LAKY is a singer-songwriter who cut her musical teeth gigging with her twin sister aged 15 at The Grey Lady on The Pantiles.
Having then moved to London to make music and gig for three years she is now back living locally again, and is about to release her debut single Saving Me this Friday (May 7).
It’s a record that focuses on the importance of communicating your feelings when you’re experiencing things like anxiety or depression, so its timing just ahead of Mental Health Week isn’t just a fluke, it is completely deliberate.
“I’ve felt like a shell of myself on a few occasions due to mental health struggles and I know what a comfort it has been to me when others talk about going through similar experiences,” explains LAKY, whose real name is Kyla Stroud.
“It truly is less scary when you know you’re not alone.”
LAKY studied songwriting at BIMM in Brighton, and after graduating has gigged around the country ever since.
“Music is a massive part of my life and who I am. Another huge part of my identity is being a proud gay woman,” says LAKY.
“I lived in London for the past three years before deciding to move back to the Kent countryside just before the first lockdown. I’ve learned not to take things like nature, space and family for granted. Living the London music-scene life can carry you away sometimes and it feels good to ground myself again.
“The pressure of living up to expectations, both career-wise and life-wise can be overwhelming and had definitely begun to take a toll on my mental health. This, matched with a global pandemic… made for an interesting year!”
Making music and performing was, LAKY says, something she wanted to do since she was tiny.
“I got into music through a combination of genetics, wanting to be ‘cool’ and the joy of not having any academic prowess whatsoever! I think, and hope, there’s a bit of natural talent in there as well! I have always sung, my entire family are performers, so it was pretty unavoidable.”
LAKY says she started writing songs at the age of nine and began gigging locally when she was 15 at The Grey Lady, with her twin sister, Natalie.
“That’s when I fell in love with performing and making an audience laugh. We went on to gig together for a few years, before I went solo.”
It was around this time that LAKY decided to drop her real name and adopt a stage name.
“I’ve always quite liked my real name Kyla. However, one day at work a colleague came in and said ‘I’ve had a dream! You had a stage name, LAKY – an anagram of Kyla.’ I don’t know why, but it just clicked. I liked how it sounded, liked it was only four letters and it still felt like me. Also, being able to keep a bit of yourself private in the music industry is definitely a plus in my eyes.”
So how does LAKY feel ahead of the release of her first single, which is a beautiful melodic pared-back pop confessional?
“I have genuinely been putting this off for years because I’ve had this fear of failure,” LAKY reveals.
“However, one good thing that’s come out of this year is I no longer feel like not being famous would make me a failure. After all, I don’t write for that reason. I write to express myself and that’s what I’m going to continue to do, and I’m super proud to be finally releasing something and getting over that fear.”
LAKY says that particular emotion has been a constant in her life.
“I used to think I couldn’t write about my own life because it had been quite boring. It turns out I was just afraid of singing about girls for the most part. When I came out at 20 it opened up this gateway to music that I hadn’t explored before. I hadn’t even realised how many things I had been suppressing all that time and why my songs before that point didn’t connect with me quite the same way.
“I don’t only write about girls, but I do now write honestly and authentically. At the moment mental health, love and heartbreak take centre stage in my life so they also take centre stage in my music.”
Commenting on her new single, Saving Me, LAKY says she wants people to hear it like a warm sonic hug.
“There’s a comfort for me and I hope, listeners, in knowing we’re not alone. It’s not a song about fixing a problem, it’s a song about hope and being kind to yourself.
“For me, the words ‘Saving Me’ aren’t even about a place or another person, they’re directed back at me. As much as I can beat myself up because I’ve taken another dip, I remind myself I am strong, I can get through this time and things will be better.”
Despite never releasing any records until now, LAKY has played at venues including the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Radio DJ Chris Evans’ Car-Fest and at The Hop Farm. She has supported headline acts such as Westlife and Toploader, too.
Yet all this positive exposure and being able to pursue something she loves doesn’t mean that LAKY is no longer aware of how we can be consumed by strong feelings of self-doubt and acute sadness.
“I’ve struggled with my mental health throughout my life, I think it comes with the territory of being creative. I took a poll recently to see how comfortable my social media followers were talking about their own mental health. Thirty per cent said they weren’t, and to me, that’s far too large a number. I was shocked when starting these conversations up, how many people had or were struggling and how many people feel like those feelings aren’t valid.
“That’s why I’m releasing this single for mental health awareness week. I’m lucky enough to have a voice and I want to use it to help that 30%. The people who are struggling silently. Plenty of things have ’saved me’ this year, but the most important being myself.
“As humans, we are so quick to be hard on ourselves when we’re struggling but this song is about being kind to yourself even when it’s not easy.”
As to what’s next for LAKY she says that she is not trying to worry too much about fame.
“I’m trying to take the pressure off myself to be ‘successful’. I want to be honest and authentic as a person and with my music, which means not trying to sell myself as some perfect product with a master plan.
“I have lots of songs I want people to hear, songs that people like 14-year-old me would have liked to have heard on the radio growing up. In all honesty, my mental heath is my priority right now, but once I’m ready I’m looking forward to getting back to gigging and reconnecting with people through music.”
For more information on LAKY, visit her on social media @iamlaky or her website laky.co.uk