It’s rare that you find a soul as positive as Kyle Dion. The talented Florida-raised, LA-based artist emits a warm aura that is as inviting as it is contagious. His unmistakeable energy translates both on- and off-stage; needless to say, when a friend of mine introduced me to Kyle a few months ago (Thank you, Therese!), I was easily hooked. Kyle has crafted a sound that is distinctly his own—blending elements from a wide variety of genres—marinated with genuine sultriness and smooth falsettos.
Today marks the release the Kyle’s sophomore album, Painting Sounds, the follow-up to his strong, impressively mature debut project from late 2014, Sixes and Sevens. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kyle about his musical upbringing, progression, and overall mentality:
“I really wanted to invest all my time—all my life—into music.” – Kyle Dion
For someone’s that never heard of you before, how would you go about introducing yourself and your style?
My style is a mash-up of R&B, funk, pop, and jazz. It’s very light, very happy, very fun; it’s just a fun vibe. I know everybody wants to say it’s different, alternative and all that, but I love R&B and every other genre so I like to take little bits of everything and put it in there. If you like R&B music, you might fuck with me.
I noticed how it’s R&B—you can tell it’s there—but there’s definitely something unique about it that no one else is bringing to the table.
Everybody says that, but I’m just doing it man, you know what I mean? [Laughs] I don’t go into it like I’m gonna do something different; I’m just doing it. Everybody says it’s different, but it’s cool—it’s love.
For sure. How did you start getting into music? When did you know this was something you wanted to take seriously?
I wrote my first song at nine years old. Ever since I touched the pen and started writing music, I really wanted to invest all my time—all my life—into music. I’ve always been musical; I’ve always sang since I was young. You hear those stories all the time like, “They’ve been singing since they were one,” that was me [laughs]. When I really fell in love with music and I really wanted to pursue it was around the age of nine, ten years old. In terms of professionally doing it, I had my first manager at 13 years old. From writing music and being in the studio, I’ve learned a lot since I was little. As a young man, I’m taking everything I’ve done in the past, putting it all together and molding into the artist that I am today.
When I was doing my research, I read the first album you bought was Confessions by Usher. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
[Laughs] Yeah man, I bought that shit with my Christmas money. Usher was the man for me. His first album was dope; I used to sing Usher all the time when I was younger. I guess he was the only real R&B nigga doing it back in the day, so he was the only guy I could lean on. I could always do his things; his music was so comfortable with my voice, I fell in love with that album. Ever since then, it’s been great, man [laughs]. Ever since then, it’s just been love and music.
“We see potential—he’s gonna grow into an unstoppable force.”
I also found out your father was a rapper, is that right?
[Laughs] Yeah, he was a rapper in Connecticut. He actually brought me to my first studio session; I think I was even younger than nine to be honest, maybe seven. Ever since that session, I started feeling some kind of way about music. I didn’t know music was supposed to be recorded in a studio, y’know? There were certain steps you do and they’re lip-syncing in the video—I was learning all this. I’ve been surrounded by music since I was younger. My mom’s dad was a famous Portuguese singer around the world—she says I get it from him.
Did you ever consider trying to be a rapper? Or was it just cool being in the studio with pops?
I spit a little bit with my dad. I feel like a writer can rap, y’know? Maybe not as good as certain rappers [laughs], but I definitely feel like if you can put words together, you can rap. I don’t think I ever planned on being a rapper. I always knew I wanted to be a singer—that’s where I’m most comfortable.
You used to live in Florida, but now you live out in LA. What made you decide to move?
I know if I stay over there, it’s not the move, y’know? Everybody’s over here—either New York or LA. I’m from a little town; when I say Coral Springs, nobody knows where that is. I knew that my vision and everything I wanted to do was bigger than where I was, so I needed to move myself and what better place to be than LA? It’s the melting pot of talent and on top of that, I love being around talented individuals and creatives. In my home town, it’s not really like that; it’s quiet and family oriented. Being in LA and being inspired by other artists and creatives—whether it’s music, actual art, paintings—I thought I had to move out here and see what it’s all about, and it’s been great. Wake up in fucking LA everyday like, “I’m here,” you know what I’m saying?
It’s like a “I’m waking up and chasing my dream” mentality.
Yeah. It’s crazy.
Do you ever go back to visit Florida?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Most of my family’s in Connecticut cause I was born there, but I was raised in Florida since I was 7 until I was 18, so it’s really what I know. My close family is in Florida, so I definitely visit. My parents are very supportive, always have been—they’re the ones that pushed me and helped me get out here.
