Galore Darling: Zella Day Is Our New Zest For Life
Hailing from a small town in Arizona, singer/songwriter Ms. Zella Day looks like she was born in the wrong era. With her tousled blonde locks, nose ring, and laid back rockstar kind of cool that can’t be forced, the indie songstress looks like a true hippie from the 70s. Her music on the other hand, while certainly rock-esque, weaves in pop vocals and indie undertones and produces tracks that are unlike anything you’ve heard before.
I sat down with Zella in NYC last week and found out that the engaging and open songstress is also intense, determined, and a force to be reckoned with. Considering her only music video thus far for her first single “Sweet Ophelia” dropped this year and is already at over 300,000 views, it’s pretty obvious that this L.A. based musician is only going to get bigger. Ms. Day opened up to me about her inspirations, her roots, and her obsession with Jack White.
Your latest EP, where did it come from?
It comes from a lot of different places. Each song is a standalone entity. When combined they represent my personal experience of my move to California. I’m from Arizona so I’ve been in this state of observing since I’ve moved.
Do you have a favorite song or visual that you’ve produced?
I’m so proud of “Sweet Ophelia”. Proud because it was a low budget video that I made with a friend. I was very involved in the entire process, so a lot of what you’re seeing is my heavy influence. We went in there and shot it in a day and everything I envisioned it being it is. As far as having a favorite song, it’s always the most recent one I’ve written so it’s always changing and fluctuating. For preforming, my favorite is “Jameson,” which isn’t going to be released until my album next year.
Check the video out here.
Favorite venue or place to preform?
So far it was in LA at the Bardot. It’s a beautiful venue with these red curtains and a ton of artwork. And the audience is right in front of you, it’s very intimate, which I like cause I’m used to performing in coffee houses.
How would you describe yourself as a performer?
I take a lot of pride in my performances because usually people say that I sound better live than I do on recording, which I kind of feel as well. I have been performing for longer than I’ve been recording so I’m very much at home on stage.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a musician?
A long time ago. It wasn’t even that I woke up one day and decided this over something else. Music was just always a very organic, natural evolution in my life. I started playing at a young age and it always seemed like doors were opening for me. I kept taking opportunities and working hard and I’ve ended up here. It was never really a decision, more just a path that I’ve taken.
Any female musicians that you inspire you?
I have a few. Right now I’m so into Stevie Nicks. I love Joni Mitchell. Her lyrics are insane. I could really listen to her speak and sing for days. Also Janis Joplin, who’s a new one for me. I remember being young and hearing her for the first time and being like “ew it sounds like she’s smoking mom.” But now I just get it. Her soulful quality and as a performer she’s just insane. Those three are just paradigm for me.
Instruments you play?
Mostly just guitar. I know chords on the piano but I’m not fluent. I’m planning on learning banjo. I think it would be the most random thing to pick up at a party and be like did you know, I can play the banjo!?
East Coast versus West Coast crowds?
It always just depends on the kind of people there and the night. It’s hard for me to be comfortable when I’m not getting much back from the crowd. I’m extremely sensitive to the vibes from the audience. When I played the Brooklyn Bowl last week everyone was super cool and receptive. I’ve been really happy to find that people don’t want to go to a show and be disappointed. In general people are there because they want a good show as much as I want to put on a good show, and that can be anywhere.
Is there one relationship in particular that has inspired a lot of your songs?
Yes. Well there’s a couple. I fell in love for the first time when I was young. So I’ve been writing heartbreak songs for a long time [laughs]. But I’m really inspired by love because there’s a lot of different kinds. There’s happy love and sad love and excited love and mysterious love. I definitely pull from that. Recently, I just had my heartbroken like I never have before. So there’s been a couple of songs where I’m just like wow, I can’t believe that just came out of me. Like that’s really serious, and really dark. Right now, yes, there is a specific person that almost every time I sit down to write, they’re very present.
Moment where you knew that you were on the right track in your career
I’ve been really lucky. There have been a lot of people in the music industry who I respect, and who have worked with a lot of really great artists and seen a lot, have listened to me, and told me I was gonna do great. Or when I released “Sweet Ophelia,” my first single, and I was reading my reviews and how people were processing my music and there wasn’t really any negativity going on. That at the end of the day is really a sink or swim moment.
Person you most want to meet?
If I met Jack White, I would act at least a little bit stupid. I would be like, I don’t even know what to say to you or what to talk about. He was a really big part of why I started playing guitar. One of the first songs I learned was “I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends.” I was playing it at all of my talent shows growing up. The White Stripes were risk takers, they showed me that I could try a bunch of different things with music and experiment.
Artists that inspire you?
I’ve never had an artist that I tried to emulate. There are so many artists that I respect and admire. But I’ve never picked one and tried to be them. Because I want to do something that no one’s ever done before. it’s really hard to do because it’s uncharted territory. I’m aiming for when somebody is talking to a new artist and says to them, hey you sound like Zella Day. I want to get that point where nothing’s comparable, cause I’m on my own.
Dream person you’d like to collaborate with?
Always changing. I’ve been listening to a lot of Kitty Wells. The first song I ever heard of her’s was Honky Tonk angels. She’s hilarious and sassy with this twangy, bluegrass thing going on. I also really love June Carter and early Dolly Parton. That’s also definitely a part of who I am. I want to do a full on, stripped down, acoustic, 60’s country western album.
What do you do on your days off?
I just moved into a cabin in Silver Lake, so I’m obsessed with decorating it. Moving around all my trinkets and burning lots of incense. I’m a homebody. I run, do yoga, I have a dog that I love. She’s awesome. I go surfing whenever I can.
Goals for the immediate future?
Headline tour would be amazing. I’m thinking early next year. Let this EP really live through December and then early February hit the road. Also a new music video. Either for “Hypnotic” or “East of Eden.”
Photos courtesy of blog.freepeople.com; stay tuned for their documentary short with Zella coming soon!