Call & Response: Kyla Brox

Kyla Brox wearing a flowery dress, holding an old fashioned microphone in front of a red velvet curtain.
Kyla Brox: the wild child of her dad\u2019s band.

It takes guts to open your new album with an a cappella vocal. But then, ever since the day she jumped on stage in Manchester aged 12 and unveiled that extraordinary voice, Kyla Brox has never been short on bravado. A chip off the old block, Brox’s adolescence was spent on tour with her father (local hero Victor Brox), and her resolve tested by roughneck crowds across the planet. Now, as she releases her sixth solo album Throw Away Your Blues, the 35-year-old singer opens up on the toughest gig of them all – parenthood.

It’s seven years since your last album. What have you been up to?

I’ve been having children, basically. We did actually start writing an album three years ago, but we decided to shelve that and start afresh with Throw Away Your Blues. We thought it was best to have a whole new batch of songs. It adds that spark.

Is it hard juggling kids with a music career?

It’s extremely difficult. I always feel very torn. As a parent, I think you feel guilt whatever you do. Even if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you probably feel guilty that you aren’t out showing your kids about working.

What were your priorities with this album?

Blues is about emotion. You can’t spark emotion in someone else unless you’re being authentic. Everything I sing, I believe. Whether I’ve written it myself, or I’m singing someone else’s song, it’s got to have a connection.

Tell us what some of these songs are about?

My favourite is I Will Love You More. I wrote that about my children, Sadie and Sonny. It’s about being so wildly in love that it will carry on forever. A love that carries on beyond the grave. My mum was listening to the album for the first time, and she got to the bit where I’m singing: ‘When there’s lines upon my face, when I’m lying in my grave, I will love you more.’ She’s like: “Kyla! That’s far too morbid!”

Also in the band is your husband Danny Blomeley. Don’t you bicker?

Our relationship is based on bickering! There’s more than a little bickering that goes on when we’re on stage as well. We ham it up for the audience. We very rarely have a setlist: I just decide on the spot. And Dan’s like: “I don’t want to play that.” We’ve known each other since we were 12, so we’ve grown up together. We were already friends and bandmates before we got together, so we’re used to being in a van together for hours on end.

Was there a pivotal moment that set you on the path to being a singer?

When I was three, I first heard Chaka Khan. I asked my mum for the clothes, hair and voice of Chaka Khan for Christmas!

Any other favourites?

I’ve got a few. Bessie Smith has such an honesty about her voice. The way that Nina Simone delivers a lyric is untouchable. I’ve covered Feeling Good for a long time: maybe I should never have touched something so perfect. My other favourite is, of course, Etta James – because she had everything. The emotion, the skills, the sass…

Your dad is the bluesman Victor Brox. Was music how you bonded?

I’m the youngest of five children, and I came right at the end of my parents’ marriage. By the time I was two, my dad just wasn’t around, so when I got to about 12, I wanted a way of getting to know him. He took me to one of his gigs at The Band On The Wall [in Manchester], and I just got up and sang with my sister. I didn’t know the words or anything, but I had no fear in those days. Just brazen.

You toured with him from the age of 13. Did that get pretty wild?

Yeah. My dad wasn’t one for rules, so I did pretty much all my ‘firsts’ with him around. One of the things that made it even more wild was that I looked so much older than I actually was. I could pass for 25 by the time I was 13, so people were buying me drinks and stuff. At one point, we were known as the ‘child slavery band’. Because I was 13, there was Danny on bass who was 13, my brother on guitar who was 16, and our drummer was 18. And then there was my dad, who was 50-odd.

Like the Jacksons?

It was, a little bit. A blues-style Jacksons. We had a lot of fun. And it was how we learnt to play.

You played for miners in the Australian outback. Was that tough?

Yeah. Playing in those mining towns, where you’re literally one of the only women in the whole town – that’s quite interesting. At one point, we played this town that was like something out of the wild west. I was horrified to realise that our sets were gonna be interspersed with performances by strippers. I was only about 19. On one tour of Australia, we did about 40,000 kilometres in a couple of months. Just crazy. But it depends on your make-up, I guess. I like sitting in a van and watching the scenery go past. Other people, it’d just drive them completely mad.

You always feature at the British Blues Awards…

I’ve been nominated at every single awards – but I’ve never won. Having said that, I haven’t had a recording out since the British Blues Awards started. You never know. Maybe Throw Away Your Blues will be the turning point.

Throw Away Your Blues is out now on Pigskin Records.