KAIYAH MERCEDES IS an extraordinary sixteen-year-old Melbourne singer/songwriter who, mark my words, has a big future ahead of her. In ten years’ time, you’ll be hearing her music on the radio.
During Melbourne’s countless lockdowns, Kaiyah seized the opportunity to find her voice through singing and songwriting. Then if that’s not impressive enough, she then self-taught herself how to play instruments including guitar and piano.
In 2021 Kaiyah’s self-discovery as a songwriter helped with her then-recent diagnosis of Autism and ADHD, finding it possible to express feelings and emotions she didn’t quite understand. Then her sexuality came to light and Kaiyah realised she proudly fitted in the LGBT category.
Listening to Kaiyah’s music is a pleasure. She draws on her own experiences and feelings as well as being influenced by what she sees on TV and in movies. I kept thinking, “you’re only a young person! How talented are you?”
G’day Kaiyah. Thanks very much for reaching out. It’s a real pleasure to chat with such a talented young artist!
Instead of wallowing during Melbourne’s countless lockdowns during 2020, you taught yourself how to play instruments including piano and guitar and began to enter songwriting competitions! This is incredible! What gave you the drive to do so?
I won’t lie, there was definitely some wallowing in there during that time even though I was super productive. I guess the isolation and boredom of lockdown, as well as mental health struggles, all came together into music. Teaching myself instruments and writing songs and making music all helped me channel that wallowing and hurt into something beautiful. I feel so grateful all the time that I was able to use music to help myself during that time because I don’t know what I would have done without it.
Your voice is so versatile; it’s sweet in songs like Red String yet edgy in Don’t Forget My Name. How did you discover your voice?
I had never sung in front of anyone until lockdown hit actually. I had always wanted to pursue music as a career, ever since I was little, but because of a fear of rejection and just general low confidence, I never told anyone or made a move to become a musician. I am so lucky that when I finally had the confidence to play some songs for my Mum, she got me into singing lessons which dramatically helped improve my voice in such a short amount of time. While recording my album there was so much growth in my vocals, and I know they will continue to mature and improve as I start working on new music which is exciting.
In 2021 you received the diagnosis of Autism and ADHD, then realised you’re gay. Did songwriting help to express feelings and emotions you were struggling with?
100%. I look back at some of the earlier songs I wrote and realise that I was dealing with things I just couldn’t put a label on at the time. There has been so much personal growth I’ve experienced and I can see it in my songwriting. It’s beautiful that I’ve been unknowingly able to document my life through my lyrics and understand myself better because of making music.
Congratulations your debut album Hindsight was released in October! Since its release, have you had lots of feedback from people worldwide thanking you for being their voice?
I have, and it’s honestly been one of the most surreal things. Hearing people say that they really understand my songs, and really feel connected to my lyrics will always be special. Every word I write means so much, and knowing that it has an impact on people around the world is such a gift. I write these songs for me, but if I can help people by releasing them, I want to keep doing that. Music is all about connection for me; that’s what makes it so freaking incredible.
Where do you get your muse to write songs?
I write a lot about real-life experiences I have, especially for some of the newer stuff I’m writing. I used to write a lot about fiction, whether it was made up by me or inspired by books and film, but I’ve really shifted into a new mindset with the stuff I’m writing now. I will still forever write about the texts that inspire me, but I also love writing about my life. Turning my emotions into lyrics is what gets me through each day.
What are your wishes for your bright future as a singer/songwriter? (And trust me, in ten years’ time I will be listening to you on the radio!)
That’s so nice of you to say thank you! I really would love to keep doing music for the rest of my life. I’m currently trying to set up my career so that I can make it full-time once I finish school. I’m always writing and creating, never running out of ideas for new albums and songs so I genuinely don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t producing songs. The creative energy is too much to keep inside. I’d love to get touring after high school, I think. Otherwise, I’ll just go where the music lovers want me and hope they keep supporting the music I make!