From left: Shirt and pants, Amaro’s own. Aimee dress, $995, by Cinq á Sept at Snowbird, shopsnowbird.com; cinqasept.nyc. SOTO dress, $428, by Acler at Snowbird, shopsnowbird.com; shopacler.com.
You heard these three stunners at JEZEBEL’s 23rd birthday bash, and, now, music mavens Kaylin Amaro, Leah Culver and Sage Hammond grace the cover looking absolutely flawless. Whether you heard them with us at Big Sky Buckhead or you’ve stumbled upon a few of their catchy singles, one listen is sure to get you hooked. Behind their unique sounds is Atlanta-native and industry-vet Jan Smith, best known to her musicians as “Mama Jan.” If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because she has coached some of music’s greatest icons—think Justin Bieber, Usher, Nicki Minaj, and, now, our ambitious cover stars. Here, we catch up with the stars-on-the-rise to discuss their individual journeys, lofty goals and what it’s like to make it here in the A. @kaylinamaro; @leahculvermusic; @sagehammond
Aimee dress, $995, by Cinq á Sept at Snowbird, shopsnowbird.com; cinqasept.nyc
You’ve had quite the year. Can you tell us a bit about it? I’ve experienced an array of milestones this year! Among those was my first single, ‘Try Me,’ featuring Tabius Tate, being released to radio and charting top 10 on indie radio. I also charted on Billboard this year with a song I wrote with Marshmello entitled ‘Fly.’ I’ve always dreamed of being able to tour on a regular basis and am slated to at the beginning of next year!
You have a very unique sound. How has that evolved since you first started in music? When I started making music, I envisioned myself as a frontwoman of a band. Now, I’m the frontwoman, and I also produce the band. It’s kinda crazy because, originally, all I wanted to do was write songs, play drums and play guitar. I parlayed that into singing and writing songs for other artists, and, now, I do that all for myself as an established artist.
You’re a big advocate for walking your own path. How do you stay authentic in such a crazy career field? It’s really easy for me to maintain that mindset because this has never been a hobby for me. ... It’s a career. To be honest, there’s nothing else that’s as deeply imbedded in my spine. Music has always been how I’ve expressed myself, so it will always be true and honest to me. I feel that authenticity in music should be the accumulation of what has influenced your life, combined with telling the truest versions of those stories through song.
What has been your favorite project to date? This year, with a huge thank-you to Zain Effendi (one of the most incredible composers and producers I’ve ever met), I wrote an entire body of work for Disney’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with my dear and very talented friend Valentin (Virtual Riot). I would say that’s my favorite project to date, simply because of how difficult it was and how much it stretched me.
What are you most looking forward to now? I’m so excited to be working with my incredible team and very excited to unveil in the new year what we’ve been working on! 2020 will be the most exciting yet! I feel like this is my best music, and the ability to present to the world on the road is going to be even more amazing!
Dress, Amaro’s own
What initially inspired you to get started singing and dancing? I was born into entertainment. I have two older sisters who are also in, and driven by, the entertainment business. My mother encouraged our passion for the arts very early on, so by the time it was a choice of career paths, it wasn’t a struggle which way I’d lean.
You’re always so positive. How does that translate in your music? My music is a mood. Whether It’s a happy, sad or sexy vibe, I’m always tackling the subject from a positive standpoint. I’d like to think I’m encouraging the listener to ‘figure it out,’ in a positive way. Life isn’t always going to be roses, but as long as there is a positive outlook, then there’s a solution.
You’re a proud Latina; how does that inspire your work? I’m of Italian and Latin decent, but a vast majority of my family is from Puerto Rico, so I grew up rooted in Latin culture. From the food to the fashion and definitely the music, you’ll find everything about my heritage in my music and style. I’ll never get away from it. I’m always working with my team (co-writers, producers and developers) on how to incorporate my heritage into my work.
You’re currently splitting time between New York and Atlanta. How are you adjusting to that transition? I’m a city girl. I grew up navigating my way through Brooklyn and New York City, so even though Atlanta is booming, it’s still relatively smaller, but I like the culture change. I’m constantly working, but I do try to find time each week to explore something new about Atlanta.
What can you tell us about what you’re currently working on? I’m currently working on my debut album. My managers are Brian Miller (former Def Jam) and Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, and for the first time in my career, I’m surrounded by a team that’s giving me the freedom to explore. We’re exploring everything. We’re blending styles, genres and life experiences with no constraints, and that’s really exciting for me because it’s personal to me.
Palmer dress, $350, by Acler at Snowbird, shopsnowbird.com; shopacler.com
Have you always known you wanted to be a singer-songwriter? Some of my earliest memories are related to music. I’m pretty sure I was singing before I could even talk, so I feel like I always wanted to sing.
You write a lot of your own songs. Where do you draw inspiration? I draw my inspiration from things like finding and losing love, or even just growing up and being 20. It’s all very personal and real, whether its experiences that I’ve gone through or things that I’ve heard about my friends going through. I always want to write honest songs that people can relate to.
How do you know when you’ve written a keeper? I don’t think you know you have a hit until its out there, but, personally, I love to make music that makes people feel good—or at least feel something. If I want to listen to a song on repeat, then I think that’s when I know I’ve created something special.
Any advice for people who look up to your career? First and foremost, I think it’s all about loving what you’re doing, then finding your own sound and being confident in that. If you are being yourself and making music that you truly believe in, no one can tell you that you can’t love it.
You’ve called Atlanta home for quite a while now. Any favorite spots? I love Piedmont Park! I like to go there to walk my dog and am inspired by the scenery and people around me. It’s one of my favorite places to write. I also really love Midtown because of the energy I get from the people around me. Other than that, my favorite spot to be is in the studio creating.
What’s up next for you? I’ve got lots of new music coming out that I’m superexcited about. It’s really exciting to be part of a team that believes in me as an artist and also knows how best to guide my career. I feel like 2020 is the culmination of something I’ve been hoping for and working toward my whole life, so finally being able to get out there and truly do this is incredible.
Photography by: Ahmad Barber
Hair by Joshua Terry, Steve Hightower Hair Salon & Day Spa
Makeup by Lysandra Leary, Steve Hightower hair Salon & Day Spa