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For as much as Katlyn Nichol flourishes in front of the camera as an actress on series such as American Soul and Black-ish, she really thrives the moment she picks up a microphone. The North Carolina-born and Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, actress, and performer can hit steeple-size vocal peaks, get sassy on a beat, and dazzle with charisma and charm all within the span of the same song. She flaunts talent and attitude in equal measure. Already praised for her “gorgeous tone” by the likes of SoulBounce, she presents the full picture of who she is on her new album from CMNTY Culture RCRDS/Republic Records in 2021.
“My music is energetic, intense, and has a message behind it,” she exclaims. “I try to give you something you can bop to, vibe out to, and get hype to, but still feel like you got some soul food. It’s not like you just had a snack. It nurtures some part of your identity—whether you feel like you need to hear it or to feel that somebody understands you. I’m trying to bring the urgency, extravagance, and energy back to R&B.”
Growing up in Fayetteville as the youngest of five kids, music quite literally surrounded Katlyn. Running a studio out of their home, her father produced for the likes of nineties R&B star Joe in addition to touring as part of Mama I Want To Sing! At the age of two, Katyln would sing from her car seat, belting out gospel runs along with the radio. Soon, she found herself recording backup vocals and melodies for dad’s recordings. Inspired by Beyoncé, Brandy, Whitney Houston, A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder, and more, she decided to devote her life to music as a kid. Relocating to New Jersey, she gained her first industry experience by working with various management companies in between attending the prestigious Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts. By 12-years-old, Mary J. Blige personally signed her to Matriarch/Def Jam Records. The legend often invited Katlyn to make guest appearances on stage.
“Mary really took me under her wing,” she recalls. “She was protective, because I was so young. She gave me this big sister love, and I really appreciate it to this day.”
All of these moves contributed to her evolution as an artist and all-around entertainer. She nailed an audition for BET’S American Soul, and and she captivated millions as Simone Clark, acting, singing, and dancing for the run of the show. In 2020, she joined Black-ish as Olivia Lockhart in the season finale, returning as a series regular in season seven. However, she never stopped writing, recording, and singing. During early 2021, she caught the attention of CMNTY Culture RCRDS and Republic Records and landed a deal with the label. She formally introduces herself with the debut single “Liar.” The song has a throwback beat comprised of a sample from Ghanaian afrobeat legend Ebo Taylor and is punctuated by horns that underscores her dynamic vocal performance. She dips in and out of the groove with intimate verses before teeming with attitude on the hook as she sings, “You’s a liar, liar, liar.”
“My sisters and I have gone through a lot and I wanted to incorporate those experiences into my music. I’ve seen a lot when it comes to their relationship struggles. Half of the time, they don’t even know a song is inspired by them, and then I weave my own experiences into it. It’s all real.”
On its heels, she kicks into high gear on “Gas Me Up.” The pulsating bounce bristles against finger-snaps as her spritely delivery glides over the bass, turning up with her “Jersey club record.”
“It’s my self-love and self-empowerment song,” she says. “I was going through a stage in my life where I didn’t want to depend on any outside sources for a sense of validation, beauty, or love. I learned how to provide those things for myself.”
In the end, Katlyn shares this energy, attitude, and, most importantly, confidence with everyone who listens.
“When you listen to my music, I want you to know it’s possible,” she leaves off. “I never thought some of the things that are happening to me would ever really happen. Once I buckled down and started to believe in myself, understand my own strengths, and recognize what’s possible, it all came to fruition. I want people to know you can achieve everything you want. It’s out there waiting for you.”