Malaika Astorga for Pink Things: Hi Xkylar! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Xkylar: Hi! I'm a singer/writer/producer and make dreamy music inspired by songwriting from the 70s, 90s R&B and dream pop. I love graphic design and video editing so there is a visual component to the majority of what I do. I love creating and meeting people, and music has given me the ability to do that.
PT: Where are your go-to spots to get inspired?
Xkylar: I think songs come the easiest either when I'm driving or on a walk. I love going on night drives or daytime walks around my neighborhood, and by the time I get back home I always have an idea for a song. When I was in college at USC, I would go to the rose garden (I love flowers) to write, and I always found the most clarity there. I'll go occasionally to spend the day writing under a gazebo .
PT: How did you first get into making music?
Xkylar: I've been singing since I was little, but I started writing in middle school to cope with anxiety. I'm a highly emotional and sensitive person, so making music has always been the one thing that calms me down. Feelings are hard enough to understand on their own, so making music just helped me work through them while growing up.
I was in pre-med in college, which was pretty tough. I found myself writing songs on the daily and started making beats in the library. It became a habit and eventually music is the only thing I want to do.
PT: What has the music scene been like for you online versus IRL? How have you been able to find community in the scene?
Xkylar: Honestly, I'm shocked at how much I love the community that I’ve met online through music. I never really identified with the online world until a friend of mine opened me up to the idea of making genuine connections online. I was able to understand the beauty of how social media can connect everyone. I strive to create a platform that inspires positivity and connects like-minded creatives.
I’ve always been a floater and have enjoyed spending time in different scenes, and have made some amazing friends all throughout LA. I've always loved hosting parties and shows, and have met a lot of amazing people through those events. Right now I feel like I'm in a phase of building true community, both online and in real life. I moved into an incredible creative household with other artists (we call it Perlita's Dream House), where we’ve been hosting shows, poetry readings and parties.
PT: Has your music-making process been mostly self-taught or collaborative?
Xkylar: In the beginning I was lucky enough to make friends with and meet people who I consider mentors, who have helped me through the songwriting process. I would often write with other producers, and peer over their shoulder to watch what they were doing. At one point I felt like I was reaching a creative block where I wasn’t able to put my music out there without someone else's help. I dove into YouTube tutorials and that’s when everything changed for me. I got some samples together, and started producing nonstop. I isolated myself for a good year-and-a-half to teach myself everything. Now I feel like I can do everything myself, which is incredibly empowering. I feel like I know my sound, and I’m ready to start collaborating more often.
PT: A lot of your songwriting involves heavy emotional lyrics. Do you always write from personal experience? How do you translate your emotions into music?
Xkylar: To expand on what I said earlier, my music is how I cope with my anxiety and my life in general. I wouldn't be able to deal with my emotions without it. I'm glad that my lyrics come across in an honest way. I'm highly emotional, but also struggle to understand what exactly I'm feeling. I think once I listen to music, my soul speaks. When I'm in a zone, my lyrics come to me almost instantly.
PT: Many of your songs speak to the experience of being more independent, breaking away from potentially unhealthy relationships. What’s your advice to others to become more independent and self-confident?
Xkylar: When your in a toxic/abusive relationship, you can often confuse someone else's voice as your own, the voice that tells you that you aren't good enough, that you need to change or that your responsible for someone else's feelings. I used to feel like if I didn't make someone else happy, I wasn't good enough. The truth is you will never be able to make that person happy, it is not your responsibility to be change to make someone else feel better about themselves. Happiness comes from within. You can only help others if you help yourself. Your happiness is the most important thing.
I think writing is what has helped me the most. It’s helped me to listen to the voice in my head that tells me I am enough. Also, surrounding myself with people who genuinely love me and want the best for me. Sometimes its hard to recognize when a relationship is unhealthy, so that kind of clarity is essential.
Reddit has also been a great resource. There are a TON of threads that are for people dealing with toxic relationships. The people on those threads are some of the most positive and loving people I have ever spoken to. Therapy is also a good option if it’s feasible. <3 Sending love to anyone dealing with this <3
PT: Who are some artists that you’re inspired by at the moment?
Xkylar: Tom Misch, inspires me on the regular, not only his music but all the music he adds on his "real good shit" playlist. I just love his approach to making music, super authentic and free flowing. I love UMI right now, her lyrics are so beautiful and her visual content is so good. There’s also Illa J, who does super positive rap. Super uplifting and nice to hear. Other artists to check out are IDER, Leven Kali, Shey Baba, and Ari Lennox.
PT: We ask everyone this, but what does pink mean to you?
Xkylar: There's something beautifully feminine about the color pink, I love being a woman, and to me it just evokes sensitivity and strength. It's a strong color and gets attention but it’s not aggressive. I think of spring and flowers, bright colors and dancing.
PT: Finally, do you have any upcoming projects you want to promote?
Xkylar: I've been releasing a song every three weeks, to grows an artist and to keep the creativity within me alive. I just released a three song mini-EP called Sry//Sunlight. I made the three beats, and was having a bad couple of days dealing with anxiety about someone liking me and not feeling the same way. It got me super in my head, because I felt guilty, like I was wrong. (Back to the "toxic relationship" question - you are not responsible for how someone else feels.) I went on a walk, lay down in the grass, bathed in the sunlight and immediately felt better. I wrote the three songs about these experiences as I was going through them and I'm happy to share them. :) <3
PINK THINGS MONTHLY MIX
Listen to the full playlist on Spotify here.
1. Lovely Day - Bill Withers
2. Sunday - Illa J
3. Sunlight - Xkylar
4. Weather - Alpharo
5. Orange - Siny
6. IDER - You've Got Your Whole Life Ahead of You Baby
7. Wow Wow Wow - R E L
8. The Light - Jordan Rakei
9. Crazy Dream - Tom Misch
10. Strong Enough - Cher
Malaika Astorga is our Creative Director, and is currently based in Montreal. She is an illustrator, animator, designer and writer.