I feel like nowadays it takes parents a while for it to click with them that “oh, this is music something they really want to do.”
Yeah. To be honest, my mom and my dad have always been supportive of me since I was younger. They saw the talent; it wasn’t just like “Oh, my son can sing,” it was like “Woah, this kid is gonna be crazy. He may not be good right now, but we see potential—he’s gonna grow into an unstoppable force.” They’ve always been supportive of me, especially my mom. She’s like my number one fan—she’s always been there, so shout out to moms [laughs].
Do they ever get to see you perform?
I did a show in Miami and they loved it; my mom was front and center [laughs]. They see me doing my thing and they’re really supportive and excited. They’re especially excited for the new project coming out and all the new music I put out. They see it, they recognize it, and they respect it.
“I want to keep it all me to introduce myself to the world.”
Before we get into the new stuff, let’s throwback to Sixes and Sevens. Looking at the project, you’ve got producers from everywhere. How did you link up with them?
In 2012, I went to school out here in LA; this is my second time living here. I went out here for a year in Hollywood and met a lot of producers and people that are now part of the team musically. It took me about a year and a half, almost two years to get the whole project out. I had to find my sound, what I wanted to do, and who I was as an artist. I write all my music, so I have to take my time with it, y’know? It all came from that school to be honest. This brings back my parents pushing me to go and supporting me—if I didn’t go to that school, this whole Sixes and Sevens thing wouldn’t have been here.
You mentioned how you write all your own music. I noticed there’s not any features on the project, was that something you decided from the jump?
I’m not against collaborating. I have collaborated before on other projects, but at least with my music, like everybody says, it’s a different lane. I want to keep it all me to introduce myself to the world. Maybe on future projects I’ll collaborate, but definitely these two projects—Sixes and Sevens and Painting Sounds—these are gonna be my babies, y’know? I wanted to look back at them like, “I did that.” In the future, I’m definitely down; I’ve got a few collaboration wishes.
Who’s on your wishlist?
Chance the Rapper’s really dope; I see he has his jazz thing about him, so I feel like that would come together really well. I definitely want to do something with the Internet; I think Syd’s voice is crazy. Who else, who else? Childish Gambino, the list goes on—Erykah Badu, man!
[Laughs] We gon’ get there for that Erykah. Erykah if you looking at this, y’know what I’m saying, holla!
Have you tried reaching out to them or have any of them reached out to you to show love?
I definitely feel like the underdogs are being looked. Everybody sees; everybody’s doing their thing. We’re just making music, y’know? The industry is so tight, the industry is so small that eventually you get a collabo. It’s gonna be good—we just gotta grow.
Just have to let it happen naturally.
Yeah. Let the universe work its way. It’s no rush; I love when everything just happens. When everything happens naturally, it’s organic, y’know? That’s how both of these projects were produced as well; that’s how every song was produced from me. I don’t wake up like, “I gotta write today.” I don’t plan it; it just comes. Everything artistic—everything creative, I feel like it should be very natural, very organic; it shouldn’t be forced.
For sure, man! I feel it. There’s this saying I live by: “The best songs write themselves.” You don’t really have to force it, y’know?
Exactly! That’s good.
“It shouldn’t be a competition—everyone should just love what they do and not worry about everybody else.”
In one of your interviews you were saying how people think it’s all competitive, but it doesn’t have to be. Can you touch on that?
Yeah! Everybody’s trying to put everyone against each other. If you feel like you’re in a competition, then you don’t have security within your own art, y’know what I’m saying? If you’re in a competition with someone, they have to be doing the same thing as you. You can’t be in a competition with someone if you’re doing your own thing cause no one else is doing it. Especially this generation, everybody’s not scared to fuck with anything, do anything, and be adventurous with music: “We love R&B, but let’s throw something else in that.” It’s more loose—it’s more free in our generation; I feel like we get to experiment more. It should be love; it should be art. Everyone should just fuck with everyone. If you don’t fuck with the music, you don’t fuck with the music. It shouldn’t be a competition—everyone should just love what they do and not worry about everybody else.
I feel like people used to be dismissive, and they still are, but at least we’re starting to become more accepting of all these personalities that people have.
