“I’ve been surrounded by horses my entire life.” Kayden Muller-Janssen (or simply, Kayden) grew up on a horse farm in Florida. The Disney actress/singer-songwriter is the bubbly personality behind Hartley, the equally charming neighbor in the Disney comedy The Villains of Valley View. Kayden has much in common with her on-screen persona, especially her bubbly personality. With the release of her latest singles, “No Maybe” and “Crave,” Kayden is pumped for the release of her debut EP, Unraveled—and the second season of The Villains of Valley View. This isn’t an act—Kayden really is this excited.
“I’ve always been really bubbly and loved to perform,” Kayden gestures to the room behind her, in the house that she grew up in; relating a memory of her as a kid. She put on her mom’s high heels, donned a pink tutu, and sang along to Christina Aguilera. “I found passion in the arts, [and] I knew that acting and singing was the career for me.”
While she might be the creative oddball in a family of professional equestrians, Kayden is no stranger to horses. She invites me to join her on horseback if I’m ever in Florida. Forget that I’ve never been on a horse professionally; when Kayden calls, you answer. And what was calling her was performing. As a teenager, Kayden found her chance to leave the Florida horse country for sunny Los Angeles to attend a showcase camp. While there, she met her agent who sent her on the road to Disney. For music, Janssen was put in the studio with Dustin Atlas, her producer. Together, Janssen and Atlas made her first single, “Kiss Kiss Baby” and “No Maybe.”
“Kiss Kiss, Baby” was released on the now-defunct Radio Disney, reaching number three multiple times, then number one on Music Choice. “That was a big moment for me,” Kayden says dreamily as she reminisces about the moment she heard of her debut’s positive reception. Kayden, pent up with pinkish, lively energy, suddenly becomes a bit apathetic. It’s as though she is remembering something painful, but she jolts back with a smile.
“Growing up in my hometown, around kids my own age…no one believed I could be a professional singer or actress. So, when my first single was released on Radio Disney, I was like: ‘I did it!’” Shortly after, Kayden got her first big break when she landed the role of Hartley on Disney’s The Villains of Valley View. It’s a moment that she will cherish forever. Her excitement is ten-fold when she hears that season two has just given the green light. Kayden is as over-the-moon now as the day she landed the role.
While Kayden is as lively as her fictional counterpart, (who she says is soooo much like her it’s uncanny), there’s more to her than Hartley and Disney. The conversation is thrilling because we’re able to not only keep up with one another—but bounce the conversational hot potato with ease.
“I think I overwhelm people sometimes,” she laughs. “But I’m very passionate about what I do, and I love to talk about it.”
Most of Kayden’s soulful depth can be traced in her music. While her sound is a genre-blend of pop, R&B, and soul, if Kayden had it her way, she wouldn’t be stuck in any genre. “I never like to stay in one box,” she says. “It’s really just…me. You might get a little rock or a couple of ballads.” This is due to her wide range of influences that spring from Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse, and even Meat Loaf.
“Music was kind of my only friend at one time,” Kayden is referring to her childhood, especially her middle school years. “I got bullied a lot for just being myself, [for] wanting to be a singer and an actress.”
That’s how she started writing songs in the first place. Kayden ended up teaching herself in an effort to vent her emotions. It’s how “No Maybe” and “Crave” came to be.
“No Maybe’ just kinda spilled out of me,” Kayden admits. “Music has always been a way for me to vent –to get my emotions out that I can’t quite process.”
“Crave” was released in July of this year and while it’s about heartache, the track is fraught with more disappointment and pain than “No Maybe,” its predecessor. Where “No Maybe” seeks a straight answer from a wishy-washy crush, “Crave” is about missing the one who broke your heart—it’s a straight break-up soul track.
“There was nothing I could do but write a song,” Kayden says. “He really hurt me…and he was mean about it. He still is.” Kayden admits that “Crave” still resonates with her very personally. She’s kept herself busy and as a result, Kayden has plenty to celebrate. Kayden has truly been blessed, how many girls can say they’re living their dream?
Kayden gets misty-eyed, if only for a moment. “I’m so grateful. I want to use my platform to not only help other girls like me but to spread the message of self-love and embracing who you are.”
With the drop of her EP, Unraveled, Kayden Muller-Janssen has a lot to be excited about–and she’s itching to tour, travel, see new faces and ya know, “Hopefully be on the big screen and win an award.” And why not? It’s no one’s business to tell her she can’t. Kayden is certainly capable. Just make sure you can keep up…you might be disappointed if you get left behind.
*Cover photo courtesy of Gihan Salem.