Interview: Kaylan Mackinnon
LBH sits down with Kaylan Mackinnon, an up and coming singer/songwriter, actor and university student. It’s rare to see someone with such passion in life, strong family ties, and an exuberant determination to set her self apart and truly love the life she is living!
Over a latte and a bagel, we chat life, the challenges of bullying, giving back to the community & Surfing. There may be a little talk about music in there as well. Be sure to check out Kaylan’s hit single following this article, ‘Long Distance‘.
LBH: Can you share with us your Life Story in one 30 sec rambling run-on sentence?
Kaylan: My story kind of begins in the middle of a garden in northern Ontario. I grew up in a rural town outside of Toronto with my parents, two sisters and my Grandmother – I am so fortunate to say my childhood consisted largely of riding horses, playing outside and falling in love with music.
Both my parents are in the medical field, my Dad is a Dr. a Neo Oncologist and my Mom, a nurse.. My mom is wonderful, a gardener.. if ever at home you can’t find her – march yourself outside because that’s where she will be. She is absolutely passionate about her gardens and it shows. Often people will come over just to look at what she’s done, its so beautiful. My Dad loves being outdoors as well, we’re all outdoors people. It’s something I grew up with, a love of nature, the seasons and natural beauty. Truly it’s in my DNA. For me being outside is relaxing and peaceful, gratefully I learned from a very young age, how important it is to balance, daily stress with nature and rejuvenation.
I love my family and I loved where I grew up but be that as it may, I knew I wouldn’t be there forever. I applied and was accepted to the University of British Columbia, a school on the west coast of Canada. Exciting times! That acceptance has led me to move out here to pursue both music & acting AS WELL as my BFA J I love a challenge.
LBH, that’s a lot what do you do to keep your balance?
Kaylan: I love the busy hectic pace, I am definitely one of those people that likes to take on a lot, I can handle a lot of pressure.. yet I’ll have those moments lol like; “Why did I agree to this??” I think in this business, this industry where passion fuels you, it’s kind of an double edge sword – you have to pursue it, actively, but you also have maintain a job or keep up in school – all of it at once. It’s a tricky balance so I try to keep a priority on staying balanced. For me, that looks like riding horses when I have time or hiking in the woods or surfing whereever I can.
I have met some really good friends in the local outdoor community that are there when I need to get away, away from school, away from the entertainment business and just simply get into nature. I think it’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded positive people that will support you.
LBH – The Moment of Impact: What is the first song you remember hearing? Do you remember where you were? How old you were? Who you were with? Did any particular song or musical genre that you can recall shape your life?
Kaylan: I have a memory of my Grandma singing lullabies & my mom – she wound sing Kumbaya to my sisters and I. We’d have our prayers said and they would sing us traditional songs before sleep. My Mom is also a pianist; Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven is my favorites, she used to play us a lot of classical music.
In terms of artists that kind of struck me, that inspired me? The boldest memory, Avril Lavigne & I was 8 years old. My Grandma, my sisters and I were walking through a graveyard I can remember like it was yesterday – I started singing one of her songs and my grandma stopped me. LOL right in the middle of all these headstones she looked me right in the eye and said, “Kaylan, You should pursue singing you could be Ontario’s like next big artist!!” & then we kept walking. I think from that moment it has just really been about how much I have always loved singing. Seeing Avril’s career start off so young and seeing her career really take off – she writes her own music, it’s just so good and for a kid from a small town in Ontario, it made me feel that this was possible. I loved the idea of it.
LBH: Live music, it’s so important to be in this environment, what’s been your favorite live show to date?
Kaylan: Hmmm… Hedley they are way up there, such a good Canadian band. I was young, only in about grade 9 or so when I saw them play live. Beyonce – BLOWN AWAY she is just something else! After her concert I can remember thinking, “I want to be like that.” Beyonce is so passionate; the entire audience was captivated. That energy was beyond enticing to me, I want to be like her, dancing and singing for two hours – she is so fit! It’s more than that though, it’s that she has such a range. Hip hop to Pop, so crazy awesome for sure but then she also did a cover of Ave Maria… I was so insanely inspired. Katy Parry, another great performer – she connects so deeply with her audiences. I just have so much respect for these artists
LBH: Tell me about an influential teacher, mentor, musician, person you’ve had in your life? Some one who shaped you in someway?