Exactly, and accepting of different experimental music. There’s a lot of artists out here doing really different things that wouldn’t be accepted ten, fifteen years ago, y’know? It’s like we’re evolving—music is evolving. People always talk about how people always wanna “bring R&B back.” Nah, don’t bring R&B back; let R&B stay where R&B was and always be respected and honored for where it was, y’know? Accept where R&B is right now—I love R&B right now! R&B is experimental, R&B is—it’s beautiful. If you wanna hear R&B from the 2000s, go listen to that shit; look that shit up on YouTube cause you can always go back [laughs]. There’s an era for everything. I love this generation—I love how everybody’s moving, how everybody’s experimenting, how it’s just so free and nobody’s in control, especially because we have the Internet. We can just do whatever we want—it’s an amazing thing.
It’s a very progressive mindset, you know what I mean? We have all this stuff available to us, so why not try to make something new?
Exactly. Don’t try to go back. As humans we gotta move forward; musically we gotta move forward—everything has to move forward. You can’t just stay in one place; you have to keep going. R&B is exactly where it needs to be where it’s at; don’t try to bring it back. Like I said, if you wanna listen to the 2000’s music, which is fucking crazy and dope cause that’s my shit—that’s what I grew up on—I can go back and listen to it! I wanna come back to 2015, 2016, and I wanna jam out to this music, too, cause I respect all—you gotta respect the evolution, man, for real! Plain and simple.
You don’t wanna come back to 2015 and be listening to the 2000s.
You know what I’m saying?! I wanna go to 2016 and 2035 [laughs] and be like, “Woah, everybody was on that wave?” and then I wanna go back to 2000, y’know? Let everything evolve the way it’s supposed to evolve. I’m not trying to bring R&B back. I hate when people say “Oh, Kyle’s bringing R&B back.” I’m not trying to bring nothing back; I’m just making music. Don’t put me on no “R&B, bring it back,” no! Keep it where it’s at and let’s evolve—that’s it.
It’s like Kyle’s bringing Kyle back [laughs].
[Laughs] For sure, man!
“No matter what you do, what you are, where you’re from—everybody’s attracted to real.”
Onto your new project, Painting Sounds, are you excited?!
Yeah man, I’m super excited. I’m really, really proud of this project. I was very experimental. I wasn’t scared to do whatever I wanted—to not follow what I did in Sixes and Sevens. If you have a sophomore project, everybody wants to top it and they want to do something different, y’know? It’s definitely a different feel; it’s the evolution. If you want Sixes and Sevens music, go listen to Sixes and Sevens; if you like Painting Sounds, go listen to Painting Sounds. It’s the evolution of me.
For sure. Was there a concept behind the album or were there just songs that you had that you wanted to put together? Did you already have it all mapped out?
When I made Sixes and Sevens, I already had this name—I had Painting Sounds. I was like “Painting Sounds is the next project,” before I even finished it. I wanted to do it like that because it’s like different colors are going to express the different feels from this project. I’m not just doing one kind of thing; I’m doing different things.
Somebody said in another video—she was like, “You set the tone for the project.” This was when “Another Life” was just out, and I was like, “No, absolutely not.” You can’t set the tone cause every song is such a different vibe. When you’re feeling some kind of way, you’re gonna go to a certain song, and that’s exactly how I want it to be; I want it to be different colors and expressed on a different wave. I didn’t want everything to be really cohesive in a way cause I did that with Sixes and Sevens. I think when you hear the whole project, you’ll see that vibe, y’know?
I remember that interview. I think she was comparing it to Kendrick when he dropped “i.” We were expecting the whole album to be like that and everyone was like, “Woah, this isn’t the Kendrick we’re used to.”
Yeah. It’s a different vibe. When people first heard “Another Life,” they were like, “Oh shit, he’s never done no shit like this on Sixes and Sevens.” Or even the drops I had dropped before that: “Get You Alone” is different than “Another Life,” and “Timed Out” is different from “Get You Alone.” Nothing is the same. That’s what I’m most excited for—it’s like if you love music, you’ll like this project. Everybody can relate to this project whether you like pop, R&B, hip-hop, jazz; everything is mixed into this. I’m super, super excited for real, man. I’ve been holding all this music in since the beginning of the year—since the beginning of last year! Now that it’s finally releasing, I can’t wait.
Do you have a personal favorite off the album?
I do! But I don’t wanna say it because everyone’s gonna be like, “Oh, I’m gonna go listen to that one,” y’know? I want everybody to feel what their favorite is, not let their perception be distorted by what I feel.
For sure. I respect that. Was there a certain track you felt was the most difficult to make?
Oh hell yeah! I don’t even wanna say [laughs], I wanna save all this information, you feel me? Like I said, I was very daring. When you hear this shit—man, I don’t even wanna say.
