Khaya Sings for Any Genre


Kevin Hanley

Songwriter and singer Khaya Cohen preformed a pop up concert in Washington Square Park on Valentine’s Day. WSN sat down with her to talk about her style and upcoming single, “Why’s It Gotta Be About Love”.

Connor Gatesman, Contributing Writer

In 2013, Clive Davis sophomore Khaya Cohen showed her x-factor to Simon Cowell, who gushed uncharacteristically over her performance and even compared her to Amy Winehouse. A New York City native, Cohen started playing in bands and working with producers at a very early age and has already built a popular repertoire of music cover the years. In an interview with Washington Square News, Cohen — who performs under the simple moniker Khaya — discusses the versatility in her voice. She explains what makes her music tick and how it has evolved over time.

Washington Square News: Who is Khaya [as an artist]?

KC: I don’t really know. I definitely struggle with the whole brand thing, so right now I’m just writing songs and being myself.

WSN: You’re not trying to focus too much on one specific identity?

KC: No, I feel like there are so many people who would be an artist no matter what. There’s a lot that goes into the branding and the personality making and all that stuff. That’s the part I don’t want to do; that’s the reason I wouldn’t want to be an artist. I feel like it’s putting so much pressure into something that’s not who I am.

WSN: What are your favorite genres of music?

KC: I listen to literally everything. I think that being versatile really helps. I’ll meet with the jazz kids because I sing jazz, but I can play rock with my friends. I’m actually playing in a punk band with one of my friends. You can do anything and it’s just more fun and less restrictive.

WSN: What’s your favorite part of the music making process?

KC: I would say songwriting. I love just writing a song and getting super pumped about it. For me — and this happened the other night when I was writing a song — I’ll just get so excited. I have all these ideas and I can’t sleep. I’ll wake up the next morning and demo it. I think the writing and demoing processes are my favorite. That’s when all the ideas come together and it clicks.

WSN: How has your songwriting evolved?

KC: I’ve stopped bullsh—tting. I used to try to do all this cool sh—t, or pretend to be something I’m not just to fit into a certain sound. Now I’m like, “f—k all that; I just want to write good music.” I’ve just been cutting out all the bullsh—t and I stopped trying too hard. I just want to write what I want to write.

WSN: Are you trying to hone in one specific genre or are you going for a more diverse sound?

KC: I think it’s coming pretty naturally. I’m just writing what I feel and demoing how I feel it. With the best artists, their albums change over time. Listen to Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” versus Bowie’s [“Berlin Trilogy”]. I’m not worried about a sound because it’s going to evolve based on where I’m at and who I’m working with.

WSN: If you could play one venue in NYC, what would it be?

KC: It’d be cool to open for someone at Bowery Ballroom because then you get all these people that don’t know you because they’re coming for the main act. It’s a mid-size venue; it’s not too big. [I think] it’d be super hype.

WSN: Do you have any events coming up?

KC: I’m releasing a single, “Why’s It Gotta Be About Love,” that’s coming out around two weeks from now. Also, I have a show on April 8 at The Groove that’s all-ages on a Saturday night, so I hope a lot of people come to that.

Find Khaya online on Facebook, SoundCloud and YouTube.

Email Connor Gatesman at [email protected].