At 15, most teens are spending their summer sleeping in, hanging with friends by the pool, or picking up a part time job. Kaya Stewart's summer has been a little more intense. When she wrote her first single about her 7th grade crush, she had no way of knowing she would soon spend her summer touring with the largest traveling music festival in the United States. She certainly could not have predicted press would be calling her Warped Tour's next breakout artist.
Photo courtesy of Jon Weiner
Thankfully, she has a great support network. Her manager/producer is also her father, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. She has joined her father on tours since she was just 4 years old and has plenty of experience living on the road.
Kaya took time to meet with us on the Columbia, MD stop of the tour and we were charmed to find absolutely none of this notice has found its way to her ego.
Escorted by her tour manager and her tutor, Kaya took a big gulp from a cup of water before turning to offer her handshake and introduction. Kaya's platinum hair was lifted with bold silver chain embellishments and her smile is shy, but her big brown eyes topped with gently winged eyeliner do not hesitate to meet a gaze directly. She defied the day's post rain heat and humidity with an ensemble that consisted of a simple black graphic t shirt, black jeans, and black Converse.
In short, her stage ensemble could have been borrowed by any number of the teenage fans wandering the show. She looks like any other young girl in love with music.
All Warped Tour photos courtesy of Ryan Jacobson Art
You are the youngest female on the tour this year.
I'm actually the youngest person on Warped Tour this year!
What has it been like touring in a guy dominanted atmosphere?
I have always been a firm believer that guys and girls should be treated the same. I am very much against sexism and this is one of the advantages of being one of the only girls on the tour. There aren't many of us so I get to connect with that female audience in a different way than the guys on Warped Tour get to.
Plus, I am 15, and that's the age of a lot of the fans that come to the shows. So I get to communicate with these girls who I feel like I can understand more than if a 30 year old guy was trying to relate to them or give them advice.
Does that make you feel pressured? When girls your own age are looking up to you as a role model?
Honestly, for myself, I'm not a role model. I'm just a teen myself and I'm just writing songs about how I feel. I think that's something I'm always trying to communicate. I'm not trying to give anyone advice and I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do.
I'm just trying to be a voice for those teenagers who are like 'Yes! I understand why she's doing that. I understand why she feels that way because I feel that way, too!' A voice for the teenage girl audience that relates to the things I am saying.
There's a lot of voices talking to that audience. Like Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato, they're all speaking to the same audience but from different places.
Like me, right now, I come from a different point of view. I'm straight outta high school. I'm IN it. Right now.
Do you ever feel like you are starting to disconnect from those feelings? You've been on the road a lot lately; are you feeling the same as you did before you started touring?
I mean, my tutor's in the room right now. (laughing)
I am still doing schoolwork. I'm still a high school student. I still talk to my family and friends every day. I call my mom two times a day while I'm here.
I think those are the people who keep me grounded and make sure whatever's going on, I am still that same teenaged girl.
And I think that's a lot about who I am as an artist. I'm like a lot of girls who come here to Warped Tour, you don't always fit in at school and this is a thing you can connect to. They look forward to this all year and I am hoping they can also connect with me and I can stay with them year round while they are waiting for things like this.
You mentioned talking to your family every day; is it hard being away?
I never really get homesick because I get to do what I love and I am so lucky to be on this tour. I am just so grateful! There are people who would die to be here, would cut off an arm to be here, and I'm just so excited to be here and I am having so much fun because I get to do what I love every single day!
Of course, there are times I really miss my mom but I just call her when that happens. She's always just a phone call away.
You have said you were really influenced by blues artists, who are some of your favorites?
Growing up, I listened to a lot of Stevie Wonder and Etta James. They were probably my favorite artists to listen to.
It's funny when I think about putting myself a tour like this, which is so opposite to that, but I have noticed there are a lot of influences from old soul musicians and blues musicians. Even here in this kind of music, where people tend to think of Warped Tour being about more punk and rock and metal, those influences are there.
I've just always been a fan of music in general, I listen to a lot of genres, and I've pulled something from all of them. That's how I kind of created my sound.
So who are your more modern role models?
I love Sia. She is absolutely one of my favorites. She pulls from so many influences like soul music, current music, rock.... you can find all of that. That's something I'm always trying to do. Find a sound that fits everyone and everyone can listen to.
That's been one of the cool things here on Warped Tour; you have people that only listen to screamo music or hardcore music and they have come to my stage and been like 'Wow, you totally changed my idea of pop music'.
I think that's more about attitude and the full package but people get a chance to hear something outside of their comfort zone at shows like these.
Sia seems to need a lot of outlets for her creativity. Is that something you relate to?
Totally. I am always working on little projects. I feel like I have a little part in everything I do and I look at every piece of what comes out for my music.
She seems like an amazing person, just the way she has something to say with each of her projects. I really admire that.
