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MUSIC Trans singer Kyler O'Neal debuts music video, talks poetry
by Emily Reilly
2020-09-01

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Kyler O'Neal is a transgender contemporary, folk artist. She officially released her debut music video for her single Satan's Tears on Sept. 1, and that is currently available for streaming on YouTube and Vimeo.

Windy City Times: What first got you into music?

Kyler O'Neal: I am the child of a pastor. My dad is actually a singer-songwriter as well and he's also a preacher, so I grew up singing in the church back since kindergarten. I always had that gospel-music background.

I got to high school and I stopped singing in church. Then during college, I started to write my own songs and I would do covers or freestyles to what was already released. I had a YouTube channel going for a bit during college. I stopped again and then I picked back up when I moved to LA.

WCT: In the short documentary for the music video, you talked about how this song was an outcry and a social statement. You described it as a song for the underdogs. When you wrote it, what parts of your life did you find inspiration from?

KO: Always being left out, always missing out and putting myself out there and still not being seen and being invisible or being rejected countless times—just really feeling like I don't belong in this world. That's where the inspiration came from.

WCT: In "Satan's Tears," the video has this mysterious, slow, lyrical dancing and it symbolically tells this story of one person uplifting the other, taking away the loneliness. What was your vision for this story in the video?

KO: That concept was actually thought up by the director, Andrew Lush. When we were brainstorming ideas for a video, we kind of tossed around music videos that we liked and inspired us. Andrew had brought up this Kate Bush video that was all dance. That's where we got inspiration for the choreography.

And the story was actually Andrew's idea that I would kind of be saving someone. "Satan's Tears" is not your typical commercial song, so I didn't even imagine there would be a music video to it. I came to the table with a very open mind and it worked great because it authentically depicts the message of the song.

WCT: As an artist, are there any notable musical artists or writers that you look up to?

KO: Lately, I've been listening to a lot of—she's an R&B artist—Jhene Aiko. I love her music, her messages; I've been listening to her a lot lately. She's an inspiration. And there's this other R&B artist: H.E.R. You hear a lot of commercial female artists that you see in the spotlight or in mainstream songs that you hear, the female singer always has a super high-pitched voice which is great but then that subconsciously becomes the barometer to what makes a female singer and not all women have those super high ranges or those high-pitched voices. So what I love about H.E.R is that she plays in her lower range and her voice sounds so beautiful.

I also admire the hell out of Mariah Carey; she's an amazing songwriter. There's another artist, Shura, and I get a lot of inspiration from her work. I hope to re-create some of those sounds and that energy from her music mixed in with some Enya.

WCT: You also have a collection of poems released as a book called Pity Party. How would you compare what you write poetically versus what you write lyrically?

KO: There's a lot of similarities in my poetry and my music but what I appreciate with poetry in general is that there's a bit more freedom. Coming from the school of thought that I'm used to, sometimes I feel like music can have its boundaries, like okay it has to do this, it has to have this certain rhythmic pattern continuously throughout the song, there has to be this layout, there has to be this structure. Whereas with poetry, I can kind of jam out all my ideas unapologetically with no boundaries and get the entire message conveyed that I want to convey.

WCT: Are you planning on making more music or more poetry in the near future? Or maybe both?

KO: Poetry is kind of on hold for a bit, that doesn't mean I'm opting out from writing. I'll still be promoting Pity Party and I'm very thankful to have been able to put that body of work out. But I do have more music coming out. I have a second music video coming out for my second single, "Sitolik." This song is a bit darker and it's more in that electronical world. Then I have another single. So basically there's more music to come from me in addition to more music videos—and maybe even some acting projects here and there.

O'Neal's music is available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud. For updates and poetry, follow her on instagram @Kylerzworld.


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