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Stories of A Sonic Provocateur: In Conversation with BAYLI


Since the New York artist’s move to New York as a child, Bayli has transformed herself into a sensational personality, to say the least. Coming across her music over a month ago, the “bad bitch” energy that radiates in each lyric and rhythm speaks to the fearless and iconically stylish edge to the movement she’s forefronting with her sound.

Earlier this winter, she released stories from new york, an urban symphony depicting BAYLI's coming-of-age experience in NYC as she explores her undying love for cutting edge fashion, forward-thinking music, and the broader art world—all with refined, international taste, the collection of songs piece together a stunning mosaic of stories that define BAYLI's self-discovery. Before her UK debut at Folklore, at the end of this month, MSM catches up with BAYLI to discuss her musical journey, working with Rick Rubin, being labelled a provocateur, and much more.

Tell me a bit about your upbringing and childhood—both in and out of New York?

Whoa… I’ve been off the grid and haven't interviewed or really thought about something like this in a while. My childhood was beautiful and adventurous and filled with love, my parents and elders made sure of that, but it was also somewhat unorthodox. My mom, my siblings and I grew up moving around a lot. We first lived with my grandma, then in two or three different neighbourhoods in Nassau County, LI. Right before 9/11 happened we moved to Roosevelt Island, a tiny little island gem off of Manhattan, and then we finally landed in the place that I call home: Brooklyn, NY. That happened when I was in about 2nd grade and we haven't left since.

What role does music serve in your life?

It makes me quite emotional actually because music has always been an integral piece of the Black community. Everyone in my family has a deep connection with music. Most of my family members are musical, albeit not professional musicians. It’s always been a way to connect generations and share stories and lessons.

What genre of music and which artists did you grow up listening to?

I grew up listening to Radio Disney (i.e. Cheetah Girls, Lizzie McGuire and “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65). Lots of soul music that I heard at my grandmother’s every summer. You know the greats: Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Nat King Cole, etc. By the time I got to junior high, I was listening to whatever was popular on the radio like Missy Elliot and B2K. A lot of southern Rap that was popular in the mid-2000s (i.e. Mike Jones, UGK, Lil Wayne). Towards 8th grade, I got more into alternative and rock music like The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Amy Winehouse and The Arctic Monkeys. I think this led me to explore older genres of music, like Classic Rock, which is what I ended up falling in love with.

Are there any particular individuals or ideologies that guide your musical career?

There are honestly too many to even think of right now. I think one that sticks out and stays with me is this: live every single day with deep intention and deep passion and don't chase; create meaningful relationships and your purpose will show in your work. Also, mentorship is key.

What are the sonic influences and inspirations behind stories from new york?

I wanted stories from new york to feel like a soundscape and a time portal to this time in my life. Like, you can listen through the EP and visualize a movie. I wanted for each listener to put themselves in my shoes and actually feel like they’re there in all six stories.

Listening to the whole album, I really fell in love with the song not safe—what was the story behind this song?

Haha yes, we can ALL relate to “not safe”, right?!! The one time I performed stories from new york LIVE in New York, the crowd went f*cking bonkers for “not safe” and asked for an encore. Anyway, the story behind not safe is that it was actually supposed to be a demo for Justin Beiber and his camp - who were looking for songs at the time. I was working with a producer named DRTWRK (Ye, J. Cole, Lil Wayne) who was submitting to the camp and needed a writer. It was a super late night in Montreal, QC, so late I almost didn’t go because I was super exhausted from all-day sessions but I went and laid the vocals super quickly. We were working at my good friend and producer Jay Century’s studio and he and DRT were so encouraging that I just kept working on it and got the song as far as I could. Months, probably almost a year later, my management team and I agreed it would be a great addition and story for my debut EP, stories from new york.

What does it truly mean to a provocateur and how does your music essentially articulate that tone and title?

I’m so happy you asked that. I am not a self-proclaimed “provocateur” – this title was given to me by one of the press publications that did a story on me. When I first saw them describe my artistry in that way, I must admit, it did give me a jolt of excitement and kind of made me think “Ooo the girls are actually LISTENING and I’m getting to them. ” It was exciting to know that my lyrics or just my existence affected people in some way. I will say that I do like to talk about or cover subject matter that doesn’t get enough air-time. I like to play with the idea of taking something dangerous or taboo and making it feel more attainable. I think that perspective is something I was introduced to in art school and it stuck with me.

How do you conceptualize your vision?—getting into the mood to create the vibe that you want to convey to your listeners?

Every day I come up with new ideas and I write them down. Once I have an idea I keep it with me, for a while, until I can realize and turn it into something more tangible. In order for me to get in the mood to create I need to be alone or with people I trust immensely. Creating something from scratch is an extremely vulnerable process for me so I’ve learned over the years that it is a part of my process to protect and focus my energy in the right places and with the right people in order to get the best results.

The Skins—How did your sound develop in your time with the band? And how do you think yourself and your craft have changed since transitioning into a solo artist?

The Skins was a very beautiful and evolutionary time in my life. There are lessons that I learned from being in a band that I still apply to my personal and work life everyday. That being said, I’m actively healing from that part of my life and I don’t need to go into detail or put too much energy into talking about it. It was a part of my past and this year I’m practicing letting the past be the past and living for the present moment.

You got the chance to have Rick Rubin as a mentor, and for many, that would be a dream come true. What was that experience like and how much of it influenced any part of your sound?

Having Rick as a mentor is a dream come true and it’s an experience I won’t ever take for granted. To this day, he is still one of my biggest influences and I take lessons that I learned from working with him, everywhere. I wouldn’t say Rick has a major influence over my sound today but he was the first person to convey the power of songwriting and helped me understand how important the relationship is between a song and its listeners.

I got a chance to listen to some of the demos on stories 2—what can you tell me about the project, without spilling too much?

Stories 2 is all about this new phase of life I find myself in: it's a faster pace, it’s more challenging but there's also this laser focus and newfound clarity that I’ve found in artistry. All the pain and pleasure that comes with working super hard and the loneliness that also comes with that. I’m hoping that this project is even more open-ended and relatable for my listeners to deep dive into.

Still early in your career, what would you say has been your proudest moment so far?

Lots and lots of proud moments. I’m proud that I’ve been able to connect and work with artists that I’ve looked up to for a long time. I mean the notion that there are artists who influenced my childhood who are now fans of my work just feels so iconic. I am also proud of all of the global collaborations I’ve been a part of over the past year. From my art collab with Japanese-based artist, Mitsume to making songs with SOPHIE and ILOVEMAKONNEN, it's been an invigorating year. Most of all, I’m definitely proud of myself for making it this far because the industry doesn’t make it easy and I’ve wanted to quit so many times, especially because I started so young but, there’s something more powerful that always brings me back.

What are your hopes for this year? In regards to music and general?

I’m excited to drop new music and for my music to reach new ears. Excited to meet and connect with more of my soul tribe. To live more dreams and discover more. What excites me most is the beauty of the unknown.

By Olisa Jr



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