It’s a big year for Zella Day. The 20-year-old Arizona native just released her major-label debut album, Kicker, in May, made her national television debut on Conan last month and contributed a track to the high-profile soundtrack for The Divergent Series: Insurgent. This weekend she’s headed to SlossFest where she’ll perform on Sunday.
Day, who moved from Arizona to Los Angeles last year, writes a particular brand of pop music which has drawn comparisons to current stars such as Lana del Rey and Lorde. But there’s a rustic, blues-oriented element to her songwriting that has helped to establish her as an up-and-comer in the mainstream music scene.
Speaking via email ahead of this weekend’s set, Day explained the sense of direction that has defined her career so far and which she hopes will continue to help her grow as an artist.
Weld: You’re from Pinetop, Ariz., which from what I’ve read is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Was there a music scene there for you to latch onto? And how has the town responded to your success?
Zella Day: The only music scene that was in existence during my time there was centered around my family’s coffee house. I was in the right place right time.
Weld: Your first single was a cover of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” What was it about that song that made it work as a launching part for your career?
ZD: That cover was a happy accident. I was in the studio tracking guitars for a different song when me and my friend started playing around with “Seven Nation Army.” My producer made us immediately go into the live room to record it. What you hear is the second pass that we did.
Weld: As someone relatively young moving into the established L.A. music scene, what has your experience been? Have there been people who tried to push your music in a certain direction, or have they given you creative freedom?
ZD: I have attracted and been attracted to people that believe in my artistic vision. I’ve had a clear direction since a very young age and the people that have come into my life have lifted me up adding to the project in the healthiest of ways.
Weld: A lot of your music blends radio pop with genres and sounds that aren’t typically part of radio pop, such as country-western and psychedelic elements. I think you’ve called your style “bohemian.” What draws you to those elements of your sound?
ZD: From childhood to now, I have been surrounded by beautiful bohemian women in my family. That sound and aesthetic you are talking about has always been a natural part of who I am.
Weld: There’s a strong storytelling element to your music as well. Who are your lyrical inspirations?
ZD: I’ve gotten deep within the lyrical worlds of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Lauryn Hill and Colin Blunstone.
Weld: Kicker includes a lot of songs that were originally released on your self-titled EP last year. Did you record all of those songs at the same time? And did the success of that early EP add any pressure to the creation of the subsequent album?
ZD: The record was written within the span of a year before I was signed to a label. I’m very grateful for the timing because my record was done by the time I was working with a major. During the writing process the only pressure that was applied was the pressure I put on myself to create something I would be proud of.
Weld: You often get categorized alongside artists like Lana Del Rey and Lorde. Is that frustrating or do you welcome the comparisons?
ZD: You can’t escape comparisons when you are a new artist. I’m looking forward to establishing myself even more so that I’m in a league all my own. I’m patient and am well aware that I am in a building phase.
Weld: Kicker just came out — but what’s next for Zella Day? Is there a certain direction you would like your career to take?
ZD: I would like this record to give me wings that take me far across the oceans to places I never imagined visiting. I want this album to teach me about the world through playing shows and encountering new experiences. I’m looking forward to tour.
Zella Day will perform at SlossFest’s Shed Stage on Sunday, July 19 from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.