Remember His Name, Kyle Dion

Remember His Name, Kyle Dion

Remember His Name, Kyle Dion

Rising R&B singer embarks on releasing a new single and an album

Rising R&B singer embarks on releasing a new single and an album

Photography: Connor Franta

Styling: Miso Dam

Text: Michelle Diaz

You’re going to want to remember the name, Kyle Dion. He’s a rising R&B singer with an alluring voice and a timeless blend of funk and soul in his pitch. Born into a musically gifted family, Dion was always surrounded by different influences of music. Since he can remember, the plan was to always become a singer. His first breakout in the music industry was his feature on “How We Do Us” in Kehlani’s mixtape CLOUD NINETEEN back in 2014. Fast forward seven years, Dion asked the iconic rapper, Ja Rule, to be featured on his song “Placebo”, which marked his second single of the year. His debut to the world as a singer to be reckoned with was his last full-length project, Suga, that came out in 2019. The body of work took listeners on a journey through a fictional character's struggle with fame and the constant fight with his personal demons. Now living out his dreams in L.A., he’s been spending the pandemic writing new music with his writing partner, Bijou, in preparation for his new album, SASSY, that will drop on September 17th. Today, Dion is sharing for the time ever his new single “Money” paired with a music video. If his smooth vocals haven’t seduced you already, this interview will. 

Zooming in from L.A., Dion and I talked about what it was like growing up in Fort Lauderdale, his feature on Kehlani’s mixtape back in 2014, and the advice he could give his younger self if he could go back in time. 

Full look Prada / Necklace & Rings Cartier

Michelle Diaz: So my first intro to you was hearing you on Kehlani’s mixtape Cloud Nineteen. So thinking about then and now, how accomplished do you feel now, and what else is in store for you in the future?

Kyle Dion: I feel super accomplished. I live off my music, I've toured,  I've been to places I've never been before. You know I have an album out, and I’m about to drop an album now. I'm just in a really good place in my life, and I think that shows within the new music as well, it shows that I'm really happy and excited and ready to keep growing and evolving, learning about myself.

MD: Can you tell me about your childhood in New Haven, Connecticut and growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida?

KD: I grew up in Coral Springs, so kind of near Fort Lauderdale, but yeah, I was born in Connecticut and my dad is from Connecticut, my mom's actually from Lisbon, Portugal. But she came to America when she was seven and later on she met my dad. Basically, our whole family is in Connecticut, but my mom took me and my brother to Florida when I was around six. So I just grew up in Florida, and I would go back and forth to Connecticut to see my dad, and, you know, other family members. Growing up in Florida was very nice, it was in a suburban area. It's kind of boring, but just having those experiences with friends and, you know, just coming of age, I would say it was a pretty nice time.

MD: When did you decide to move to L.A.? Was it pretty recently or was it a little while ago when you were first starting out in your career?

KD: I moved to L.A. in 2016, so about five or six years ago.

MD: What made you want to move to L.A. since Miami has a huge music scene and it isn’t that far away from Fort Lauderdale?

KD: They do have a huge music scene, but I think my music isn’t in that scene. So I think that moving to LA just helped me be able to collaborate and find myself and find the people that are my team. If I didn't tell move to L.A., I wouldn't have the people that are on my team right now. I wouldn't know about the collaborators that I have collaborated with. Even with Kehlani, if I didn't come out here that one time in LA, I wouldn't have been a part of her record so it's just like being here definitely sparks a lot of opportunity, and you're able to just go see anyone and beat a session with anyone because everyone's here. It’s like a melting pot.

Sweater, pants, necklace Versace / shoes Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello / rings Cartier

MD: Was Kehlani’s mixtape your first breakout into the music scene?

KD: Yeah, possibly. That was my first time hanging out here in L.A. and was just kind of introduced to a whole different group of people through her. I would say it was the start of something and then shortly after I released my mixtape. My first mixtape, my first ever project, sparked a little buzz and it was part of the journey.

MD: Your dad is a rapper in Connecticut and then your mom's dad was a famous Portuguese singer. Would you say that combination of different styles influenced you in some way when you were growing up?

KD: My dad brought me to my first studio session. I've been in the studio since I was like, you know, seven, so I've seen how things worked. I never really got into rapping until this newer project, this newer album. So yeah maybe subconsciously just being around like all the hip hop heads growing up in the early 2000s as a little kid subconsciously I channeled that into my new project. I wish I could play the guitar like my mom's dad, but I'm sure his influence in music is embedded as well.

MD: When was the moment you would say that you knew that you wanted to be an artist, and did you ever have a backup plan or was this just always your plan?

KD: I always get this question and I always say I don't remember a time when I was like, I'm gonna be a singer. I just feel like I was born wanting to be a singer, always, always knew what I wanted to do. I wrote my first song at like nine, I remember being in the third grade writing songs and singing it to girls. I was always surrounded by music and never had anything else that interests me. So yeah, I just don't remember that moment. It's always been a chase to be an artist, to make this my career since I was very little.

Full look Prada / Necklace & Rings Cartier

MD: Who would you say are your top five artists that have inspired you?

KD: I would Usher, The Dream, well 5 is a lot [laughs out loud].

MD: Then give me your top 3!

KD: Whitney Houston.

MD: Love Whitney.

KD: Vocally inspired by her.

MD: What made you make the choice to remain as an independent artist free from any music label contracts?

KD: I just feel like there’s freedom. My partner that I have right now, [Christopher Hartz who is the executive producer of this upcoming album], allows me to be free, I can just do whatever I want, he backs me up and that's very important to me at this stage of my life, and this stage in my career to be able to express myself in any way I choose. I can go against the grain and find different things that interest me in different times and not feel like I have to meet anyone's expectation of anything. It's just fully me and what I want to do, and that's it.

