Anyone who’s worked with 13-year-old Kaia C. is struck by her maturity, thoughtfulness, and professionalism. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, but she puts a lot of thought into her technique, figuring out what works for her and what doesn’t instead of taking everything she hears at face value. We’ve had the pleasure of watching her growth over the past few years, as she’s made huge strides in her songwriting, piano, singing, and performance. After taking one of Ben’s songwriting workshops, she’s been working with him ever since. Here’s her beautiful “Love Story” performance at Dancing Keys that she mentions in her interview.
MM: We’ll get to the music in a moment, but can you share a bit about yourself? What’s it like being home-schooled, any major pros/cons, and what’s your favorite subject? Any favorite hobbies, books, sports or activities? And any thoughts about what colleges or careers sound interesting to you in the future?
KC: Homeschooling has ups and downs. It’s nice to choose my education, to be able to pick how I’m taught. I do miss the social aspect of public school. I don’t have a favorite subject but I do love reading and writing. Writing is a big hobby of mine. I’m planning on pursuing music as a career, and it’s my passion.
MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing and playing piano? What made you want to learn piano in particular?
KC: I’ve been singing since I could talk, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do in my life. I started playing piano about a year and a half ago, and it’s an amazing feeling being able to play music. I started learning piano because music is what I love, and piano seemed like a good start at playing instruments.
MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have influenced and/or inspired you, and why? How have friends/family contributed to the kind of music you listen to, if at all?
KC: Some of the artists that have influenced me in my music career are:
Taylor Swift: It’s not just about her music, it’s also about her personality. She has worked so hard to get where she is, and it shows that to be successful you don’t just need talent, you need determination. Otherwise you’ll get nowhere.
She is the main person who has inspired me in my music career but others are:
And many more!
My parents listened to a lot of rock when I was younger. My mom has tried to get me experienced with other music besides just what you listen to on the radio.
I mainly listen to pop, but with me I’ll listen to anything good.
MM: Why did you originally want to start lessons? What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals now? Have you already achieved any past goals, and if so what?
KC: I started lessons because music is important to me. Just like water, music keeps me alive. It’s been my passion since I was very little. I definitely have days where I don’t feel like practicing but this is what I love. I can’t picture me doing anything much else for a career. My goal is to one day be well known across the country. I want to have my first album in a year or two, and continue songwriting. I’m a big procrastinator. And I hate it too. I set a time every day to practice for at least 15 minutes and it’s helped a lot to get my practice done. Now I can go into my lesson each week feeling at least somewhat accomplished.
MM: When did you first start writing songs, and how many have you written so far? Do you have many half-written pieces of songs right now? Can you share about what one or two of your songs are about, and what the process of writing was like?
KC: I started songwriting when I was very little. When I was about three I wrote a song about Hello Kitty LOL. I didn’t write it down cause I was very little but I memorized it. The first real song I wrote was when I was about 11. I never fully finished the song and added music to the lyrics but it still counts. The first fully finished song I did was at the songwriting workshop with Ben about a year and a half ago, right before I started music lessons. It’s called “Warrior.” I have a handful of unfinished pieces and tons of audio recordings of lyrics and tunes.
“Warrior” is set in older times, when I wrote it I pictured a Disney movie with a teenage girl defying stereotypes and saving her city from a war. Kind of like Mulan, in being a warrior and saving people.
I’ve also written a Christmas song. It’s about the experience and nostalgia of the holiday. I’m working on a new song right now that I’m really excited about. So far that is all I have for finished pieces but I have others filling up my files and audio recorder.
MM: You’ve spent nearly the last year and a half performing fairly often since starting lessons. I just noticed your YouTube channel has over 100 views on some videos, too! What’s it been like as you prepare to perform and get on stage and do it? Can you share about some of your favorite performance opps, either with us or anything you’ve done personally?
KC: I don’t have stage fright, sometimes I do get a bit nervous before performing but it’s never a problem. I love playing music and performing is awesome. I think one of my favorite performances was the Molly’s Music Christmas performance, because I performed my Christmas original. That was fun. I think when I performed “Love Story” for the Partnering Dancing Keys and Molly’s Music recital was also cool.
MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it? I’d be curious to hear about this in relation to singing, and piano, and songwriting, too! I know with songwriting, in particular, it’s so easy to have writer’s block or to over-correct and edit yourself.
KC: The hardest part when learning a new song is the very beginning. Once you know the song it’s all about getting the hang of it. Sometimes when performing I’ll stop and think “Oh No! What’s next?!” And my fingers will already jump to the next chord without me thinking about it. You get used to playing a certain song after a bit.
Songwriting can be tricky. I find it easy to come up with lyrics but it takes a while before you have a finished song. I’ve noticed especially with the song I’m working on now, that the lyrics I start out with and what I finish with in the end can be quite different!
MM: What advice would you give to other students just starting out? In particular, do you have any tips for students trying to write songs?
KC: The advice I would give to students starting out is don’t give up. Sometimes it will feel like the last thing you want to do is to practice, but hard work will be rewarded. With songwriting in particular, there are many good books about songwriting out there. I still have to read the ones on my bookshelf…sit down and do more research on songwriting. It may help a lot! Also if you come up with a lyric or tune in your head write it down or use an audio recorder immediately! You could forget it seconds later. Work hard. Don’t give up!