In January, Manitoba-based singer-songwriter Kayla Luky released her latest album, “Back to Dirt.”  The project offers a self-assured set of songs that finds Luky exploring a more traditional country sound than is present in some of her previous work.

The entire album is strong and eminently listenable; some of the highlights include the sassy “Pour Me a Strong One,” the thoughtful “These Plains” (which, as noted below, brought back memories of my own youth on the American Plains), and “Bed of Daisies,” which contains several pieces of wise advice that I should follow more carefully…

Even if you aren’t normally a fan of country music, I encourage you to give “Back to Dirt” a listen – this is a terrific set of songs from a very talented singer who is, I suspect, only just beginning to come into her own as a musician.

Kayla very generously took time to answer a few questions for us about her album.


In listening to “Back to Dirt” in conjunction with your previous albums (“The Time It Takes” and “Kayla and Ben”), I was immediately struck by how confident your sound is on this latest project.  What are some ways in which this new album captures where you are at this point in your career?

Thank you. I think now being in my later 20s (in comparison to those earlier albums) has given me more life experience, which allows more confidence overall. I have been sitting on some of these songs for a long time, and the experiences, decisions and time put into honing my craft have certainly contributed to how this collection of songs sounds and where I am now.

Would it be fair to say that this project embraces a very traditional country sound (as opposed to some of the more ‘pop’ country music that is out there)?  What have been some of your musical influences?

Definitely – Murray Pulver (producer) did a great job in respecting these songs and made them really come to life. I grew up with the local country radio station on, so I would say the 80s/90s country that influenced me in those formative years has started to resurface. I grew up listening to a lot of pop (Spice Girls – haha) and in high school a lot of punk and metal. (I started playing live in high school by opening for punk and metal bands in our local ‘scene’ playing the same sort of music I do now, just me and my guitar.) I think the local punk/metal scene really shaped my DIY attitude and approach of just doing what’s true to you.  To be honest, I don’t listen to a lot of music these days, and the music I do listen to is all over the map. I think this keeps my approach less (or more?!) influenced and more true to myself.

The verbal intro to “Loneliness or Me” is intriguing to me – what is the story with that?

There was this character of a guy in Manitoba who goes by the name of “Hank Williams.” I never met him, but he kept leaving me voicemails. They were pretty unbelievable, and were just too good to not be heard… 🙂

As someone who grew up on the Plains (way south of you – in Kansas!), “The Plains” really resonated with me, as it’s a story and an experience with which I think any of us who grow up there are deeply familiar.  Beyond the obvious inspiration and titling of this song, what are some of the ways in which your home environment in Manitoba inspires your writing?

I think living in rural Manitoba keeps me a little less influenced by what’s going on in urban centers. Some people might think the prairies are boring, but I think the landscape and openness of it is a beautiful environment for the imagination to flourish.

I wrote These Plains about my great grandparents who settled this area in the late 1800s. They came from Ukraine with nothing but $10 for 160 acres of land, to try and build a better life for themselves. It’s hard to even fathom the hardships they came from, considering the hardships they lived through once they got here. I love stories like these, and being able to still live out in this area where my ancestors worked so hard gives me a real connection to this place. Being present here reminds me that all these people worked really hard to make their children’s and their grandchildren’s lives easier. I try not to take that for granted.

Kayla Luky

I absolutely love this line in “Bed of Daisies”: “Pick your battles like you pick your weeds and life will be a bed of daisies.”  (I also should apply it more frequently in life…)  This song, to me, is also a great depiction of life in a small rural town, where so many people live on the edge of failure depending on elements over which they have no control (the weather, the government, etc.).  Is it tempting at times to leave home for a more urban life, or does your life there in Grandview feed you in ways a larger city could not?

I am definitely a rural person – cities and concrete are just not for me. I need nature, quietness and open space. In Grandview, everyone has time to say hi, to look up and smile at you as you are passing them on the street. This also means you get to know everyone in your community, which as the song suggests, can pose its challenges at times. Ultimately the pros outweigh the cons though.

My life is simple here, and it makes my heart calm and full. We are tempted to leave here at times – not to urban centers but to other smaller communities – but we realize ‘the grass is always greener’ and Grandview is the best place for us right now.

I believe you have some tour plans already lined up – of the shows you have booked, are there any that you’re particularly excited about?  Any plans to come east as part of your tour?

I always look forward to playing smaller communities. Being from one myself (population 800) I realize that there isn’t always a lot of music coming through, so generally people who attend come because they want to fulfill that need to hear live music. I love meeting people and hearing their stories, and smaller communities seem to lend themselves well to this over larger, urban venues.

I will be headed into Ontario in April/May to tour the new album and lay some groundwork as a duo, and hopefully get back out there again with the band in the fall. My website lists all our current performances – the list is always being added or changed as required. 🙂

~ L

Photo credit: Sara Taplin

Listen to “Back to Dirt” on Spotify.

Here is a list of some of Kayla’s upcoming concert dates (as of this writing, subject to change; check her website for the latest updates):

MAR 25 SAT
Habs Bar
La Broquerie, Canada

APR 26 WED
Cornerstone
Marshall Veroni
Guelph, Canada

APR 27 THU
Silversmith
Marshall Veroni
Niagara, Canada

APR 28 FRI
Heartwood Concert Hall
Marshall Veroni
Owen Sound, ON

APR 29 SAT
Queens
Port Elgin, Canada

MAY 4 THU
Spitfire
Brockville, Canada

MAY 5 FRI
South Branch Bistro
North Grenville, Canada

MAY 6 SAT
The Arlington
Hastings Highlands, Canada

MAY 8 MON
Fromagerie
Greater Sudbury, Canada

MAY 10 WED
Loplops
Sault Ste Marie, Canada

JUN 8 THU
The MET
Winnipeg, Canada

JUN 23 FRI
Smith
Winnipeg, Canada

JUN 24 SAT
Smith
Winnipeg, Canada

JUL 21 FRI
Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival
Brandon, Canada

JUL 22 SAT
Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival
Brandon, Canada

JUL 23 SUN
Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival
Brandon, Canada

AUG 18 FRI
Harvest Sun Music Fest
Elphinstone, Canada

AUG 19 SAT
Harvest Sun Music Fest
Elphinstone, Canada

AUG 20 SUN
Harvest Sun Music Fest
Elphinstone, Canada