The song “Rich Girl” is a “shout out to all the people I love—my friends and family—who make my life rich,” said Kyla Greening, a singer from Hamilton, New Zealand, and former BYU–Hawaii student. She said the song is meant to remind people that what they’re looking for has been there for them all along.
“I think it can speak to a lot of our whanau [family] who come from humble be-ginnings and still live humble lives and do the best to make the most of what [they] have.”
‘Rich Girl’ reflects what matters most
According to several family and friends in the Laie community, Greening’s song acts as a reflection of who she is and her humble perspective on life. Nancy Tarawhiti, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education & Social Work who has known Greening since she was born, said the song is genuine and authentic and blended with R&B flavor.
Tarawhiti said the first line of the song, which is, “We drive the same van we’ve had since I was 9 years old,” reflects Greening’s reality. The beat, rhythm and Greening’s voice empowers the message she is delivering, said Tarawhiti.
Greening’s cousin, Chesser Cowan, a 2021 BYUH graduate from Hamilton, New Zealand, said “Rich Girl” shows who Greening is and where she comes from. Knowing of their simple circumstances, he said, it felt “wealthy” to be with his family. “When you have family and friends, materialistic things don’t really matter. It’s just the richness of the relationships.”
Learning new sounds
In 2014, Greening attended BYUH and studied vocal performance, where she learned a more academic side of singing, she said. Although she mostly liked soul and jazz, Greening said, she enjoyed learning a more classical-singing style at BYUH. This included operatic and theatrical-styled music, she said. “I like to think that it helped unleash my inner Disney princess.”
Milton Randell Kaka, a Polynesian Cultural Center musician from Hauula, said Greening was friends with his niece and had jam sessions at his house when she was at BYUH. Eventually he learned Greening was working in the Aotearoa Village and asked her to perform for the Night Show. “In the village, you really get a scream out of your voice. ... Her voice was getting wasted.”
He said Greening gladly accepted the invitation to work as a musician for the Night Show. Knowing she could sing Maori music well, Kaka said he asked Greening if she could sing a song in Samoan for a short film he was producing. “She’s willing to try anything even though it’s out of her comfort zone, especially when it comes to another language.”
A voice for Maori women
Kaka said Greening participated in three of his virtual choirs and was one of the leads when singing Maori songs. “She’s such a reliable person. She knows what I want when it comes to whatever song that I’ve written.”
Although Greening didn’t graduate from BYUH, Tarawhiti shared, she believes Greening is where she needs to be as she begins her career. Greening said she completed her degree in New Zealand and graduated from Waikato Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s of media arts, commercial music.
Tarawhiti said Greening’s passion for singing and her success as a musician is “raising the profile for Maori women and young Maori girls."
The expression of song
Growing up in a musically inclined family, Greening said she always enjoyed singing. “Whether it was with family or friends, at church, school, at home or with family–I loved the sense of togetherness music creates.”
Cowan said Greening would sing at family gatherings, baptisms and other family occasions. He shared a memory of attending a YSA dance and seeing her, her father and their band performing on stage. “It’s just evident to me that singing was always a part of her life.”
Greening said she tends to be shy and reserved, but singing allows her to be in touch with her emotions. “When you sing you can pretend you are sad, mad, in love, unsure, sassy. I like being able to use singing as a way of telling a story.”
She said singing allows her to offer praise and gratitude to Heavenly Father. She expressed her adoration for the hymn “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” specifically the line, “I would be my brother’s keeper, I would learn the healer’s art.”
“[This line] encourages me to serve others using my music and to sing messages that might bring hope or comfort to others,” she shared. She said the verse has become her mantra and inspired her to become a part-time massage therapist.