Hayley Kiyoko has learned a lot in the year-and-a-half since she released her debut album, Expectations. Most of those lessons were learned on the road during the months she spent headlining tours globally.
“As an artist, there’s no book on how to survive tour and how to take care of yourself and be there for others,” she admits to Rolling Stone over the phone. Over the course of her heavy touring schedule, Kiyoko figured out her limits in a way that made her feel “stronger” for the next chapter of her career.
“It’s like rock camp on crack where you’re just going and going and trying to figure it out.”
She quickly lists off the things she has learned she needs to survive her pop career: “Acupuncture, flying out friends, good nail salons, essential oils, humidifiers, lots of Purell.”
Even when things got tough while trying to keep herself healthy on the road, Kiyoko never lost sight of her artistic pursuits. She has had the title of her forthcoming project, I’m Too Sensitive for This Shit, written down for ages. “I wanted to actually name Expectations [that],” she says, laughing. “It’s a very dramatic statement but I’m a very dramatic person.”
Instead, it’s the title for the final package of a string of singles she plans to drop from now through January 2020. It officially began with the pining “I Wish,” which came out in July, and is being announced with the heavy “Demons.” She has been working on her sophomore album, and at one point traveled to California’s Joshua Tree National Park to write for a week in the desert with some of her trusted collaborators. All the songs she has ready for this project were written during that stint, and she liked them enough to release them on their own, before she finishes her next LP.
“It’s so relevant to what I’m going through at this very moment,” she says of the already-released and soon-to-be-released songs off I’m Too Sensitive. “I’m just trying this new thing where if I write it; I’m just going to release it. I might as well share what I’m going through instead of disappearing and coming back.”
Exploring this type of “freeform” release strategy is new for Kiyoko, who sees it as part of her effort to help continue growing her audience. She also wants to be honest with the fans who have been with her on this journey; like she said, these songs capture the particular struggles and triumphs of her last year on the road. “Demons,” specifically, addresses her experience with depression.
“Sometimes it gets severe and sometimes it’s really scary,” she explains. “Demons” was inspired by a memo on her phone that she’d kept. “It said, ‘Please forgive me. I’ve got demons in my head. They’re trying to eat me until I’m dead.’ I had that on my phone, and was like, ‘Whoa! that’s really dark and scary. I’m concerned for myself.’”
Her fear for herself is accented with a self-effacing laugh. She wanted to turn that darkness into something brighter that “embraces those demons,” which was the premise for the catchy, electroclash-y track. “When we go into those places, we feel so alone and like nobody else is feeling those feelings,” she says. “Everyone is battling their own thing. It’s about pushing through and moving forward.”
Along with “Demons” and the project’s title announcement, Kiyoko has announced a 2020 tour, and she says she now feels fully equipped with all the emotional and material necessities that will help her get through it with more ease. And her sophomore album is never far from her mind.
“This project is a great bridge to where I’m headed for the sophomore album,” she says. “I’m just going to keep working on that and make it into something special.”