Hailing from sunny San Diego, California, red-hot Retro-soul diva Andra Day got her start in music by performing in local churches and soon enrolled at the School of Creative and Performing Arts. After she graduated, the young songstress immersed her skills to take her singing and songwriting to the next level;leaning towards crafting a smooth contemporary R&B and pop sound, further drawning influence back to the classic jazz and soul vocalists she studied along the music way, including Etta James and Ms. Nina Simone.
A major break came when a stunning live performance of hers was caught by Stevie Wonder’s wife, Kai Millard Morris, who took some of Day’s dazzling music to her living legend husband. Day’s discovery was further connected with music industry veteran Adrian Gurvitz, who led the singer into a successful YouTube following and Day eventually signed with Warner Bros.
After a few stellar singles, as well as a riveting version of “Mississippi Goddamn” contributed to Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone, last year the rising diva served us with her standout debut set, Cheers to the Fall, which features extraordinary collaborations with Philly’s own The Roots and Mr. DJ Jazzy Jeff, who provided some of his best scratching work to date on the gloriously soulful debut set.
This year, Ms. Day’s fire continues to rise with an already long list of accomplishments, including a stand out collaboration with Ellie Goulding at this year’s Grammy Awards, a red carpet Oscars slay, and a headlining tour which found her stopping by the Ardmore Music Hall last night. But before she takes off out of town, Ms. Day was oh, so gracious in taking time out of her crazy schedule to spill some music tea with Philly Mixtape, spilling about life, love, faith, music, her deep love for the City of Brotherly Love….and so much more.
Hello, Ms. Day! First up, I just want to thank you for taking time out if your crazy schedule to spill some music tea with me. I greatly appreciate it. Absolutely, anytime!
Okay, let’s get to the hard-hitting stuff first…how is everything going these days? (laughs…by the way, it’s infectious). It’s good! I’m enjoying myself. It’s definitely busy, but we’ve actually had the last two days off [in Chicago], which was really, really nice. It’s been so good watching things grow and going into each of these markets and playing for people who are really connecting with the music. And now actually, from the last tour they didn’t really know the songs, and moving to this tour where they know the words to them all. It’s just really cool.
It’s so funny that you’re in Chicago right now because I’m actually going to be heading out there next week. Any spots or restaurants you can recommend for me to check out? I actually didn’t get to do much while I was out here, but I was unproductive in a really great way..I rested! But there was a restaurant that we went to called Nell Cote and it’s like some of the best food I’ve ever had. For the most part, I just walked around Michigan Avenue, hung out. And you should check out The Bean, too. It’s a touristy thing to do, but you’re in Chicago, so you might as well do it!
Now, let’s get to some Philly music love. You collaborated with local music legends The Roots on your album. What was that experience like for you? It was amazing. It was one of those things where it actually came from James Poiser of The Roots. We basically had the album finished, but there were a few things we wanted reproduction on. It was just crazy with them actually being receptive and saying, “Hey, yeah we want to be a part of this!’ I actually wasn’t in the studio with Quest when he was laying the drums down, but I did get in the studio with James and it was amazing hearing the track back and hearing Quest’s drums on it. Getting to be in the studio with Poiser and tweaking some of the stuff was just an incredible experience. I mean, it’s The Roots! I don’t even need to say anything else. For them to agree to want to be a part of the record, as an artist it kind of speaks volumes about how music artists you love and admire are enjoying your work. It’s really cool.
Yes, The Roots really are the epitome of Philly music truth…Oh, yeah, absolutely. We actually did The Roots Picnic last year. It was cool, you know being on that stage seeing Black Thought and Naughty by Nature, which was the last time they were really performing together. It was such an incredible event.
I know you’re only going to be here for a short time, but are you going to be able to get into the city and explore at all while you’re here? Here’s the challenging part with tours-you’re in a city and then you’re out. Most of the time we get there the night before, we do the show the next day and we leave that same night. If I have more time there then I’m definitely going to try to check out more stuff in Philly.
Okay, so let’s talk about your incredible performance of “Rise Up” and “Love Me Like You Do” alongside the fabulous Ellie Goulding at this year’s Grammy Awards. Have you new found music best friends chatted since then? By the way, when I saw the performance, I was already waiting for the duets album! It was certainly one of the best moments of the night. Awe, thank you so much! Yeah, we texted each other a couple times after the performance. I always tell people, I gained a friend out of the Grammys. She’s so sweet, so encouraging. I sent her a message after telling her that I couldn’t have picked a better partner, she replied saying back the same thing and was just as mutually supportive. I enjoy her personality so much. It’s comfortable to be around.
She definitely seems like she’s very well grounded music artist.I think the weirdness sometimes comes from this idea that everything is a competition. I don’t look at life that way, and after meeting her she doesn’t look at life that way.. Going on that stage it wasn’t like, ‘Okay, how can we outshine each other?’ It came down to what’s best for this song, this collaboration and this moment. Let’s just have fun.
Any future collaborations in the works with her? I am looking forward to getting in the studio with her and doing some tracks. I think we can come up with some really interesting sort of like kind of soul, kind of pop sounding material.
Okay, let’s get a little Oprah for a moment. Now, as thrilling as living a true music life can be sometimes, we all have those days when it can feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. What are some of the things you do that keep you motivated and focused on a daily basis? For me, it’s very cut and dry. My faith is really the thing that keeps me the most grounded and the most focused. Everybody around me knows that I’m a very spiritual person. Everyday I do a little devotion–I read, I pray, I meditate. That’s the place where I operate, where I find my peace. Where I learn how to interact with people in love, or when you’re dealing with conflict, or when you’re stressed or tired. I think for me also staying grounded. Like you said, you can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but when I’m in that space working on my relationship with God then the pressure comes off in a weird way. It’s hard to explain, but I don’t feel as if I don’t sing perfectly every time, my career’s over. If I show up and I’m walking in truth and walking in that relationship, then it’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to work out. I just kind of relinquish a hold on the nerves and all of that. I’m here for a reason, I’m here for a purpose.
Just a last few couple things. If I were to ask you to write a Throwback Thursday column for Philly Mixtape, which album would you throw it back to and why? Let’s see…..you know what? I feel like I should say [The Roots] Things Fall Apart because we’re in Philly right now! It’s a fantastic album musically and creatively. It was also a reflection of the environment of the time and what they were experiencing. It’s bold and fearless. It’s appropriate right now. I love the album.
Any last shout out you want to say to your Philly fans? Just that I can’t wait to perform for them and can’t wait back to the city! And I’ll be going on tour with Leon Bridges after this headlining tour, which I’m really looking forward to.
Oh, wow! Congratulations! I’m sure he’s going to be amazing to tour with. He seems like a very chill and reserved guy. Yeah, he really is. He will admit all the times in interviews and that he’s very insecure, very reserved kind of shy. But then he gets on stage and his this real natural effervescence. It’s really natural. When I was watching him perform at the White House, I was like, ‘That’s my boy!’
Well, thank you again, Andra. Good luck with the show and keep on with that music! As long as we’ve got that, we’re gonna be cool! We’re good, we’re good! Absolutely!