kayln rock talks about inspiration, themes and capitalization

The truth is, kayln rock is such a cheerful, intelligent conversationalist that you can’t help but learn three facts, and more, from the fact that she recently had her wisdom teeth out (“Your teeth make this funny sound when they’re being removed,” she notes) to her pitch-perfect idea to book herself on a tour of performances at candy stores.

She has the material: The Hudson, N.Y., singer and songwriter recently released “Passenger,” a debut full of engaging, sweetly wistful songs that draw on the straightforward simplicity of folk, topped with a sly, tuneful pop sensibility. You’d never know it from “Passenger,” but serious songwriting is a relatively recent pursuit for rock, who has nonetheless been writing for a while: after a youthful dalliance, she veered back into music while earning a degree in the dramatic writing program at SUNY Purchase.

“With my music, I get more self-gratification, faster gratification out of writing a song and doing it all myself, than writing a piece and waiting for people to act it out and for people to understand it the way I understand it,” she says. Here are three more facts about kayln rock:

1. Capitalizing her name makes her uncomfortable. “Capitalized letters, for me, I see them as being somewhat confrontational, in a sense,” rock says. “I want everything to be lowercase because I don’t want to bring extra attention to my name.” Also, she says, she loves fonts, and the shapes of letters, citing Bookman Antique as a particular favorite.

2. She’s inspired by interactions. Not her own, necessarily, and not even romantic interactions, but rock finds something dramatically satisfying about parsing the ways that people act toward each other. “I really like describing things in terms of relationships with people, like the inner monologue people have,” she says. “A lot of the ideas I would have about stories, whether they’re plays or a bigger film, is just two people having an interaction with each other and the subtext.” That’s not to say she doesn’t draw on her own interactions: The oldest rule of writing is, “write what you know,” and rock does that, to a degree. “I write from an experience and then I make that decision in my mind to go completely fictional and have it be inspired by something or to go out there and make it about the thoughts in your own head,” she says. “A lot of times I put it all out there. I would never reveal the name of the person, because it’s about everyone having their own experiences.”

3. “Passenger” is a pretty apt title. She didn’t realize it until after the album was essentially finished, but there’s an air of dislocation to many of the songs. “A lot of them are about traveling and looking for someone and thinking you found them and being confused and feeling let down that you didn’t, and letting life take you where you need to be, and feeling like you’re in control and then feeling like you’re out of control,” she says, laughing. “All these little self-revelations that go in and out.”

Text by Eric R. Danton, photo by Reid Elem

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