I feel it. What kind of personal growth have you seen since Sixes and Sevens leading up to Painting Sounds?
Sonically, I’ve seen a huge growth. The team has expanded production-wise and I’ve got beats from other people. Sixes and Sevens was very QnAce—these two producers who are amazing—they’re like my brothers. They basically helped me produce this whole Sixes and Sevens project. We’ve got a couple other producers, but Sixes and Sevens was more QnAce-based.
This one [Painting Sounds], I’ve got this cool duo—one of them is in Canada and one is in Florida—called Entrstellar; they produced “Another Life” and have two other tracks on there. We’ve got this guy from France; he sent me this beat last year in January and I kind of slept on the beat [laughs]. I scouted my email and found this shit and it became “Timed Out,” and then I sent it off to my two friends and we all collaborated. We got Dust as a producer who’s produced with me; he produced “Better.” He’s been there from the jump—since 2012, since my school days—and then we got QnAce on there. Still keeping QnAce and Dust cause those are my niggas—I really fuck with them.
Vocally, I think I’ve grown. I’m just not scared to do different things and be weird and be like, “Yo, this is tight,” and feeling it! This project was very, very confident. You’ll definitely hear more confidence than in Sixes and Sevens, where I was trying to find myself. Painting Sounds is where I found myself. This is who I am—it’s only going to evolve from here.
I liked how you said you found yourself. Was there a moment when you knew the kind of you music you wanted to make? I feel like it’s hard for artists nowadays to find their own voice. Especially being able to listen to all these artists, it’s easy to be influenced by other people.
Exactly. It’s weird too because I’m kind of a huge fan of myself, it sounds weird, but I kind of listen to my music 24/7 [laughs].
You have to, yo! You have to make music you like.
I really do! I jam to myself like I’m somebody else like, “Yo, this is crazy!” When I’m making a project or especially when I’m about to make music, I tend to not listen to anybody—I don’t know what’s out, I don’t click on any links, I don’t who just dropped something—I go into my own zone. I don’t even look at oldies shit. There’s something in me that’s just like—I close my eyes and I’m just creating. I don’t need to be influenced by anything; I’m influenced by myself. I don’t need to be inspired by anything; I’m inspired by myself. I just go in with myself, I find my inner self, and I just write and make music.
That’s kind of what I did with Sixes and Sevens and Painting Sounds. When I was writing Sixes and Sevens, I think we cut like 20 tracks or something like that. It wasn’t until it dropped and I heard the whole mixtape fully, saw the response online and realized, “This is who I am, this is my sound, this is what I love to do. I love jazz, I love R&B, I love funk.” I don’t care if everybody’s doing turn up. I don’t wanna force myself to do that cause that’s in; this is who I am—this is what I love. You don’t have to turn up to my music at the club. You can have tracks like that; if I make a track like that, it’s going to be who I am. I’m never gonna distort what I do and who I am—this is the music I love to make. I just tweeted before you called me, “Artists, make what you want to make. Straight up. Don’t be influenced by anybody, don’t be driven by anyone—be driven by yourself.” Every creative has that inner thing and they can find it within themselves. I’m gonna keep evolving from Painting Sounds—it’s gonna be overall the same sound, but we’re just gonna keep growing.
Damn, that’s real.
Yeah man, we’re having some talks right now! We’re having a full-ass conversation, bro!
[Laughs] We preaching, bro, straight up! It’s like—do what you want, man. Do what you want. I can’t even tell you—I’m making Sixes and Sevens and I’m like, “Damn, are people gonna fuck with me? Are people gonna fuck with this, like, are they gonna like this shit? The production isn’t CRAZY booming; it’s very jazz—jazz is old, not my generation.” These are all going through my mind as I’m writing this whole project, y’know? It got to the point where I was like, “This is who I am; I’m not gonna change myself. I’m gonna make people know this is hot. I don’t have to change myself.” Everybody fucks with you for who you are—there shouldn’t be no facade. Everybody fucks with real, straight up. If you’re real, they’ll fuck with you, you know?
That’s deep man, that’s real deep. This has gotten so deep—I’ma remember this for sure!
We did man! [laughs]
I don’t know if I mentioned this at all, but I’m also an artist—I rap, too. When I’m interviewing all these people, it’s crazy cause yeah, I’m doing it as a journalist, but above all I’m artist, too, so I’m taking notes.
Oh tight, bro! Don’t even take to much notes from me man—do your thing, do your thing.
