The London Fashion scene can be a fickle place to call home. The music industry also has its moments. Breaking into one, let alone both can be like crossing a main highway blindfolded; one wrong move and you’re history.
One woman who seems to have conquered both is Nayla. Armed with a love of soul and a voice to charm even the most brutal of industries, she will take to the stage at the Kaiz Boutique London Fashion Week Valentine’s Party on the 15th of February. Sugar Reef will play host to the event as the walls reverberate with the “oohs”, “aaahs” and “gorgeous daaahlings” of the fashion world. The outfits will shine, the cocktails will flow and Nayla will stun.
London has found a soul star to light up the music scene and the word on the street is that she’s set to do it with a vengeance. I recently stole a sneaky slice out of Nayla’s busy schedule to discuss her influences, plans for the future and moves for the present. Destined for a successful career in Basketball and law, she chose to follow the path of music. Kick of your shoes, settle back, unwind and turn up the volume… it’s obvious to see why.
You perform a blend of soul, funk and jazz… where did your inspiration come from?
I am inspired by many artists from Anita Baker to Jill Scott, I love music and can vibe off most genres.
You spent the early part of your life in Trinidad, and moving to London at 13. Did your early childhood in Trinidad have an influence on you musically?
Growing up as a child in Trinidad I listened to a lot of reggae or “dub” as it was called back then and Soca. I wouldn’t say that I was influenced greatly by this music at all because I sing soul, but I guess it contributed to me having some rhythm!
You originally planned to become a professional basketball player. Obviously you trained for years. How did you make that choice?
I started playing basketball at school and then was scouted by a coach looking for girls to play in the junior national division, from there I went onto play division 1 national league and toured Germany, France, Hungary, Switzerland to name a few. I made the transition to sing instead of playing ball after working with a producer and liking the sound of my voice on a recording he made.
Do you still play?
Yes I recently started playing but only for fun.
You made a similar choice later on in life and again chose music over a career in law. I guess when you have a voice like you do you just can’t keep it under wraps. Do you ever regret it?
To be honest I’ve not totally put my degree down, I just can’t give my all to music and do the same with Law, as it is an intense subject. I plan once my career is more settled to go back to university and complete my degree.
My mother has always told me knowledge is key so I want to be qualified in something no matter what. You never know in life what may happen so you got to be as prepared as possible.
What has your journey been like so far? Has the London soul scene been welcoming or ruthless?
I’m still on my journey and every year it gets better or at least I learn something new. The London Soul Scene has been very supportive of me. I’ve been on a couple radio stations and have my song on a few compilations.
You’ve performed at Sugar-Sugar, Cirque, Infinity and Liquid Blue (just to name a few)… what is your favourite venue and where would you love to play?
My favourite venue is Ronnie Scott’s, it’s a beautiful jazz club right near Soho. The venue is small so you can be very intimate with your audience. I don’t like big audiences so this club would be ideal for me and I hope one day in the near future to perform there. Apart from that it would have to be the jazz caf? in Camden.
You’ve been put in the into the ‘Neo-Soul’ genre of music by some… but how would you describe your unique style?
I would describe my style as soul although I did up until recently identify as a neo soul artist. Music is music and it’s all about what you feel.
Do you prefer writing your own songs? How do you go about it… do you have a special writing place?
When it comes to song writing I enjoy writing to music, I can listen to a song and based on what it sings to me when I hear it is what I will start writing…I know it sounds weird but it works. I have written all my songs but am happy and willing to work with other writers.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
I would love to do something with Linda Lewis, I recently found out about her, she’s an amazing UK Soul singer from back in the day.
Tell us about your band – how did you get together?
It was actually a friend of mine who suggested me working with a band to create more atmosphere and presence on stage.
I met my band last year at a gig there were playing at. I gave my sax player a cd of my stuff and a few weeks later they called me back saying they liked what they heard and would love to meet up and jam sometime, which we did and then the rest is really history.
You are currently studying music theory and working on new material with your band. How do you find the time?
Oh wow! Erm … a strict schedule! I rehearse 3 times a week and study on the other days.
How else do you spend your time… how do you relax?
I love shopping so I try and go out at least once a month, I also go to the gym to relieve stress and I recently started playing pool which is great fun although I’m not that good at it… but don’t tell anyone!
Your new album is an early 2006 release… is your diary chocka block?
I will be recording tracks and creating more music with my band this year, so once I’ve done that then I can start focusing on promoting.
Are you looking forward to potential mass stardom and celeb status – or do you prefer to avoid the limelight?
No I quite like the limelight and I am excited about my future, I want to get involved in so many things and try in some small way to make a positive change.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young singers?
Keep going never give up, if you have a passion for something and know you are talented just work hard at it!
You are taking to the stage in the Kaiz Boutique London Fashion Party on the 15th of Feb… are you a fashion junkie? How would you describe your look?
Yes I love fashion I would describe my onstage look as sexy but tasteful and my off stage just chilling look as retro chick…I love drain pipes, converse, boots and every other fashionable girlie item!!