MD: How would you describe your process in creating a song or an album?

KD: I would say that I definitely love to have the name of the project before I start it. When I get the name of the project I know the tone and the whole theme. And then from there, it's just concepts, conceptual ideas that make a story around this name, around this narrative, but I love making albums. I know I'm an album artist. I don't like to just throw out a bunch of songs and that's why I don't have that many. I like to release music with intention, having moments, and really milking it. Not like “I just put out my song four weeks ago, you guys aren't getting another song right away.” I really like to create a moment because everyone has such short attention spans these days, and I don't care. I really am an artist, I give you what I want to give you when I want to give it to you. That's my process with everything.

MD: After you release the single “Money”, is there an album on the way? If yes, when will you drop it?

KD: Yes, there is an album coming on September 17, we're announcing it the next week and it's called Sassy. It's just about me embracing my sassy-ass attitude and just having fun. It's a very, very fun album. 

MD: During the lockdown, did more inspiration come out of it? Did you have more time to create music? How has the craziness of the pandemic influenced the way that you work and have you had access to a studio?

Sweater, pants, necklace Versace / rings Cartier

KD: It was a lot of time to create music. A bit less inspiring because we’re not doing much, probably knocked down, but what inspired me to continue to make music was how exciting it would be when everything's done, and everybody is able to go out and have fun again. I think taking that and putting it into this album, which you'll really hear, is someone who just wants to have fun and to not be so serious and say whatever they want and just not care, and just live life. That was inspiring in itself in a very depressing kind of year that we had, just see that silver lining at the end. Through the pandemic, I was able to meet my executive producer of this album, and be able to just be at his house. We just made it like my home, like I felt like home, and we already live so close together. I was able to just go over there with my writing partner, Bijou. We were there all the time, every single day because we didn't have much to do, our schedules were open because of the pandemic. We just made so much music and it was a beautiful time in my life. We got drunk, made so many crazy stories, and just had fun in that house. The studio isn’t the biggest studio in the world, but we made a beautiful album through it because it's so intimate. It was one of the best experiences in my life. I got something out of the pandemic and it created a really cool bond between myself and my collaborators.

MD: That kind of reminds me of when rock bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers or Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones would create an album, they would rent a huge house, hunker down, and just create music. That’s badass. 

KD: Yeah, that's exactly what it was. I'm sleeping over there, wake up, make coffee, then go to the studio again. It was a beautiful moment. I'm excited for everyone to hear.

MD: So tell me about the collab you did with Ja Rule for your single “Placebo”. How did that come about?

KD: So that came about when we were first making it. We had this idea like I would just say because one of the parts of the song sounds like an early 2000 throwback kind of vibe and I was just thinking like this sounds like some JLo, Ja Rule kind of vibe. Like I can see them on the basketball court in a music video. Then I was just like, damn, what if we collaborated with Ja Rule, but then we laughed about it because we felt like it was such a stretch. My A&R at my current partners got in contact with Ja Rule and he loved the song. I remember seeing him playing it so many times on my Soundcloud link and I was like OH MY GOD, he loves the song. I wanted him to just do ad-libs, just to hype it up, because his tone is so unmatched. Instead, he actually wanted to send a verse so I was like yeah sure, and it was fire. So that's how it came about.

MD: That’s truly amazing. So what inspired you to write your new single “Money”?

KD: It's just so light-hearted, fun, and funny, and again that's the character that I was embodying when making this album. It's just saying shit that's on my mind and it might be on other people's minds too, others might find it funny or whatever, but the basis of it is I need to get paid, I need this money, where's the money, how am I gonna live my best life and I feel like a lot of people can relate to that. Just trying to find the bread [laughs out loud]. 

MD: I definitely can relate to that. For your last album Suga, you used a fan’s artwork for the cover. Are you using another fan’s artwork for your next album? 

KD: We're not using fan artwork, but we’re inspired by our friend who’s a painter and he made this one sketch of this guy that kind of looked like me. I wanted to make that the album cover, so we sent it to whoever we sent it to, got the design, and now it’s the album cover. For the cover of “Money”, I shot with this photographer called Kos, we actually shot that a couple of days ago. I'm excited about those images too, that's gonna be fun.

MD: What other artists do you want to collaborate with?

KD: I'm so open to collaborating with anyone who's down. I'm just very excited for this album to bring different people in my room and just have a discovering kind of moment within my art and I'm not scared to dive in and collaborate with any genre. I am open to anyone who's down to collaborate. That's where I'm at in my head right now, in my space.

MD: How much would you say you’ve grown as an artist since coming out with your mixtape? 

KD: I would say that I've grown so much, I feel from my first mixtape to now I would tell my younger self to not take things so seriously. I was taking stuff so seriously, it’s important to take your art seriously, but there's no such thing as perfection and just put your shit out there and just let people consume it. Let the people do what they want with it. All you can do is just do your best and put stuff out there. If you don't, nothing will happen, but if you do, something may. So I would say to my younger self “ just stop, it's okay, nothing is that serious.” That's what you’ll get from this new music too, it's like, bro, just say whatever you want, be you, be who you are. I was kind of nervous back then to show people this side of me that people are getting now, which is this everyday life quirky, funny, loud, side of me because I was afraid to not be taken seriously as an artist. I've realized that my friends that I hang out with respect me tremendously as an artist and they know my true personality. There's nothing wrong with showing yourself fully to people that want to consume your music. They should know the ins and outs of who you are and what you've put into your stuff. That's what I'm showing now. I'm not scared to be 100% truly who I am and my fans see that. 

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