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From Moscow to Missoula, Southwestern songstress Zella Day is blowing up

interview with zella day coachella next tour
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Life is moving quickly for psychedelic-pop act, Zella Day.

With a new full-length album, a 100-stop world tour under her belt, and debut Coachella performance, the Arizona native’s growing popularity can only be described as meteoric.

The free spirited singer made the move to Los Angeles four years ago to pursue a career in music. Already a seasoned performer, Day began playing at her grandmother’s coffee shop at an early age. “So I started playing there when I was 9 years old, started writing my own music at 12 because I was learning theory at the time … by the time I was 13, I had a record done,” the singer recounts her instant love of making her own music. “It’s been music for a while.”

Her debut LP, Kicker, collects and processes Day’s entrance into early adulthood. Her expression of vulnerability and loneliness are filled with sonic sentiments of the southwest and the lyrical sensibilities of preceding folk legends. “I was in a tumultuous phase of moving of out my house with my family, getting my own apartment, dating this rockstar that didn’t give a shit about me, me feeling totally alone, reflecting on my hometown and what that was to me, who I was now in this big city … I wrote Kicker.” Now with her album out she is ready and on her way to bigger and brighter things. “That is a very good chapter, and it was documented well with that record. Now, with the songs that I’m writing, I’m in a completely different place because a year later, I’m 21, so life is moving very quickly. I’ve heard so many people say over and over again that from 18-21, you’re a completely different person, and I feel that way.”

Digital Trends: You released your full length album this past year.

Zella Day: Yeah, about 8 months ago. Which is still fairly recently. I think about it, and it wouldn’t make sense for me to come out with another record now because I had to tour off the record. I’ve been touring for the first time ever. I’m very used to being in the studio and writing behind the scenes. The past year of my life has been spent out on the road.

How’s that been?

You know what, it’s been great, lovely, terrible, happy, sad, all in one basket. Touring is so much energy that you are giving to every moment, whether it is in the van, staying in a hotel room that you’ve never been in before and you have to sleep in a new bed every night, eating foreign food, and you have to be completely plucked out of anything that is normal or routine for your life and you have to be on the road.

What were some of the highlights of touring?

We only progress by doing something different and individuality is very important.

Arriving in Russia, playing in Moscow to a crowd of 500 which was a lot because I have never been anywhere near that country. It’s the phenomenon of our culture right now. People from across the world have been listening to me since I came out with my record and you obviously know that because of the internet and streaming metrics but it’s a really different thing to see it in person. That was incredible.

Streaming metrics are such a good indicator to tell you where people are listening to you. Did that inform how you planned your tour?

Yeah! Because the metrics actually tell us where to tour and how to tour. I did a European run for a month straight. We went everywhere from London to Sweden to Amsterdam, I did Germany, Russia, covered a lot of ground. It was very strategic based on what my metrics were.

You’ve mentioned before that you are a fan of Stevie Nicks and Bob Dylan. What were some of the first things about their music that you connected with?

When you listen to my music, it doesn’t sound anything like Bob Dylan or really Fleetwood Mac, but when I was growing up and I was figuring myself out as a lyricist I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn’t know how to say it. Those artists helped me formulate my ideas. It’s poetry and it’s art, and I really take a liking to and focus a lot on my lyrics because I love listening to what people have to say and that’s why artists are artists. They have something different to express.

What inspires you that isn’t music? I’ve found that very few musicians cite other musicians as their main sources of inspiration.

Zella Day - Hypnotic (Official Video)

I’m glad to hear that because I never modeled myself after anybody. It was never, “I want to be like that.” It was more about how I wanted to find what I’m doing in a deeper way so that I can express it more clearly. And that’s the point. Because you don’t want another Stevie Nicks, you don’t want another Dylan. Then it’s just a cover band. From here, where we are, there’s been so many greats. It’s hard because the legendary music has been made. But now, in our generation, we have to progress. We only progress by doing something different and individuality is very important. Of course you’re going to take from the world around you, I do. I was never trying to be anybody but myself. People have a hard time with that because they want you to say, “I want to be like this person.” Or they’ll ask, “If you could model your career after anyone, who would it be?” and you’re just like, “I don’t know, it’s different for me.” Not everybody’s journey is the same, and if it was then nobody would listen or watch.

Day’s stage presence is equal parts commanding and ethereal. She picks up touring again in July supporting Fitz and the Tantrums, followed by supporting Michael Franti & Spearhead in August, making stops throughout the United States. Though touring for her debut album, the bohemian songstress is already inspired and writing music for her follow up. “ … the music I’ve been making now feels a little bit less cautious and self-contained. I’m inspired right now by this man in my life that I love so very much and that inspires my music by his art. We get to experience beautiful images together which makes me want to write different songs. I’m not struggling as deep and as dark as I was, so I’m inspired by the light right now because I can see it.”

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Sarah Midkiff
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Sarah split her time in the Pacific Northwest, England and traveling Europe over the past 3 years. When she's not traveling…
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