After nearly three years of waiting since 2016’s Painting Sounds, we are finally getting some more music from Kyle Dion. SUGA, released on March 8, is an expansive, soulful blend of R&B, funk and more. Everything just fits; the drums are livelier, the songs are tighter and Dion’s falsetto —always impressive— soars above the instrumentation to create a knockout 13-song collection.
Unlike previous projects, SUGA is guided by a narrative – Suga, Dion’s semi-autobiographical alter ego, struggles with newfound fame. Along the way emerge two women, Brown and White, who lodge themselves within Suga’s mind and make him come to terms with his own personal demons. With the fresh release of the album, we talked to Kyle about the new album, his move to L.A., being independent, and more.
You now call L.A. your home, but you were raised and started making music in South Florida. How has the new environment affected your music?
There are so many musicians here. It’s a melting pot of talent and having that talent be so easily accessible is bound to affect the music in a massive way.
Painting Sounds came out around three years ago now. How was your approach to SUGA different from Painting Sounds?
SUGA was conceptual and had a story behind it before we started writing the music for it. The music on SUGA was all made from scratch. With the music, we would go in and the guitarist would play something; I would shoot melodies and we [built] like that verse. Painting Sounds, where I [had] the beats sent to me already made and I wrote songs to them, the only thing we would do would [be to] arrange them to compliment the songs I wrote, but other than that it was from scratch-scratch like SUGA.
What were some of your visual or aesthetic inspirations for this album?
Before the I dove into the album I did watch this movie The Doors and I think I may have been inspired by that overall aesthetic, but again honestly the album was made based off the narrative my brother and I created.
You pull fans from all over, but some of your initial traction came from the buzz on places like Tumblr and Soundcloud. Do you follow any of the conversations on sites like that about you? Do they affect your music?
Not often. Appreciate those platforms though and what they did for my career early on.
The new album has a lot more of a “live” feeling than your past efforts. Why did this approach feel more fitting for SUGA?
It honestly just naturally became that. It’s not that it felt more fitting or not – it was just a way we, my executive producer Mars Today and I, started creating. We are both fans of MUSIC, not afraid to stray away from the standard structure of a song. Having someone in the room play bass, guitar, flute, horns, whatever it may be brings a different feeling vs midi programming.
Painting Sounds was a cooperation between several producers, whereas SUGA was executive produced by Mars Today. How did this decision come about? Did you find it changed how you wrote and performed the album?
Painting Sounds didn’t have many collaborators…[On] SUGA, we have so many talented producers, players, writers. I’ve never been into collaborating with other writers, just because I felt like writing was personal or just didn’t feel comfortable singing other people’s lyrics. However, putting that ego aside and being open to collaboration really can create the best art you will ever make in your life.
Your music videos have a pretty notable aesthetic, specifically your recently released “Not All The Way” video. Do you have ideas for videos like that as you’re writing the song or does that process come later?
The video is based on the narrative of the album. We saw visuals for every record before we wrote it. However, my brother and director for most of my visual content, Nicholas, brings the visuals to life, and that’s what you see in the “Not All The Way” visual.
Much has been made of your quite frankly incredible falsetto, and we’ll just say falsetto fans are going to be happy with this new album. Were you always a natural singer or was this something you had to learn?
I’ve always been a natural singer with a wide range, but there was a certain point early in my career where I didn’t know how to really use the range I had. I would sound like I was just screaming. [I] didn’t know the techniques until I went to school in 2012 out here in LA. It was a music school in Hollywood, and every week I had a vocal lesson by this one teacher who changed my life forever. She really taught me how to use my voice. Vocal placement was a huge factor for me. Sad that I don’t remember her name and can’t find her anywhere. I’ve been hunting – I would really like to take more lessons from her. She is amazing.
I’m sure you’ve gotten plenty of offers from labels or people who want to sign you onto bigger deals, but you’ve opted to stay fully independent. Why?
Cause I like money. Lol. This may be my last indie project – your man is TIRED. People don’t know how hard of work this is. All the shit I’m doing is with a small functional team. Love everyone on my team, but man, I’m a pop star and we going for global domination, and with that, we deff gone need a label and a machine, but one that understands the VISION and understands an artist like me, you know? It’s gotta be right.
The spoken word piece at the end of “White”, which talks about knowing limitations and how to navigate them, leading into “Somethings We Can’t Do” is a great narrative piece. When you wrote that song, did you know it was going to close the album out?
Yes, as soon as we finished that record we were like, this is the end of the album. The best ending – it’s just so powerful. Lyrically, vocally, instrumentally. Amazing.
What do you want fans to take away from this album?
MAKE WHAT YOU WANT TO MAKE! Someone will love it.
Kyle Dion’s debut, full-length album, ‘SUGA’, dropped on March 8. Stream it here.