Kaylan: There are two I immediately think of; my Grandma & a woman named Kristen Pelchat.
My grandma the “teacher of life”; She is an artist as well, a painter. My parents think differently than I do, than we do I should say, very differently than me though for sure. They are very supportive but really they didn’t understand and still don’t… the need I have to pursue the arts. My grandma gets it. She has always been there for me, emotionally, physically, spiritually with my parents both working, she really raised all three of us. We’re lucky to have her. She is filled with positive support and guidance, is very honest and to this day, her spirit motivates me.
Kirsten Pelchat – A classically trained opera singer and one of my best teachers, friends, collaborators. It was fairly fated how we met. I had decided I wanted to get some vocal coaching and was thinking about whom to work with. One day while walking down the street, I noticed this café on the corner near where I lived at the time. I went in and blammo I had the good fortune to encounter Kirsten. Chance or whatever that was, that day, it was lucky for me. Kristen is just one of those people… we had an instant connection, we got along so well. She is very inspiring, seeing someone with so much talent, it’s an amazing energy to be around. Kristen can do anything, she is so very positive. Eventually we began writing together, performing together, and to this day she is there for me.
LBH: Have you told them?
Kaylan: Yes, I had too. It was important to me for them to know how I felt.
LHB: Let’s talk about Bullying.
Kaylan: I think, at least it seems to me that now, these days, most everyone has had some interaction with a bully situation, for me though, it was atrocious. From a very young age, all through middle school and right into high school I was bullied. It was actually fairly horrible. Kids can be cruel; especially as I found with my music that I was so passionate & so young, vulnerable… it seemed to kind of throw people off. People made assumptions about me, it was kind of bullshit actually. It was almost like, “Oh she is pursuing something fun, let’s try and bring her down”.
Even though I had and have a lot of supportive people in my corner – I did have that experience (and actually still do), from the haters out there. “Oh that girl can’t sing, she sucks, that music is horrible” When I was young, people would talk about me behind my back. It hurt. I became quite defensive over time, it hardened my spirit a little, being so vulnerable and then being hurt – it’s not fun and almost as a mechanism – I started fighting back with an edge in my personality.
It took me a while to learn to trust myself and rebuild my confidence. Now I KNOW how to handle the bullies out there and I hope to help others learn too. If I could reach right through these screens and talk to each bullied kid out there I would tell them,
“YOU ARE AMAZING, IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT ANYONE ELSE THINKS!!”
I want people to feel loved and supported when the going is tough. The small minded bullies out there will always try and bring us down – but I say, NO MORE.
I’ve learned, “Find the thing that makes you happy, and do it. If people that are supposed to be your friends are talking about you behind your back, trying to tear you down – be GONE!” I say. Kick them out of your life, it’s not worth it and you are much too important to deal with negative soul sucking vampires.
Realistically though, it’s a hard lesson especially when we are young. I didn’t used to be as confident, I used to think it was so important for people to ‘like me’ and like what I do.. As a musician, I am on stage for the world to see. Today people still have their opinions about me and my work but now it’s different – I don’t let the mean people into my headspace.
I value that lesson, it was a hard one and it took a long time to learn but thankfully with a little help from my REAL friends – we got there.
One last thought about this, I know the pressures that are out there for young people today, I see it all the time. (The need to fit in)
Let’s ask ourselves these questions:
What is fitting in? Fitting in to what?
Why not lead your life in such a way to be kind to everyone you meet, to trust in yourself and your own awesome individuality?
I want to propose that we TALK about this… let’s make this conversation loud, that day that it’s the very worse day and it can’t get better – TALK ABOUT IT.
Online, shout it out to the community and be an upstander – someone that stands up with those that are down. It’s so scary but it’s such a reliever. It’s very empowering to say NO, to live with respect and to demand that respect. Choose to stay away from things that hurt you, gravitate towards the positive lights around you.
LBH: Well Said!
LBH: In the spirit of reaching people, how important is it for you to connect with your audience? What makes it easier to connect or harder?
