I recently attended the Hollywood stop on The Future Is Bright Tour, and can confidently say Dean Lewis secured an absolute gem of an opener. Sara Kays is among the rarest of emerging talent not only for her incredible voice and songwriting but for how genuine she is.
She began writing music as a young teen/tween in the Indiana suburbs and this influence is abundantly clear. The honesty in her songs resembles that of journal entries and is reminiscent of storytellers like early Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift. Her heartfelt way with words is her superpower. And the internet has taken very well to it. Kays’ song, “Remember That Night?” went viral on social media platforms in 2020, and has been a TikTok staple ever since. In the track, she recounts the complex aftermath of a breakup, down to the painstaking experience of hearing from the other person after months of distance. The song has a sense of relatability, as it’s laced with the aesthetics of young suburban love. Lines like “we went for a drive, 2:30 in the morning” and “all I did was lay in bed and cry” play on universal imagery. Set to a melancholically catchy tune, it’s no wonder the song has over 312M streams on Spotify alone!
When the 24-year-old took the stage on Oct. 19th at the Fonda Theatre, the crowd whistled and clapped in anticipation. I even noticed a sign quickly rise into the air reading, “WE LOVE YOU SARA”, emphasizing the adoration of the audience. Kays stepped out wearing a grey beanie and a cozy oversized sweater with high-top Converse, immediately establishing that she is a “girl next door” singer-songwriter type. She’s the definition of casually cool.
Kays opened with “Show Me Off” alongside her much-loved guitarist, Val. The two chimed away, tenderly making and breaking eye contact throughout. They moved through songs like “Where Are You?” and “Home For The Summer,” sneaking in silly faces at each other in between.
Much like headliner Dean Lewis, Kays is great at drawing the audience into the story via opening monologues. Introducing her single “Chosen Last”, Kays took an inquisitive approach, asking, “anyone ever been that one friend that walks behind the group on the sidewalk?” She jokingly continued, “I’ve never experienced that before….this song’s about you guys though.” She then iconically performed the song on the ukelele, a signature move of hers.
The crowd responded positively to this introduction, indicating that many of them had had this exact experience. It’s a perfect example of what makes her work so special, the soft pop ballads are relatable for the public and take on a very down-to-earth perspective. She doesn’t take herself too seriously to discuss taboo topics like solitude and exclusion. She normalizes the loneliness of being left out, an experience many young people struggle with. The Nashville-based artist has a vulnerable way of approaching the clichéd “outcast” story we have seen many times before.
This being said, Kays is an effortless storyteller. In addition to her other strengths, she is skilled in enunciating which allows her narrative lyrics to be understood even live. She also adjusts the volume of her voice to heighten or retract the intensity of the story. Her detail-oriented performance is truly captivating and will have you unexpectedly reflecting on your personhood.
Though, I think my favorite part of the set was when Kays transitioned into a cover of Owl City’s “Fireflies” by saying, “We’re gonna sing a song about bugs now,” continuing, “anybody like bugs here?” Could she be more adorably charming?
She ended her set by mentioning she’d be heading to the merch stand after her final song to converse with fans, which the audience was seemingly thrilled about! This humble act told me everything I had to know about Kays as a person. In an age abundant with influencers, it’s important to support artists who live humbly and value interactions with their supporters. Her demeanor was nothing short of refreshing, to say the least.
If you’re looking to expand your catalog and you appreciate music that is personal and emotive, check out some of her latest work, including “Miss Me The Same” in collaboration with Anson Seabra. And be on the lookout for her debut album!