Quezon City, May 12, 2002 (STAR) by Tinnie P. Esguerra - With the way many music critics heap superlatives upon today’s new crop of artists, you can’t help but be a little skeptical about each new face that triggers an industry shakeup.

After all, in an industry where looks and charm sometimes more than make up for lack of real musical talent, it’s way too easy to get the public’s nod by sheer image alone. A trendy wardrobe, a brilliant PR strategist, the blessings of a powerful industry bigwig – these can all guarantee overnight success. But then again, that kind of success doesn’t come cheap.

So, if a 21-year-old bags such plum titles as MTV Pilipinas 2001’s Best New Artist or the MTV Southeast Asia Viewers’ Choice Award, doesn’t that make you wonder if the "announcement" has been well-deserved?

In Kyla’s case, it’s a reward that’s long been overdue.

While she may give the impression of being a clueless newcomer in the music scene, Kyla already paid her dues at a tender age. While her teen friends busied themselves with trivial pursuits, Melanie Calumpad (Kyla’s real name) was already doing solo stints at the Hotel Rembrandt.

Soon, Kyla was asked to join the Heat of the Night band, becoming one of its frontliners. She performed in such glitzy haunts as the Intercon’s Le Boulevardier and Kampo. When the band went to Brunei in 1996, Kyla’s dad even quit his job just to accompany her.

That’s not all. Here’s an interesting sidelight that could very well serve as an inspiration to diva-wannabes. Prior to snagging her juicy recording deal with EMI, Kyla literally knocked on the doors of several record companies. This was how she learned to deal with rejection – the hard way. "I got rejected by several companies, ha!" she recalls. Those bungling record "experts" must be shaking their heads these days in utter regret.

What proved to be Kyla’s entrance to the record industry’s inner sanctum was her initial meeting with Raymond Ryan, who composed his then Metropop entry which Kyla gladly interpreted. "It was Ferdie Marquez (of True Faith) who introduced me to Raymond," Kyla says. "Kuya Ferdie was the one who encouraged me to submit my resume to EMI."

"Although I didn’t take his word seriously then, it turned out that the song that I did for Raymond was the one they played for producer Francis Guevarra, who liked it and eventually played it for Chito Ilacad.

"Boss Chito liked it. I signed the contract and we made the album na. It was that fast – all in the span of a month," Kyla recalls.

That was how her debut album, Way To Your Heart, came about. Her second album, simply titled Kyla, was released just last month. Although predominantly pop, it also fuses R&B and ballads. "I also composed two songs, I’m Into You and This Day," Kyla proudly adds.

It was also Chito Ilacad who christened her "Kyla" – a name he thought as easy to remember and one that had more impact. Kyla agrees. "I used ‘Melanie’ before when I was still doing solo stints, but I guess that name just didn’t work for me then," Kyla reckons.

If there’s one person who’s doubly proud of Kyla’s achievements, it’s her dad – Ulysses Calumpad, former bass player and folk singer who did the rounds of Manila’s prominent folkhouses during the ’70s. It was he who instilled in Kyla the value of discipline and perseverance.

"Frustrated musician ang dad ko eh," Kyla says with a grin. "So, what he wasn’t able to accomplish for himself, he wanted me to achieve. I’m proud to say that he raised his family through his guitar-playing." Kyla is the second youngest of four siblings, the eldest being the only son.

With her newly-acquired pop star status, Kyla confesses it’s difficult not to attract attention – especially at school. "Like, some would say, ‘Hay naku! She’s not naman good in class eh! But I keep my cool. I know myself better," says the petite chanteuse.

On a more positive note, Kyla adds, "Some of them walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m so happy for you! You’re doing great!’ Imagine? These are people who I don’t even know! And to think most of them are gays pa ha! (laughs)."

For all the accolades heaped upon her these days, Kyla keeps her feet on terra firma. "I’m so overwhelmed," she confesses. And when pop superstar Gary Valenciano strode in at Ratsky’s a few minutes prior to her album launch, Kyla was shaking violently onstage. "I couldn’t believe it," she gushes. "It was a dream come true."

Shrugging off her accolades, Kyla ends, "I really don’t feel it yet. I still have a lot to learn, a lot to improve on. I still feel the same. I can walk around in school, along Taft Avenue and not worry – take the jeep, you know. I’m still the same."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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