Singer-songwriter-producer Kyan is fast becoming a musician that needs no introduction after being chosen by Nile Rodgers to receive his powerful backing as the winner of the American Express Backed By initiative.
His searing lyrics, unexpected arrangements and irrepressible charisma – not to mention stage presence and self-possession of someone far more experienced – make him a truly electrifying performer to watch live; something all of the music insiders who attended an exclusive event at Abbey Road Studios last month will attest to. Hosted by Edith Bowman, the event was an opportunity for Nile to present his backee to industry experts who were able to preview Kyan’s latest songs from his upcoming album.
Kyan, along with three backing singers and a violinist, performed his new single “Lonely River,” as well as other songs from his forthcoming debut album including “Like Summer”. Kyan’s songs are all deeply personal, he says: “’Like Summer’, the song I sent to Nile which cemented my Backed By win, was written after coming out the other side of a two-year period of depression.” Recently, Ebro Darden featured Kyan on Beats Radio ‘Apple Discovery’.
For Nile, Abbey Road is a home away from home and, as the studios’ chief creative advisor, he is there most days when in the UK. It’s also where he and Kyan first met earlier in the summer, when Kyan wowed Nile with his talent for performing live (and where Kyan mastered his album last year).
“Being able to perform here at Abbey Road means everything and I feel grateful. Now, because there are so many artists and so much music out there, it’s really difficult to stand apart and get your music heard. The backing of Nile makes people interested in what I have to offer.”
For Kyan, who is self-taught, making and producing music has always been a cathartic process.
“I never cry so some people think I’m emotionless. But I just pour it all out into my music. I want to make people feel something, regardless of what that is, to evoke some kind of response,” he says.
“I’d seen American Express backing other creatives in the past like Alexander McQueen, and as I did the Kickstarter for this album myself, it seemed a great way to get my music to the next level while still having creative control. My job as a musician and a producer is to create something I believe in and I can only take it so far on my own,” Kyan explains of his decision to apply to Backed By.
The camaraderie and respect Nile and Kyan have for one another is infectious: they laugh and joke like longtime collaborators, even though they are just getting to know each other.
“He’s got a special ear and hears music on another level,” Nile says. “His arrangements are really brilliant. I still don’t know how he does it! You can feel when a person has got a good heart and talent.”
Think of a favourite song of yours and there’s a good chance Nile had something to do with it: from David Bowie to Madonna, through to Daft Punk and Lady Gaga, he’s worked with everyone, so had many lessons to impart to Kyan.
“Inherently, most artists know what to do but to have someone that believes in you is almost imperative,” Nile says. “It’s nice to have someone to run it past, who is on your side.”
Nile was drawn to Kyan because of his talent, his vibe, his instincts and his ability to visually interpret music, but his passion for powerfully backing young talent goes back to the pivotal role mentorship had in his own career.
“I’ve always had good people to navigate me through these waters, amazing people mentored me and helped me,” Nile says.
Kyan isn’t the only one launching new music in 2018: Nile released his first record in over 25 years, “It’s About Time,” on the same day Kyan’s latest single dropped. Nile says he was motivated to release new music with his name on it after surviving cancer twice and deciding he wanted to document and record as much music as possible.
Although Nile helped Kyan with making introductions and getting him exposure within the industry (Kyan got the opportunity to perform on stage at Sandown Park Racecourse this summer after Nile and Chic’s performance), perhaps the best lesson Kyan has taken away from this journey is how important showing up can be.
Or, in his case, signing up - to be backed by Nile.
“A lot of people don’t even enter things, or try,” Kyan says. “If you believe and have a go, amazing things can happen.”
American Express understands the importance of powerful backing. That’s why the company joined forces with music legend Nile Rodgers and culinary innovator Gizzi Erskine, to launch Backed By, to give one budding musician and one food entrepreneur the chance to take their ideas to the next level. Keep an eye on Backed By for more on Gizzi’s celebration moments.
Promotor: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.