An Interview With Zella Day, Indie Singer-Songwriter And Your New Obsession

Kanye inexplicably leaving during “Heartless” wasn’t the only thing to happen last weekend at The Meadows. We also met up with Zella Day, indie singer-songwriter and your new girl crush. We talked to her about everything from #feminism to cults and a bunch of shit in between. Read what she had to say—it’s like, really deep and inspirational. And buy her album, Kicker—it’s fucking amazing and we guarantee you’ll be obsessed with it.

Before I start with any questions, I just have to say that one of our founders saw you perform at Stephen Talk House in Montauk and was like, in the front row going crazy, she absolutely loved you.

I love that. That was a great fucking show. That was amazing. Being in the Hamptons is such a trip. I played at…what was that called in Montauk? It’s like the club…not the Sand Club…?

Surf Lodge?

Yeah, Surf Lodge.

Can you talk a little about your musical influences?

I grew up listening to a lot of singer-songwriter musicians. A lot of Bob Dylan growing up, a lot of Bob Marley. I love Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez. That was kind of my upbringing. I played a lot of music in my grandmother’s coffee shop… so I have a background in acoustic folk. And then growing up and moving out to LA, I mean, everything has kind of shifted a little for me. The music that I’m listening to, as much as I still love the Bob Dylans of the world, I’m moving to a lot of 60s psychedelic rock, so like, a lot of The Zombies… and that’s actually going to be a little bit more apparent on my next record. Kicker was me performing songs I’d written on a guitar and then building these electronic soundscapes around it, so now I have a little bit more of an idea of how I’d want to write these songs with a band, now that I have a band.

I read in an interview with InStyle that Frank Ocean was your dream collab.

Yes, that’s still true. Everything he does is just beautiful, so authentic and honest. I really have a lot of respect for people that aren’t afraid to be transparent.

What’d you think of his album?

I like his record. I really, really do like his record. I think it’s beautiful. There are certain songs that really get me, other songs that are like vibe mood songs. Channel Orange was very different—every song was a hit in my eyes. This is a different approach, but I like it.

Is there anybody else that you’re super into right now that you haven’t already mentioned?

Gallant. I love watching new artists onstage that are so excited to be there, like they don’t even know what to do with themselves. Because that’s how I feel sometimes, like you’re just so excited to be there and it’s like your movements… you can’t keep track of everything, so you just end up looking like this creature onstage. And he kind of looks like a creature onstage. I love it. So him, and another band that’s really funny and a little bit more underground is a group called [The] Wytches, they’re great.

I read in your bio that you’re a Pisces, are you big into horoscopes?

I’m not that big into horoscopes, but I mean, I’ve read a little bit about my rising sign. My sister is a Pisces as well. She was born March 3rd and I’m March 13th, and I think that it’s one of the leading causes of not being that into horoscopes because we are so opposite and we’re both the same sign. So I’m just like, I don’t know if this is really going to be my bible of sorts. Because [she] and I could not be more opposites.

I don’t know if you’re aware, but Mercury just came out of retrograde. Were you out of whack?

OH MY GOD. I know it was. I was so crazy like, the last month and a half, I was just going through a lot. I was so emotional, I feel like all you had to do was say the wrong thing to me and I would just cry all over your lap. I was going through that phase, and I did the research and I was like “ok that makes sense.”

Do you have any opinion on the 13th Zodiac sign that was added?

Not really, I don’t follow that …. but I am into Scientology.

OMG Me too, I just watched that HBO documentary and got a little obsessed with cults for a minute.

I love The Source Family, that’s a really good documentary, have you seen that? And then there’s like the Buddha Area..? I’ll think of it. It’s really crazy. I just watched this really interesting documentary of people in LA—I feel like they’re always in LA—and this cult was led by this guy who kept getting plastic surgery, and everyone in the cult was kind of getting plastic surgery along with him. [Then] he kind of formed this ballet where they would all do this cult ballet, and it was like, only people from the cult going to see the show. It was super weird! He had moved to LA to be an actor but he was never successful so he got this cult following and got to sort of live out his dream in this way of being worshipped. It was so crazy. I love that kind of stuff.

But then I was like, “ok what is this doing for me?” That’s how I feel when I listen to those things. I love it and I still have dreams about it and I’m like, “Wait ok what is this doing for my life right now?” Buddhafield! That’s what it’s called. The documentary about the plastic surgery cult leader.

One thing I really loved was your Headstrong Mama campaign celebrating strong women, and you’ve talked about paying homage to strong women in music, so who are some of those people?

Right now, I really love what Alicia Keys is doing, I like her whole No Makeup campaign. I’m glad there’s someone of her statute doing that. I actually don’t wear makeup onstage either. It’s more comfortable not to, and being a woman on tour is so arduously tense and I don’t have the time to do my makeup all the time, and I feel like I don’t want to be pressured into doing it so I just don’t. And I’m glad there’s somebody advocating for that as a woman in music because I do feel like there’s that expectation for females in the industry to look a certain way, and I’d rather push boundaries a little further than where they’re at right now.

Do you feel like it was hard to make it as a woman in music?

It still is hard to make it. The music business as a woman, it really depends on what you’re going for as a musician—like, what do you want to be? Do you want to be straight down the middle pop; do you want to be alternative pop; electronic pop, do you want to do R&B or rock n roll? So for me, I would say my shows—not as much as my record, but my shows—are kind of like a rock show. It’s sort of like this alternative pop/rock thing where you go and I have a real band and I’m singing the hell out of my songs. It takes a little bit longer to do it in a more old school way which is what I’ve chosen to do: playing all those shitty bar gigs and those clubs that nobody wanted to play, but touring like a real rock band tours.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year and a half. But it’s cool because I get to make it to stages like this, and I feel like I’ve really earned my stripes this year and I’m really grateful for all the experience in the past couple years. But it is still really hard, doing that thing and going that route and not just being the girl who’s kind of there showing my boobs on stage because I don’t want to show my boobs on stage. It just takes a little longer because I don’t really have that shock factor in my music. So it is hard.

Do you have any other advice for women trying to make it in a male-dominated industry?

I truly believe that the best song wins. And it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female; I think that you just really have to make the best music that you know how to make. And stay close to it and don’t get caught up in, I guess, the visual aspect of what the industry can be. Because it can get ya! And I felt that before too—like, when I played Coachella the first weekend, I wore an outfit that covered every inch of my skin because I wanted to do something that was a little unexpected because it was just about the music. So I’d say for girls that are in it for just the music, stick to it because it pays off. 


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