Banana Split

A conversation with
Okay Kaya

photography Maciek Kobielski
fashion Celestine Cooney
interview Kathleen Hefty


Okay Kaya exudes an uncommon combination of cool confidence and humility, with a charming dose of self-deprecating humor. Her soft melancholic singing style and simple, often ambiguous lyrics allow for the listener to lose oneself in the dreamscape of her songs.

The melodies slowly unfold and wash over as her lush voice lingers on long syllables in unexpected timing. Songs like Damn Gravity express personal heartbreak in an intimate but detached way—her lilted singing of “Oh Gravity / Damn Gravity / He keeps floating away.” In many, it can be difficult to define whether Kaya is the protagonist or subject of her songs. The soft-spoken singer/songwriter grew up in a small town in Norway and has embraced New York as the venue for her musical endeavors. After a couple years of sharing her singles with the world via SoundCloud, Kaya (born Kaya Wilkins) has just wrapped up recording her first studio album this spring. I caught up with Kaya during her Gucci-clad photo shoot with Maciek Kobielski in a bright Brooklyn studio, where we talked about her start in music, playing her hometown, and her debut album to come out early next year.
KH Hi Kaya, thanks so much for talking with us! How’s the shoot going?
OK Good, they’re letting me wear my own t-shirt right now.
KH It’s cool, what is it?
OK It’s a Norwegian band called Kvelertak, which means “choke hold”.
KH Is it metal?
OK I wouldn’t call it metal, but I find that it is pretty aggressive.
KH Your brother was in a metal band?
OK Yeah, he is in a metal band called Asaru. Basically we had a rehearsal spot in the basement where he would play the drums and I would try to play the guitar. So we were never really in a band, we would just be in the same room and jam. He didn’t teach me guitar, which is also a common misconception. But he tried to teach me drums.
KH How old were you when you got your first guitar?
OK I think I was 13, and I pretty much quit that year and picked it up again when I was 20 and moved [to New York]. I wanted to be a dancer for all my teens—modern physical theater kind of thing. I really wanted to be a choreographer.
  Download MUSE 44 – Digital Issue to read the full  interview.