Kaylan: A guy, another Vancouver Artist named Lonny Eagleton and I did a show a few months ago it was just one of these nights the venue was over capacity, the crowd was excited, everyone was singing along and dancing. For me it’s the most empowering and rewarding and humbling thing. I am so grateful I get to be part of that, that through songs that I wrote people are moved and I get to be part of their story, their soundtrack of life. Connecting with people while I perform, it’s the greatest gift of this life.
Kaylan: I have a cool story to share: when I was 16 I wrote a song for a music recital called “He Is”, it was a gospel song. It’s a really good song I think, very powerful, at least it was to me. After the show, I met a woman who came up to me and told me quite bluntly that I had made her Mom cry. I was sort of shocked and I felt so badly. It was a strange moment and I wasn’t sure how to react. The woman sensing my discomfort, explained further; “My mom is an atheist.. She really doesn’t believe in God or like anything really, but tonight this song, she felt something powerful and I saw it – she was moved, changed, your song, it helped her.”
To me, as a songwriter that was a huge moment. I felt so grateful, so humbled to have been part of that. She cried, but it was me that was moved. It’s hard to explain, it’s overwhelming.
LBH: The personal side of music.
Kaylan: Music is a way to communicate, for all of us. I think it’s a way to express ourselves, when it’s hard to say something so many times there is a song that explains poetically the words that just wont come. I need music in my life.
LBH: There is a clip in a movie I watched recently, Begin Again – where the characters are talking about sharing their playlists and how incredibly personal that is. It’s said, you can tell a lot about a person by their play list. It’s a great movie, and that’s a great sentiment – You really can tell a lot about a person by their playlist.
Kaylan: Mine is pretty eclectic. I respect Taylor Swift as an artist, I love Goo Goo Dolls and have always. Their music reminds me of my family and vacations. I fell in love with The Fray AGAIN this past summer after seeing them perform live. Two words, Johnny Cash. My grandma always has music on so her taste has influenced me too.
LBH: Music & Attachments: Do you agree that a person forms attachments to music good and bad? That way that you can hear a song and immediately it brings up an experience, a person, a place, a feeling? Now that’s highly personal.. to tell you about the songs that are close to my heart is practically to stand here naked and vulnerable blushing Haha!
Kaylan: Ahh yes.. the vulnerable song reveal. I know it well. Cue the Pussy Cat Dolls, my first love is attached to the Pussy Cat Dolls & to this day, that music holds on to the memories around that experience. Ugh.
LBH: Kaylan, how would you describe your most blissed out, perfect day?
Kaylan: Easy! Hawaii with friends, chilling in a villa. Starting off the day by sleeping in, a luxury for me! Followed by great pancakes, actually chocolate chip pancakes.. Then spending the day in the water surfing. (Working off the pancakes) I’d love to watch a surfing competition. It’s so interesting to me these big wave surfers. They are insane I think, that’s exciting to me. I love being near the water, I find it very relaxing and it helps me clear my head but I really like being active too, actually in a perfect bliss day I would be a professional surfer as well as a musician. I have so much respect for those guys/girls; it’s an insane confident thing to go big in those big wave situations. All in, no hesitation, So fit.
LBH: What causes are you involved with? What message would you like the world to know a little bit more about?
Kaylan: After High school I traveled to India and left with a pressing desire to help around the issues of sex trafficking and rape culture globally as it was on the other side of the world but also here locally, I am a university student, we are part of this.. I want to use my voice to educate.
LBH: What is the thing you absolutely love about yourself?
Kaylan: Hard question!! I think my tenacious determined spirit. I know what I want and I will give it my all to achieve my goals. This isn’t singularly music related – it’s a life tenant.
LBH: Every NO is one less no to get through before your next YES!
LBH: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Kaylan: BFA, Creative Writing – Goal. Continuously writing, in studio working, my album will be out and I will be on tour! I want to write a song, to be used for a charity and hopefully help in raising awareness around the issues of sex trafficking. More music, more music, more acting, living and breathing this business.
Did you know?
One of Kaylan’s songs, “I’m the Captain” co written & produced by Jordy Birch was used in the movie, Preggoland which aired at the TIFF.
Socials w/ Kaylan
LBH Premier of Long Distance!
words by | Deanna Beaudoin