that the next time I speak to Aqyila she’ll be in a completely different place musically and I am genuinely anticipating what comes next for her. You can check out the full-length EP below.
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