While Kirby Lauryen began her cross-country journey as a singer/songwriter in Southaven, her North Mississippi roots and smooth voice have catapulted her straight to the top through acts like co-writing alongside artists like Rihanna and Kanye West to guest starring in the smoky jazz bars of ABC/Marvel’s 1940s period piece, Agent Carter.
Back in 2012, Lauryen, an alumna of Berklee College of Music, took to YouTube to write, record, and upload a new song every day accompanied by her playing the piano. By the 302nd day, representatives from Jay Z’s entertainment company RocNation took notice and signed the soulful singer to a publishing deal. She has since written songs for several top-100 singers like Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez and Ariana Grande.
Now based in Los Angeles, the Memphis-born, Southaven-bred singer has released the single "Loved by You", which has already garnered over 100,000 listens on the music streaming website Soundcloud since its February release.
Lauryen cites her upbringing in her home state, from attending church to listening to country music with friends from high school, as inspiration for her music. “There’s something about the simplicity of Mississippi that translates into my music,” she says.
Besides signing a deal towards the end of her 300-plus song series, Lauryen says she learned about consistency and having the courage to try to achieve the things that she actually wanted versus the things she just thought that she could achieve. Her favorite songs to sing during the “Song a Day” series came from a series of songs where fans would send in their stories. Lauryen would then pick the ones that she connected with and write songs based on those stories.
Lauryen began the “Song a Day” series because of a hunger to manifest her potential and a hunger to do what she had always imagined herself doing, as well as loss. “I also experienced the loss of someone who was really close to me the year before, and that showed me that time is not promised,” she says.
Lauryen left the MidSouth for Boston to study songwriting and the music industry at Berklee College of Music on an achievement-based scholarship. She left Berklee as a self-declared graduate in 2009, to move to Atlanta. For a year, she “pursued bright lights and a record deal, only to find light bills, and not-so-friendly notes from college buddy Sallie Mae.”
With no record deal but lots of lessons learned, Lauryen returned to Memphis. Upon her return, she won Budweiser’s “Battle for the Crown” contest; received designation from the historic WDIA radio station as “Memphis’ Next Great Soul Singer”; and served as opening act for Anthony Hamilton, Raheem Devaughn, and KEM.
Lauryen moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her publisher and the music scene. She admits that she always thought New York would be home, so L.A. was unexpected. “LA is a city where everyone has a talent, so you really have to be secure in your gift and your ability,” she adds. “If not, the amount of talent in the city alone can eat away your confidence.”
Along with adjusting to new cities, there is also a shift in writing for oneself versus writing with and alongside others. The song that Lauryen has co-written that is she is most proud of is Kanye West’s “Only One”, which features former Beatles member Paul McCartney. The song references West’s wife and daughter. The moment had special significance to her, both as a writer and a longtime West fan. Lauryen compares writing a song someone else will sing to a form of servitude, one where she acts as vessel to say things the singer could not but wanted to. Writing for herself, she reasons, is more self-involved, akin to being her own therapist.
Besides musical accessibility, the move to the West Coast has other perks. In January of this year, she starred in an episode of ABC’s Agent Carter which featured Lauryen in the role she was born to play — a singer.
The role took her back to her days to participating in Desoto Family Theatre in middle and high school. She says that she would love to go on Broadway and do more acting in the future.
Now that “Loved by You” has been released, Lauryen plans on releasing more songs and hopes to tour this year. “I really believe music is a service, and it’s my job to serve the people, to give them songs to exercise to, do their makeup to, fall in love to, drive to work to, live to,” Lauryen says. “My job is to create music that makes your life easier, and love more tangible.”
From Southaven to SoCo
Southern songstress Kirby Lauryen makes waves in Los Angeles
Story by Elle Perry