Yeah. That’s the biggest thing: just be me.
Yeah. Just be you, man, just do your thing. You don’t have to listen to nobody. You can motivate yourself; you can inspire yourself—you got it. It’s all in you; same shit is in me, y’know? I ain’t nothing special that you can’t be on the same mentality as me. Everybody’s the same—we all got it in us, we just gotta find it.
For sure, man. Walking around LA do people recognize you in the streets? Have you been noticing that?
Yeah, it’s fucking weird [laughs]. A couple times since I’ve been out here, too. I live in a quiet area, so not too much, but when I go out to the Hollywood area, I take a couple flicks. Yeah, it’s pretty weird. That’s happened in my hometown as well. It’s really cool, though; it’s like, “Damn, you fuck with me?” They don’t know I’m like, “Yeah! Don’t be scared.” It’s a very humbling thing; I’m so honored that you wanna take a picture with me—I wanna take a picture with you! I can’t believe you’re supporting me, y’know? It’s definitely weird, but it makes you feel good because you’re doing your shit and people are fucking with it.
What better feeling than “I’m doing me and that’s all I’m doing, but people are still fucking with me and they’re showing love”—what more can you ask for?
Exactly! It’s crazy. Just being you and everybody fucking with you; there’s no better feeling. Like I said—no matter what you do, what you are, where you’re from—everybody’s attracted to real. Authenticity is very attractive, straight up.
In terms of live performances, do you have a favorite place to perform?
New York! Ever since my first show in New York—it actually wasn’t my first show—but it was my first show from Sixes and Sevens and people knowing me as Kyle Dion. I was going for an SOB’s show last year and everybody was like, “Oh shit—don’t. New York is hard; it’s hard to get them to fuck with you.” When I went out there, I did a G-Eazy show with my homegirl Kehlani—that was the day before I did the SOB’s show. The G-Eazy show was crazy; they showed so much love. SOB’s was crazy; they showed so much love. I just did another SOB’s show in December with Eric Bellinger and they showed hella love. They really fuck with me, y’know? The energy is so crazy—I wish was a New Yorker man, straight up! They’re all cool and in their own thing.
Especially because SOB’s is pretty much a rite of passage. If you can get people to fuck with you at SOB’, man, you got it.
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying! And twice?! The first time I did SOB’s I was a little more unknown than who I am right now. I had my single “Purple Meadows” out and people knew it, but I was still an unknown artist. Just going to my show last month with Eric Bellinger, I had people coming up to me like, “Yo, I fuck with Sixes and Sevens! I came here for you! I bought tickets for you!” I have people singing the songs with me. It was just crazy—the energy was just so wild.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
I definitely warm-up a little bit. I drink a lot of water because I get really dehydrated for some reason before I go up there. It’s weird—I get dehydrated and I have to pee—and I don’t have to pee [laughs]. I feel like I have to go to the bathroom, but I don’t; I just have butterflies in my stomach like I’m excited. It’s more natural; I live off natural energy, natural vibes. I just go up there and do what I’m feeling, and just be me! Like I said, you can’t go wrong by being you. If they don’t fuck with you for being you, then fuck it—there’s nothing else you can be. I go up there like, “I’m just gonna be me, do my music, do my thing, and if they fuck with it, they fuck with it.”
What kind of plans do you have for 2016?
Definitely hella shows after this project drops and just promoting Painting Sounds. I’m a creator, y’know? I’m making music right now to drop after the project. You’re just gonna hear Kyle Dion. This is the year of manifestation, man. I’m very confident going into the year with this music backing me—it’s gonna be crazy.
Any collaborations you can tell us about, or are they all hush-hush for now?
They’re all hush-hush for now, but know that it’s gonna be really dope. I haven’t done too many collabs, so I’m excited to work with different artists. I just love being surrounded by my people— when I say my people, I mean like creatives, artists—I just love it, feeding off each other’s energy. I’m excited to collaborate more this year, do more shows, meet the supporters, gain more fans, and just continue to do me.
Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
Go cop Painting Sounds. It’s cheap—five dollars—like help your boy out, y’know what I’m saying? [Laughs] Help your boy pay some bills, y’know what I’m saying? In all seriousness, the music is really, really tight and I’m excited—you’re gonna love it. If you’re a fan of me, you’re gonna love it; if you’re not a fan of me, you’re gonna love it [laughs].
Another major thank you to Kyle Dion for the opportunity! Make sure you stream Painting Sounds in it’s entirety below and grab your copy on iTunes!