Layla Rose returns determined as ever
Shes back Folks!
Catalan Bay’s sweetest export, aspiring Country Music singer songwriter Layla Bugeja (now 20), has just finished her first academic year in America’s music capital. She is still living her dream and modifying her music aspirations having finally discovered where she fits in. She wants to be a career songwriter and is studying ‘Music Business and Song Writing’, two separate courses, at the Middle Tennessee State University in Nashville.
In our feature last August for ‘Insight Magazine’ we were saying goodbye to her and wishing her well and now (end of May as I write) she sits across from me in sunny Casemates smiling and confident that the coffee/chat we are embarking upon will track her progress and tell our readers and her fans here that she belongs over there. I have complete confidence that she will stay the new courses, holding on to her dreams and writing ever more mature songs which she hopes other artists will pick up and sing. Last year she was a big fish in our little pond, now she is our little fish in a huge pond with sharks and it doesn’t unsettle her one bit.
“The first few months were quite hard. It was a culture shock and I was quite homesick. Had it not been for Simon Dumas (King Calaway) and Izzie his girlfriend who greeted me and helped me to settle in with my purchases and move I would have been quite lost and probably spent a fortune on transport. After my roommates at Uni moved in it got better and I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Now after having come through and found my strengths, I feel that I could take on any challenge. Suddenly things that would have really scared me don’t feel so daunting anymore.”
Layla changed her course as soon as she realized that her heart was not in ‘Mass Media Studies’. A wise move as she recalls: “I asked myself what would be the point in spending four years studying for something that I was not passionate about? I was sitting in lectures thinking about my Uni friends who were studying music, so I changed my course to ‘Music Business’ and my foundation course to ‘Song Writing’ and my outlook changed immediately.” The obvious question for me was would that be any use to her if she wanted to do something else over here in later life?
“Absolutely not – but quite honestly I don’t see myself staying in Gibraltar my whole life. Here there is nothing I could do with a degree in ‘Music Business’. When I finish my degree I will apply for a work visa in the US and as I have studied over there I will have a much better chance of getting it. My ‘Music Business’ degree will allow me to seek work in the music industry so that I can support myself as I continue to write songs. As a student I’m only allowed to work on campus and for any gigs that I do outside Uni through networking etc (she has done nine gigs so far), I do not get paid. That’s good and bad because in a way as you don’t charge to play you can get more gigs but if you don’t make money you can’t even buy guitar strings.”
Reality bites and Layla has realized in the last year that if she is going to make any money from her songs she has to be more commercial in her song writing, making her music accessible for other people to sing and more importantly ‘Radio friendly.’ “I feel that I have changed my focus and although I don’t really like commercial music that much, I know that if my music is more commercial I will have a better chance of getting it recorded and published. In Country music commercial means the typical Nashville sound and singing about pickup trucks, whiskey and beer instead of reality. I can now write reality songs for myself and commercial songs for others to sing. That is the direction I’m going in.”
“I went to Florida on a Spring break and I wrote a song about it called ‘Panama City’ which is where I stayed. I also wrote song about my friends and a concert we went to while over there. My songs now can be about the positive experiences I’ve been having, whereas at first they were introverted and reflecting my homesickness and the culture shock. I grew a lot from that experience and I wish I could have gotten over it sooner. That perhaps would be my only regret – I lost a couple of months looking inwards and missing out.”
“Now I’m quite open about my songs and share them with my friends at Uni. I also make a rough recording and send them to my dad for his input. I like to listen to a proper critique of them and can take note. It’s a way of improving. For example this year I’ve written ten songs and only two of them are dark. There are no more dark songs like ‘Johnny’s Lake’ in my current batch. Some songs are very personal and I don’t want to give them to anyone but there are other songs that as I write them, I’m thinking of a particular artist or a particular style that is different to mine.”
At Simon Dumas’ invitation Layla co-wrote a song with him which she is quite proud of, it’s called ‘Heaven help me Heal’ and obviously it’s her favourite because Simon wanted to be the first to collaborate with her in Nashville and she grabbed the chance and run with it. She tells me that Simon is doing really well in his song writing partnerships and that his band ‘King Calaway’ is picking up the slack which almost stopped them on their tracks during the pandemic. Their progress was interrupted but KC is making up for lost time. He is now the band’s front man and they have cut down to four members.
“I still can’t get over the fact that my dreams are still unfolding before my eyes and how lucky am I to be in Nashville studying music and jamming with really talented people while also enjoying learning about the American culture and making lots of new like-minded friends. At every party that I’ve gone to in Uni there’s always a back yard with a fire going and guitars, mandolins and all the joy that is the Country music scene which I have been able to soak up. There are so many talented people trying to make it that you just have to be inspired and feel grateful to have this wonderful opportunity that I have. I will make the most it. I‘m really happy and settled now I know how I can fit into all this.”
Layla the Country songstress will be performing solo every Wednesday at the Village Inn down at Catalan Bay and she will no doubt be booked to perform at the Montagu strip and Ocean Village. She returns to Nashville in August and she intends to cement all the work that she is putting in and build a realistic song writing career by the end of her degree in three years. All it takes is one lucky break and this talented and switched on young lady could be transformed into a household name in cowboy country. Our warmest good wishes go with her and our hope that those Nashville dreams of her’s continue to unfold and eventually pay dividends too. Welcome home Layla Rose we missed you.