BAYLI is currently our favorite alt-pop-phenom-on-the-rise to emerge from the confines of lockdown-inspired internet fandom. “She makes bops for the it-girl that resides in all of us,” says The Face. The queer, Black singer/songwriter first made a major splash on her own with 2021’s stories from new york EP, after spending several years fronting punk band The Skins. Just last month BAYLI released stories 2, a companion and follow-up EP. In addition to her own music, she’s collaborated with SOPHIE and Junglepussy, and co-written with artists like Giveon, Jesse McCartney, and Blu DeTiger. She’s currently on her very first proper tour as a solo artist, supporting Magdalena Bay, and will be opening up Union Transfer for the synth-pop duo this coming Sunday, November 13th. BAYLI recently took some time to chat with me via Zoom about her earliest days as a solo artist.
Izzy: You just kicked off a tour with Magdalena Bay, who I’m also a big fan of. How’s that been going so far?
BAYLI: It’s been incredible. We’ve done three shows. We have our fourth show tonight, and Magdalena Bay are just some of my favorite musicians that are out right now, so it’s really an honor. I was gagging when they asked me to come on tour with them! But also, just meeting them and hanging out with them, they’re just amazing human beings, as well.
Izzy: What can we expect of the live show when you play Philadelphia next Sunday?
BAYLI: I’m simply there to turn the crowd up, to warm everybody up. It’s been going pretty well, and I think we’re a really cool matching on the road. Like, we kind of are both alternative music acts, but I’m more hip hop/R&B-focused and they’re a bit more alternative/psychedelic rock. So, I think it’s a really cool matching and I think, weirdly, it blends really well. The crowd response has been really incredible the past few days, so I hope I can just keep it going for everyone.
Izzy: It seems like it’ll be a great night of dancing!
BAYLI: Yes! Lots of dancing, for sure!
Izzy: You also just released stories 2. How do you feel like it compares to stories of new york, whether in terms of sound or just the writing and recording process behind these songs? I know you consider it to be a continuation of the previous EP
BAYLI: Yes, stories 2 is, conceptually, a continuation of stories of new york. And the only difference is that I wrote these songs in different territories, outside of New York City. Maybe one of them was written in New York, “TELLY BAG,” which I just wrote in my bedroom in Brooklyn. I think of myself as a songwriter first, so the idea of being able to relay experiences – almost in real time – to my listeners was a big thing. I thought it was important to keep that “stories” concept going.
Izzy: Have you had any favorite reactions to the new EP so far, whether things you’ve read, things fans have told you, or just reactions you’ve gotten from live audiences?
BAYLI: As far as playing the songs live, I really haven’t toured. I started releasing music during COVID, so I haven’t really been able to tour this music. I’ve done a few one-off promo shows. But it’s incredible seeing people’s reactions to the songs. One song people really react to is “TELLY BAG.” Another song is “ur mine,” which people have been reacting to online and which is starting to be a favorite from the project, which we did not expect because we didn’t release it as a single or anything. People just kept Tweeting me, like “’ur mine,’ ‘ur mine,’ That’s my favorite track!” It’s amazing and I’m so inspired, being on the road, seeing Magdalena’s set, and – coming off this tour – I’m already thinking, “How can I write songs for a live show?” That’s already what I’m thinking, coming out of this tour.
Izzy: Your solo career is still relatively new. How does that compare to your previous gig as the frontwoman of The Skins?
BAYLI: It’s really different, and I’m still adjusting to it. I mean, it’s almost three years since I released my first single as a solo act, which was “sushi for breakfast,” still one of my favs. Touring with The Skins, it’s amazing to have kind of like family, a comradery, like your people with you every step of the way! But, other than that, it is a little freeing to just kind of be able to be in my own head, be in my own body. I think in The Skins I was really thinking about my whole band: How can we make material that’s relatable to everyone, so it’s fun for everyone, so everyone’s passionate about it? Writing solo stuff does feel a little more vulnerable. I’m allowed to really go deeper, and it’s really cathartic for me. I write things like “think of drugs” – which is on stories 2 – and I’m just like, “Oh my god, I didn’t know I had those feelings bottled up still!”
Izzy: You’ve collaborated with a ton of super cool artists. Is there anyone that you dream of getting a chance to collaborate with one day, whether it be recording or even just as a writing partner?
BAYLI: As a writer, there’s so many incredible artists! It would be an honor to work with some of the heavy-hitting pop girls, like the Beyonces, the Rihannas. Rihanna’s been on my list since childhood. Those collabs would be really incredible. But, right now I would really have to think about who I’d want to work with. I’m so focused on my own material. And I’ve been so lucky. I talk to incredible artists all the time through DMs, people that I look up to. And I’m hoping that collaborations just come about organically, but I think those heavy-hitting pop girls would be it. Even like a Harry Styles or someone like that, people that I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m totally impressed with you,” like Taylor Swift with her last album. I would love to collaborate with those people and learn from those people. And – I’ll just throw this in – on a really nerdy note, someone like Max Martin, or someone like that. I would love to just be under their wing. I think that’s really my way, and people who I would love to work with.
Izzy: I generally avoid asking artists about their influences, and prefer to ask them about their favorite albums. So, what are some of your favorite albums, whether stuff you grew up loving, or stuff you’ve discovered and loved more recently?
BAYLI: Oh my god, I love that! Influences is one of the hardest things to answer for me. There’s a million influences that live inside of me! It’s so hard to pull them all out in one second! But, some of my favorite albums… Led Zeppelin is my favorite rock band, so Houses of the Holy… obsessed! I’m a big Amy Winehouse fan, so Frank and Back to Black. One album that I really like that’s really controversial right now is Kim Petras’ Slut Pop. I really love that record.
Izzy: Not to detract from your music, but you also have a really amazing sense of style. From what does that draw inspiration? Do you have any particularly significant “style icons?”
BAYLI: Oh my gosh! Thank you! You know what, it’s not easy. It’s very competitive! Fashion’s taken very seriously in New York, where I’m from! I just try my best to be individual, and clothing for me is like a mood, like the mood that I’m in each day and really just trusting your instincts, so I hope that it’s landing well, visually. It’s really just how I feel every day, and New York is the most inspiring thing. Being in New York, it keeps me on my toes of how I can push the envelope and also be truthful to myself with how I present, and my clothing. New York really teaches me that it’s okay to be malleable; it’s actually better, it’s cooler. I could dress like a total – for lack of a better term – “tomboy” one day and then the other day it’s like “miniskirts.” I really think it’s the city that inspires me most and how it helps me keep that individuality in my clothing.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you? How are you hoping and planning to spend 2023 so far?
BAYLI: 2023’s looking like a lot of touring’s opening up! This is my first tour offer and we’re starting to get festival offers and all of that, so I’m really hoping to be able to take my stories – my songs – on the road and just keep giving them the exposure that I think they deserve! Because again, all of my music was released during quarantine, during lockdown, so I’m really hopeful that I can keep playing these songs live, keep developing a really amazing live show. And I’m hoping for a longer-format body of music over next year, and some really cool collabs, as well!
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