Exclusive: Hayley Kiyoko on her debut album EXPECTATIONS

Lounging decadently with beautiful young women fawning over her, Hayley Kiyoko sings directly into the camera: I’m just on the floor, I’m like a model, been looking through the texts and all the photos. But don’t you worry, I can handle it. 

The sexy scene is from her new music video “Curious” and it’s also a scene that one might typically see in male music videos, which is part of what makes it so great, in my opinion.  “That’s something I’ve thought a lot about, and that I often do. I like to take situations that would be more commonly associated with men, and turn it around,” Hayley told me over the phone this week. The 26-year-old singer/director/actor and out lesbian has been known not to shy away from themes that touch on intimacy, relationships, female empowerment, and same-sex love. Her debut album EXPECTATIONS (out March 30th) explores all of those themes, and her music video for “Curious,” like all of her music videos, was self-directed. “I love having a vision and then executing it, beginning to end,” she explains.

The highly anticipated album is chock full of songs that will get stuck in your head, and “Curious” is no exception. But please don’t get stuck on any one track, because you’ll miss the whole experience. “I encourage people to listen to the album consecutively all the way through, beginning to end, because that’s how it was intended to be heard and it’s the best way to get the full message,” Hayley emphasizes.

I wanted the backstory for  “Curious” because it comes across as a personal story. Haven’t all lesbians had a bad experience at some point in our lives with a curious girl?  Even Hayley Kiyoko? I wasn’t wrong. “Yes, it’s based on a personal experience in my life,” Hayley confirmed, with a slight sigh. “I’ve had a tendency in the past to get involved with curious women. And it’s fine if you know what you want, and you’re honest both with yourself and with the other person. But if you aren’t honest,  it comes down to playing games.  You need to know when to walk away, and to care about yourself enough to do what’s right for you. And that’s really what this song is about – respect for yourself, and self-love.”

Hayley’s advice for all women out there, in fact, is to look within and find self-love in whatever form it takes. The star says what motivates her in making her music is simple: human empathy. ” It’s a matter of realizing that we are all going through something, and we all have our own paths to take. I love that I can connect with people through my music, and I hope each person listening will find the message in it that’s meant for them.”


With highly relatable lyrics, an addictive sound and the unique sense of style she brings to directing her videos, it’s no wonder her fan base has grown exponentially in recent years. She’s been named as one of Rolling Stone’s  “10 New Artists You Need to Know” and landed a top 5 spot on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart. Her self-directed videos have amassed over 140 million views on YouTube. But chatting on the phone with her, it’s obvious that none of it has gone to her head. Hayley is warm and easy to talk to, which is why listening to her music makes you feel like you’re having a conversation with a good friend.

When it comes to her creative process, Hayley says the songwriting comes first. “I always write the song first, and then depending on the timeframe, sometimes I’ll go back and reinterpret the lyrics when making the video, which is always interesting because the story can be interpreted in different ways.”

The Los Angeles native says much of EXPECTATIONS was written in Ojai, California, a short drive from L.A. “Driving through you could smell the orange blossoms on the trees. I’d never been there, but something happened,” she goes on. “It had a big influence on the songs. I’m very inspired by colors. The songs we wrote there are more orange and yellow. They’re really special.”

Hayley wanted to share a special message for her fans who read AfterEllen. “We tend to focus on what’s around us, sometimes letting it control us. It’s important to continue your journey toward self-love and finding that confidence that lives inside all of us.”

You can buy EXPECTATIONS on March 30 through all major streaming platforms. and don’t forget what she advises about listening to the album from start to finish. No cheating!

Hayley Kiyoko goes on tour April 11th with performances at Indio, CA’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, set for Sunday, April 15th and Sunday, April 22nd. For additional information, tour venues and updates visit www.hayleykiyokoofficial.com.