LYTA: Are We There Yet?

LYTA, an electronica-R&B artist from Houston, Texas, grew her music and dance skills side by side. She dances at Soundbox Studios and has already released three singles this past year. From supporting her mother's battle with cancer to breaking off toxic relationships, LYTA creatively pushes past her boundaries through the lens of movement and music.  She also adores sweatpants and Swedish Fish.

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 Can't Sing

“My brother was a rapper,” says LYTA. “He used to take me to his shows.” Alice Yet, known by her artist name LYTA, grew up around the rap culture in Houston, Texas. Fascinated by her brother’s performances, she started making her own music. She released her first acoustic cover on Youtube four years ago as a junior in high school. “I always sang to myself in the shower,” she says, “and then one day my mom was like oh yeah, you can sing.”

Uploading an acoustic cover of ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz to YouTube, LYTA put herself out there for the first time. People listened. Many left comments of encouragement after hearing her voice. She continued to record covers until she joined the high school choir. “The new choir teacher told me I couldn’t sing,” she says. “I felt like shit.” She quit choir and did not release another cover until college.

In music’s absence, LYTA dances. She practices movement and music not as two separate entities, but as creative rhythms that feed off of each other. “My music evolved because of my dance,” she says. LYTA jumped into dancing with the non-profit organization Dancers Against Cancer. This group provides financial assistance to those in need in the dance community and their families impacted by cancer.

Soon after, she began dancing more competitively at Houston’s Soundbox Dance Studios. “The people at this studio helped me evolve as a human being, not just as a dancer,” she says. “We are a competitive but tight-knit community.” LYTA captures her confidence in the dance studio and harnesses it behind the mic. “I learned to understand music through dance,” she says, “the flow, how it should make you feel.”

Continuing to dance upon graduating high school, LYTA left for Stephen F. Austin State University. After a year, she moved back to Houston after her mother developed ovarian cancer. She enrolled at the University of Houston to study closer to home. “That year was one of the shittiest times in my life,” she says. “I couldn’t have found solid ground if it weren't for my friends and mentors.”

Baggy Sweats

Back to recording and uploading covers, LYTA rediscovered her voice. She then received an email from the Super Bowl Live committee asking her to audition. Super Bowl Live was a fan festival in downtown Houston’s Discovery Green celebrating Super Bowl LI. The event showcased performances, interactive exhibits, and virtual reality displays. The committee held an audition to decide who would perform at the 750,000 square foot festival.

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She rolled up to the audition last minute donning baggy sweatpants and her ukelele. “I wrote this song in my car in 30 minutes,” she says. Passing by costumed performers and fire throwers, LYTA played this last second tune in front of the judges. A few days later, the committee chose her to be one of 70 performers at Super Bowl Live. In the midst of magicians, dancers, and other bands, she earned her spot on stage. “I’m happy I got to do that,” she says. "I don’t want to be just another Asian-American doing acoustic covers.”

Branching beyond covers, LYTA shies away from strict songwriting routine. She keeps notebooks in her car, room, and backpack to jot down ideas the moment a thought strikes. “I write things down, forget about it, then I'll grab my lyrics when I sit down to make a song,” she says. Vibing out in her head, she forms the idea of the melody before the production brings the song to life.

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Working two jobs, dancing, and balancing a full public relations and marketing course load, LYTA squeezes the most out of her time to record and make music. She has earned scholarships that cover part of her tuition and works to make up the rest. Her friends own studio equipment so she does not have to pay for recording sessions. “It takes a lot out of me emotionally and financially prioritizing what I want to do,” she says. “I’m blessed to have people who want to make music around me.” During this time, LYTA befriended the prominent YouTuber Kev Jumba. The curator of a comedy channel with north of three million subscribers, Jumba partnered with Kollaboration Houston for a live performance called Youth Represent The World. This show would explore the universal story of young people as they chase their dreams. Jumba invited LYTA to play at this event. “I used to watch his videos when I was in middle school,” she says. “I’d never thought I’d be performing with Kev and other YouTubers like him.”

Cherry Eyes

Breaking into the digital realm, LYTA started to experiment with electronic music. A self-taught guitarist and pianist, she understood the language of instruments before jumping into the electronic realm. She made her first single ‘Cherry Eyes’ in a bedroom. Her friends, Anthony Le and Thuc Vu, produced and breathed life into the track. “We sat in a room and made the song in a day,” she says. “I tell Anthony and Thuc what I want to hear, and they take it.”

Inspired by a past relationship, ‘Cherry Eyes’ stems from the idea of a feeling. “The song comes from an experience I had with this guy, but it’s not exactly about what we experienced together,” says LYTA. The happy melody gives cover to the somber lyrics. A tropical verse and synthy bridge juxtaposed with sober words enhance the emotional dynamic. “I want people to jam out in the car, but if you listen to the lyrics I’m going to tell you a story,” she says.

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The cover art for ‘Cherry Eyes’ depicts LYTA casually crouched in a bathtub with flowers floating to the surface. In a fully soaked white tee, she holds a cigarette between two fingers. A black bar blocks out her eyes. “I wanted the feeling of drowning, suffocating,” she says. “Like I’m in this box where the solution is so simple, and everyone can see it but you.” She felt stuck for a long time, and music loosened the pressure. “Water so deep you know I can barely swim,” she sings. After Lyta made ‘Cherry Eyes,’ she sent the song to the keyboardist of the indie-pop band No Vacation, Nat Lee. “I formulated the way I write because of them [No Vacation],” says LYTA. Lee, who also manages the band, loved the song and stayed in touch with LYTA. When No Vacation threw an EP release party last year, LYTA spent the week with the group in Brooklyn. After connecting in New York, Lee now helps manage LYTA, who will release her debut EP early this summer. “Two years ago I was listening to this band in my dorm, and now I’m partying with them,” she says. “All because of one song.”

Listen to 'Cherry Eyes' by LYTA and check out her SoundCloud below:

LYTA's mom beat ovarian cancer a little over a year ago. Inspired by her mother, LYTA recently shaved her head on a live stream to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation dedicated to conquering childhood cancers. You can donate to her fundraiser by clicking here

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