Kyndall doesn’t pretend to have everything figured out -- though she does know what she wants from her music career. But even that took time.
“I wasn’t in a space where I necessarily knew who I was,” she says. “From 15 to 19, what do you know? Shoot! At 19 what do I know? I needed that time to grow into myself and live the narratives I would sing about.”
The 19-year-old is talking about to spending the last few years signed to a major label, while trying to find her identity, like any young adult.
When Kyndall arrived to the label as an ambitious, 16 year-old ingenue she was convinced her break would arrive immediately. The Houston-bred, R&B songstress quickly learned that she wasn’t ready for the spotlight.
“I’d actually never been in a studio. I had the deal, but I can’t say I knew who I was, musically. I used to tell the label, ‘You’re going to put me out at 16, I'm not going to sit here and not have my music out and be shelved,’” she laughs.
“Now, we’re in a place where the music is so solid. Looking back, I realize I needed that time to develop, mature and craft the way I wanted the world to hear my point of view. ”
Equal parts sweet Southern belle and southern spitfire, Houston native, Kyndall didn’t grow up with ambitions of music stardom.
As a child her mother, enrolled her at the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre for theatrical training. Kyndall landed her first of several shows at the age of seven— “‘The Wizard of Oz,’ a rite of passage for show kids,” she recalls -- and continued performing and training at The High School For Performing Arts.
At 14, Kyndall ventured into television roles and eventually moved into feature films, but it was her pitch perfect vocals and soulful tone on an audition tape, not even a minute long, that found its way online, nabbing the attention of Atlantic’s top brass. The rest is history.
Her first studio session yielded the fiery ballad, “Trust and Believe.” The song, which leaked her soaring vocals online, ultimately was released by R&B star Keyshia Cole. The experience did, however, ease her into the recording process and collaborating with writers and producers -- all unfamiliar territory to the fledgling singer.
Those early sessions, over the course of a year-and-a-half, resulted in what was supposed to be her first project. But the project, an EP, didn’t resonate with Kyndall and she bravely asked Atlantic to shelve it at the last minute -- a decision she knows was risky, but necessary.
“It wasn’t me. The songs were cool, but I just knew the collection wasn’t quite the right fit. I’m sure I drove the label crazy, but they patiently hung in there with me to get it right.” she admits.
Kyndall is frank when discussing her musical journey. She knew finding creative freedom meant she had to voice her opinions and trust that her label would value them; And they did.
“For so long I’d been doing what people said, when they said, how they said it,” she said. “Until now I never sat back and said hold up, I can say, ‘no.’” She decided to give herself time to mature. Kyndall traveled a did a lot of hiding, which afforded her the space to experience things like her first love and all the ‘silly emotional things’ that teenagers do, hanging out far too late. “I needed to get that out of my system and out of the way. Getting into the industry young, you lose a lot of normalcy and perspective,” she says. “I needed time. I know more about myself now.”
After quietly scrapping her first project, Kyndall took her work off the grid and returned home in Houston to regroup; but it wasn’t long before creative restlessness nudged, when she called upon the talents of Chef Tone (Trey Songz, R. Kelly, Jamie Foxx) & Maejor (Justin Beiber, Drake, Kelly Rowland) to hole up in Houston and Atlanta to work on new material, giving birth to her debut EP, “Still Down.”
The result is a heap of gritty, bass heavy R&B that she tackles with her stunning lilt and passionate (and deeply personal) lyrics detailing her first love. It’s a modern day throwback to the days of 90s R&B where young female artists like Aaliyah, Brandy and Monica provided the soundtracks to a generation of teenage girls, but also deftly bridged the gap between youth and adulthood. With just six tracks Kyndall makes it clear: She’s an R&B package to watch— closely.
“If I could package this EP in a gold case and wrap it up, I would,” she says, smiling coyly. “I’m so obsessed with my project and I feel so happy just being able to say that. I’d listen to it even if it weren’t my own.”
Kyndall speaks of the recording process with more enthusiasm than her first effort, and she quickly points out that sheer confidence drove her to be more involved. “I’m from Texas—a bold, confident, unshakable state with a unique identity. It makes complete sense that this first body of work would be created best in my hometown, over bowls of gumbo.” “Nothing was forced or unnatural. It’s all genuinely me.”
The EP opens with “Call Away”, which sees her sweetly assuring her man that she’ll stick next to him, come what may. What follows is her detailing the peaks and valleys of a relationship involving infidelity (“Playing Games”) and reconciliation (“Still Down).
“I didn’t want to hide anything. I just felt like I’m at the place where I want to open up, relate and share where I really am in the moment, rather than sing about things I’m told I”m supposed to be feeling, at my age.” Kyndall says. “I’ve grown into feeling secure about being 100% sincere about what I sing and how it comes across, from start to finish. Sometimes it’s vulnerable, sometimes it’s raw—or sharp; sometimes it’s illogical…My music is a genuine extension of where my head is, so it’s a journey.”
While she’s teased the release with records like the sassy, southern rap-influenced anthem “Hol’ Up” or the bouncy “Reward,” which highlights her knack for lush melody, and soaring vocals the tunes of “Still Down” have remained closely guarded. Kyndall admits she’s still in discussions about how to unveil the concept-driven project.
Kyndall is proud she’s debuting with her hand squarely involved in each piece, from visuals to promotions. “I worked really hard on this music; Restlessly hard, so I’m excited to help spread it. I can’t wait for people to hear it.”
“Honestly, I listen to it and say ‘You did well, Kyndall; you told the truth, and kept it ‘100’. Sonically, lyrically, vocally. I’m pleased.”
Mark Siegel, ICM Partners