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Crystal Clayton has been singing and writing songs since she was fifteen years old but has known since she was three that she wanted to sing. Her newest EP, Too Human, is evidence of how hard she has worked on her craft over the years. It's the kind of full-blown pop music that doesn't come out of Kansas City too often. We're lucky to share an interview with Clayton about her new music, her musical background and her book, music and movie recommendations.
Please introduce yourself. Describe your music for new listeners.
My name is Crystal Clayton and I am a pop/r&b singer and songwriter from Kansas City, Missouri. I like to describe my music as pop music with depth. The hooks to my songs are catchy and fun, while my lyrics are meaningful.
Talk about your most recent single, “Blinding Lights” and your upcoming EP. Who did you work with on this music?
Blinding Lights was the first single I released with my current producer, Spencer Hoad. For this song, Spencer had been working on some tracks (without lyrics or a lead melody line) and he sent them over. The track that was Blinding Lights immediately stood out to me and I began writing what would eventually be ‘Blinding Lights’. The song is a very vulnerable piece to me because it’s about a topic that I have been struggling with for a long time; the calling to break free of what’s holding you back and reach towards your ’blinding lights’. The song is about me reaching towards my dreams and my goals and refusing to give up on them, even though there are obstacles in the way.
Spencer and I have been working on this 5 song EP (Too Human) for several months now and we are excited to share the rest with you. I feel like his production skills paired with my writing and vocal ability compliment each other very well. The songs incorporate 80’s pop vibes with current R&B/ hip hop-esque beats. These songs are different than anything I’ve ever worked on or heard before. I think people will really connect with and enjoy them as much as I do!
What creative challenges did you face while working on and recording your new songs?
The EP was a slight bit of a challenge because Spencer was originally from KC, but has spent the last few years living in LA, Baltimore MD, and now Denver CO. We’ve traded off times between him coming to KC to record at Chapman studios with me, and me flying out to Baltimore or driving to Denver to work with him. The distance made things a tad complicated, but I think we’ve worked it out pretty well and we have a nice system down to create together.
How long have you been a songwriter? Who were some of your earliest influences?
I have been a songwriter since I was about 15 years old. I have been singing and performing almost all of my life. As a child I competed in vocal competitions, performed in professional theater, country oprys, and even the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. I was always performing and I always loved to sing, but I struggled to figure out my path as a singer. I began writing songs my sophomore year of high school and I fell in love with the process. I began recording the songs I wrote about a year later and I haven’t stopped since! I’ve probably recorded dozens of original songs over the years.
My early influences were Celine Dion, LeAnn Rimes, and Mariah Carey. I loved powerhouse vocalists. Growing up I always loved pop music and gravitated toward that.
What inspires you about original music in Kansas City?
Kansas City is a unique city. We have so much talent here and I think we are still in the beginning stages of developing a culture that is interested in listening to and supporting local music. I think KC is a very loyal and proud city of things that are Kansas City, such as Boulevard and our sports teams. I think that Kansas City is becoming more of a music city and I’m excited to see how and if pop music fits into that scene.