Before heading out on the tour, you joked about having an all black wardrobe, too many leather jackets, boots, and basically a heat attracting wardrobe. Have you had to stop to shop yet?
(Laughing) No. If you notice, me and some of these bands are dressed exactly the same! It's loads of black and leather and a lot of white makeup.
And it's funny because it's like a million degrees and nobody ever changes! Like, everyone sticks with what they are wearing
Well, then you don't have to do laundry!
(More laughing) Well that's the problem! There is no means of laundry or even showering in less you wait in line for an hour or wanna pay 40 bucks for someone to do your laundry.
There's so many things going on that thinking about things like that are just beyond what you can think about until one day you are like 'I haven't showered in like a week..' and it's terrible!
You probably don't even notice because everyone else is right there with you.
Yeah, Exactly! That's how I make friends! 'I haven't showered in a week. Me neither. That's so cool! Let's hang out!'
Me and my management team waited in line for an hour to take a shower. We woke up early thinking we would beat everyone to the line, Bam! 20 girls ahead of us!
My merch guy bought 3 big water bottles and just dumped them on himself outside of the bus. You just do what you gotta do, I guess. (laughing)
Do you ever have time to go offsite and hang out?
We actually did! Yesterday, we were in Toronto, and we all got to sit down and get dinner and talk about how crazy the tour is. But, it's still fun because we're all just so excited to be here!
Have you met anyone on the tour yet that you have gotten close to?
Well, it's only my third day on the tour, but I have met people that I really like. Like The Kenneths! I don't know if you have talked to them yet but they are super cool! I love The Kenneths.
And we're always right next to Candy Hearts. We met them yesterday, too.
This tour is all about helping each other out. These people, your so used to being with them, by the time you go home, you're like 'Where are all the bands?' and you I don't know what I'm gonna do when I'm not waking up to hardcore music every, single morning.
That's what makes this tour a lot of fun and why so many people want to be on this tour. People aren't just doing their own thing, we're all doing this together.
Who was your favorite before the tour?
Oh, let me think... Attilla. I love Attilla! And it's funny because I found him through the sheet that listed the bands playing on the tour! I was 'that sounds sooo familiar', so I started, like listening to it more, and it's not my normal style of music but he's such a great live performer!
He's really inspired me to get things to stand on like boxes and things when I'm on stage. I learn so much from these bands here! It's so not what I'm used to seeing live. That's what's so cool about it, I get to catch a different show each day and I learn so much.
What else have you learned so far on this tour?
We've played 4 days, changed our set time 4 times, and we learn something new with each show. It's cool because every show you learn.
'This crowd didn't like This, let's try something else. That's perfect, they loved it, let's do that until it gets boring.'
I think every band should do this tour. Once you get off this tour, you should be ready for anything, because they throw you in every possible situation you could be in.
You learn tricks for the road, too. Now I know to bring baby wipes everywhere I go because I never get to shower.
I feel like I'm going to go home and just do tour tricks all the time and my friends are going to be like 'Why are you saving all of your empty water bottles?!' (Laughing)
I will be a pack rat. I'm going to wake up at 6am every morning and start postering my back yard. I don't know what I'm gonna do. It's gonna be so weird! (More laughing)
What do you have planned for when the tour is over?
Definitely looking for more tours. Finishing out my album, which comes out later this year. I think from now on it is just nonstop.
So, when do you plan on sleeping?
I don't. No. We had to cross the border yesterday to get back into the United States from Canada. So, we all just stayed up until we crossed the border but we thought we would be there in like an hour. It was like three hours!
We ended up being' up and outside at 3am. The border people had no sympathy! (Laughing) I was so tired and the border guy was like 'Kaya.... Kaya....' and I'm like 'I'm right here!' and he says 'Where are you from?'
It says it on my passport! I don't know where I'm from! It's 3am! (More laughing)
Any stops you are really looking forward to?
It was Toronto, because I had never played in Canada. I had heard it was such a great place to play and even though it was raining, I wasn't disappointed. It was so much fun!
We actually played a cover and it was so great to get everyone singing along.
Are you going to tell us the cover or is it a secret?
Yessss! We covered Call Me by Blondie! It was so much fun because kids my age were singing along to it. That's so cool!
That's where I hope to be in the future. I want people to know my songs in 15 years.
After the interview, Kaya almost had us convinced she was just like every other teenager. Then she took the stage.
There's a reason Kaya has received so much hype on this tour. She has succeeded in touching her target audience of teens and has found an unthought of backing from the LGBT community with her first hit In Love With A Boy.
And when she started belting out 'Call Me' in that bluesy voice from such a petite pixie frame; everyone stopped to watch in mesmerization. For a moment, we were able to glimpse the future and see what will happen when this young sprite catches up to her voice.
If you haven't had a chance to experience Kaya's music, check out the included video.
As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section below!