“The only truth is music.” ― Jack Kerouac
The road of life is full of twists and turns. It’s easy to get lost. Go off course. Find
yourself somewhere unintended. But if your sense of direction is good and you keep
your eyes on the horizon, you’ll get back on track, eventually.
That’s where Kytly finds herself these days. More than a decade after debuting with the
acclaimed but short-lived indie-rock outfit The Caraways — and following years of
navigating the curves, hills and valleys of existence — the bewitching vocalist and
multi-media multi-talent has returned with her long-overdue (and tellingly named) new
album Detours and Exits.
“I found that title in one of my many songbooks,” explains Kytly (it rhymes with nightly).
“I had circled it back in 2015 as the title of the album that I was working on back then. At
the time I was diving into the Beat Generation writers, so I’m pretty sure I got it from
Kerouac. But when I saw it again, it just spoke loudly about what my songs are about —
relationships, heartbreak, starting over. Everything I write is personal. It’s bedroom
It’s also the ultimate soundtrack for a road trip. Preferably at night. Through the desert.
In a convertible. With the top down, the warm wind in your hair and your muse riding
shotgun. “When I’m in the car,” Kytly notes, “I do my best listening. But it would also be
good lying in bed with your lover, smoking a joint.” She’s got that right; slow-burning,
sensual and seductive, its songs — many of which were written in the cozy cocoon of
her own bed — go straight to your head and leave you warm and woozy.
Chalk that up to its potent blend of languidly thumping grooves, darkly twangy
southwestern guitars and hauntingly ringing keyboards. They’re all wrapped in hazy
clouds of reverb and atmospheric sonics. And all framing Kytly’s ethereal vocals,
hypnotic lyrical mantras and soul-baring tales of whiskey kisses, broken promises, bitter
endings and new beginnings. Poised between the cool ’90s sounds of her youth and the
dusky tones of desert-rock, these vintage-sounding tracks are rich with echoes of
Mazzy Star, Julee Cruise, The Breeders, Cowboy Junkies and Nico. As a singer and
songwriter, Kytly is in excellent company.
That goes double for the all-star cast of Detours and Exits. At the helm: L.A. producer
and Fountains of Wayne drummer Brian Young, whose discography also includes Jesus
and Mary Chain, The Posies and Gutter Twins. “When I asked Brian if he would play
drums on my demos,” Kytly recalls, “he listened to them and said, ‘I don’t want to do
that. I want to produce them.’ ” Young explains the appeal: “She has a really wonderful
vulnerability about her. Her songs are really honest because she’s not afraid to take
chances, to put down her feelings or thoughts and send it off into the ether. That can be
incredibly difficult, to lay your soul bare like that. I appreciate that she let me look into
Working remotely over the course of a year from Kytly’s demos and voice memos,
Young filled these textured, cinematic cuts with VIP players from near and far: guitarists
Jody Porter (Fountains Of Wayne), Jon Skibic (Afghan Whigs) and Scott Von Ryper
(Jesus And Mary Chain), bassist Mark Crozer (Jesus And Mary Chain),
multi-instrumentalist JK Harrison (Brian Wilson), Canadian indie king Eamon McGrath
and more. Kytly admits to pinching herself. “When he was sending me tracks, I was
going, ‘Is this really happening?’ I would ask, ‘Do they know they’re playing on MY
music?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, they love it.’ ” Indeed they did, he says: “They jumped
into it wholeheartedly and really saw the possibility of her songs.”
For her part, Kytly has been chasing possibilities since she came to Canada from
England at 12. Already dabbling on piano, she picked up a guitar and never looked
back. “I remember sitting in my boyfriend’s garage with the blue guitar he painted for me
with a star on it, trying to learn Eric’s Trip songs with his band…. they were like ‘You
should be the bass player in our band and sing.’… I had always kept diaries and wrote
poetry. So It began..I just started writing songs and more songs.” One band led to
another. Eventually she formed The Caraways with ex-Weakerthans bassist and
husband John Sutton. The group issued a self-titled EP in 2010 and were just gaining
steam when they split. Kytly began to plan her solo album while attending film school.
Life took her in another direction. She began a career as a creative on TV and film
productions, art directing and set decorating. She even did some acting. But she never
lost her musical sense of direction. And now she’s back on track.
“I feel like this album is a homage to my younger self. And I hope that girls that are
coming of age and going through the ‘What the fuck am I doing with my life?’ phase —
will find something in it…. I’m back to where I was supposed to be, creatively, 10 years
ago. This is me finally coming out as an artist. It’s a new beginning…”
As long as she keeps her eyes on the horizon, that is.