Kayla Rae Hits the Stage at Summer Jam 2018

Denver artist Kayla Rae will play the 2018 Summer Jam.
Photograph courtesy of Aaron Rodriguez
Denver artist Kayla Rae will play the 2018 Summer Jam.

Denver's own R&B artist Kayla Rae will take to the stage at the 2018 Summer Jam, alongside hip-hop stars Wiz Khalifa and Rae Sremmurd.

Rae — who has been in Side 3 Studios the past few months, perfecting her already smooth vocals and trimming down her collection for her upcoming EP, promises to offer the crowd "an energy exchange" from the stage. And KS107.5 listeners expect it; the radio station that sponsors Summer Jam has been playing her music all summer long.

In anticipation of this weekend's concert, Westword caught up with Rae to talk about the show and her evolution as an artist.

Westword: Your debut EP is coming out this year. But you have quite the following on Spotify and SoundCloud. To what do you attribute this?

Kayla Rae: I think it just happened real naturally. Nothing I did was strategic at all. I was posting music because I like to do it; it makes me feel good. People just connected to that and chose to tag along. There was no plan behind it at all. I’m just now starting to put thought behind social media, which is a headache. Before it was just, let’s make music and see what happens.

What comes first to you: the music or the words?

Most of the time, it’s the music. You hear a beat and it tells you how it wants to sound. Sometimes you have already written songs, then you hear a beat, and you’re like, "This would sound really good on it; let me pull from my archives." But most of the time, for me, I let the beat inspire me and see where it goes.

Your song "Self Control" is incredibly poetic. Can you tell us what prompted you to write it?

A person, I guess [laughs]...I was trying to describe how infatuated I was and how good it felt to be next to that person. And I was like, "Come rub your bones against mine." We both have the same zodiac sign. I’m a cancer, and cancers are ruled by the moon, so the next line, "Ruled by the moon, deep within time," came about, and from there it spilled out of me. I was trying to convey how in love I was at the time.

I feel like a lot of love songs are tragic, so I liked the beauty in this one.

Probably to this day, it’s still my favorite song. And I think it’s because it literally flows so naturally. The person sent me the beat, and I made the song in a half-hour and sent it right back to him. And we didn’t make any edits. Usually when you make a song, you go back, re-write, re-record, you fix some things, but that was a one-go-around.

Kayla Rae
Photograph courtesy of Aaron Rodriguez
How has it been working on your EP?

It’s been interesting, because it’s a new process for me. Now I’m in an actual studio and around more creative people and other writers. I’m just learning how to expand that creativity, but it’s definitely a growing process. I’ve grown so much by working with other producers and having people who know music, you know what I mean? People who don’t just do this shit for fun. They know what they're doing, and it's pushing me to become a better writer, singer, artist. Which is exactly what I want my project to do. And the music is turning out really solid.

What’s your decision-making process of letting certain songs out into the world?

It’s always really sporadic. I’ll make something, and I either like it enough to want people to hear it or I’ll keep it for me. I think it depends on how I feel about the song. Previously, it’s been on the fly, but now it’s more calculated. Now I have to consider how much I want people to see and know.

Has your perception of the music scene changed now that you’re professionally working in it?

I wouldn't say so much the scene here, but it’s changed my perception of the industry overall. I’m realizing all that goes into good songs and good music. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of time. It’s a lot of different people and ideas that go into making something with really good quality.

Kayla Rae
Photograph courtesy of Aaron Rodriguez

What type of energy do you bring to your songs?

A positive energy. Sometimes you don’t really have control over it; whatever your feeling is what’s going to come out. But I want to inspire people in a positive way. I want people to feel good when they listen to my music. I want them to feel like they can do and conquer anything.

What are you looking forward to at Summer Jam?

The people. It’s an energy exchange on stage, and whatever they're feeling, we're sharing it, and I’m looking forward to how it will feel. I’m excited to see what I can do on such a big stage. It will be really different. I’ve done it so many times, but it will be on a larger scale. All of my people are going to be there. My family, my close friends. My dad has never seen me perform, and he’ll be flying out.

Summer Jam, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, August 19, Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Greenwood Village, tickets start at $30.