They got hooked on her dream too and the last five years have seen Layla fronting her own Country band, writing and recording her songs and through hard work at school, recently getting accepted to study for a degree in media at a university in Nashville. In a few weeks time she will be living her long held dream and hopefully putting her music ‘out there’ as well as learning how to be a media person. She sits across the table from me poised and confident that she has done all she can to make her dream happen thus far and is determined to stay the course that she has charted for herself for the next four years of her life.
“From around the age of eleven I discovered out that I could live in Nashville if I went to study there, although at the time I wanted to make it over there as a singer I soon started looking into universities to see what I could study over there and follow my music dream too. The government funds my degree to the same amount as a UK degree and we have to pay the difference.” I wasn’t about to ask how much that difference is but she told me that it is a big difference. We can imagine that most musically inclined students in America would want to study in Nashville so getting accepted on her grades and after an interview at the American Embassy in London was not going to be easy. Good fortune smiled on her and after spending three weeks in London, isolated at the height of the pandemic, she passed her interview (in ten minutes!) at the US Embassy and got her student visa.
“I had to take a gap year last year because in the American Universities they don’t take you on with predicated grades as in the UK, so I took a gamble knowing that If they didn’t take me on I would have to apply to a UK university. Because of Covid I couldn’t travel to see the university In Nashville, I couldn’t get a student visa before passing the interview so a lot of time was lost, but for me it came in handy as I concentrated on my music and wrote and recorded new songs.”
“I’m majoring in media studies and minoring in music studies, hopefully that means I will get a Bachelor’s degree in media and also a qualification in music. Nashville is a close knit town and the people you meet there will connect you to its music industry so I hope to start playing my music in ‘open mike’ evenings and try to get noticed that way. At first I will probably be playing in small town bars to five people watching and as I’m only nineteen I will have to be out of those bars by midnight. Ideally I want to get ahead as a solo artist mainly because I’m very touchy about how I want my music to be heard and Nashville is the song writing capital of the world.”
“Once I’m there I want to find a promoter within my university who can represent me and get me known. I have already made some enquiries via Zoom calls but for playing I will take anything that’s offered in order to get my music out there.” Layla doesn’t write corny ‘moon in June’ rhyming songs, in fact ever since I first heard her songs five years ago I noted that they are adult and sometimes dark themes. She is very mature and experienced in concert situations and has a very supportive dad Jonathan in the band. The Layla Rose Band consists of Chris Cavilla on lead guitar, Jonathan Bugeya on guitar, banjo, and assorted instruments, Chris Calderon on keyboards, Victor Calderon on bass guitar and Tristan Tonna on drums. Layla is the main vocalist and strums the acoustic guitar on which she fashions her songs. The Layla Rose Band made a seven song CD album called ‘Postcards’ which has been the backbone of their live repertoire. They have a current single called ‘Soul on Fire.’
Layla has more songs ‘in the can’ (recorded) and in her back pocket too and not many young aspiring singers have that. “I’ve already sent some of my songs via a Zoom platform in order to get professional feedback but really it will be better to do that once I’m there. Over here I have loved playing with my band because if I were to mess up I know they have my back. My confidence has been boosted by playing in this band where energy bounces off each other and ideas are pooled to develop songs further. When I first write a song, whether on my own or with my dad, we tidy it up and then take it to the band room and there each one adds their own input and that is a lot of fun.”
In early August Layla leaves to pursue her dream but there is already another Gibraltarian following his music dream and living in Nashville, Simon Dumas of ‘King Callaway’. “I’m in contact with him and we have agreed to meet up once I’m there. It feels so nice being able to count on a fellow Gibraltarian for moral support. Since I was eleven I’ve been saying that I wanted to live in Nashville and now I have this big chance. Right now I have eleven songs recorded and another fifteen which are nearly there. I have been in contact with some students from my university through Zoom calls so at least I’m not going over completely blind. One of them is studying music production so that may come in handy too.”
The next time we see Layla performing here may be next summer and by then she will have new stories to tell and hopefully she will have taken the first steps to get noticed in Nashville. I can see that she has the drive and confidence to give her dream the best shot. Her media studies will keep her away from our shores on and off for four years but for a young and talented songstress who knows what the future holds?