Meet Andra Day, the Bombshell Jazz Vocalist You Need to Know
You probably haven’t heard of Andra Day yet, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put her on your “to-listen-to” list right now. Day just finished up a national tour with the likes of rock legend Lenny Kravitz himself, serving up her swelling, powerful ballads to large audiences for the very first time. But, what Day lacks in performance experience, she makes up for in soulful, heart bearing emotion. And while comparisons between Day and Amy Winehouse have been drawn by critics, her vocal narratives are slightly more wholesome than the late, great Winehouse. Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, it just means your mom will enjoy her just as much as you do. We caught up with Day while she was on tour and spoke with her about what it was like touring with Kravitz, and the challenges of keeping jazz music relevant in 2015. Check out the interview and an acoustic performance of her song “Rearview” below.
Victoria Durden: What’s it like touring with Lenny Kravitz?
Andra Day: It is amazing actually. Really everyone, him and his staff, his band has been amazing and so hospitable. I feel so honored to be on tour with them. And the audience was fantastic they seem to be really connecting with the music as well which is the most important thing for me.
VD: This is your first national tour right?
AD: Yes, I’m pretty fortunate to be doing my first tour with Lenny Kravitz. Yes, this is my first time performing my own songs in front of such a large audience, I’ve done anthems before in large stadiums but not my own music in front of such a large audience, so it’s really cool.
VD: Does performing in front of large audience come as easy to you as just making music?
AD: I think so. I enjoy both equally as much. I feel just as much pressure sometimes when I sit down to write a song as I do when I hit the stage with a new audience. Both of them are my favorite aspects of being a recording artist and a performing musician. Previously, I probably would have said I liked recording better but now performing in front of the audiences, it feels like I’m telling a story and it really gives me a platform to deliver my artform.
VD: What do you think of the comparisons between your music and that of artists like Amy Winehouse and Adele? Are they valid?
AD: I honestly cannot stand being compared to amazing jazz vocalists. Haha!!! Just kidding. It’s so flattering these are women who were and are amazing jazz vocalists and have interesting voices and told their story with an open heart and mind on record. So, absolutely no qualms here at all being compared to Winehouse and Adele.
VD: I like what you’re doing because I feel like it makes jazz music palatable in a time when I feel like it has lost hold with mainstream audiences. Who were your favorite jazz artists?
AD: I love the classic jazz vocalists, like Billie Holiday. Billie is so interesting because she was a phenomenal jazz singer because outside of technicality, she was so able to deliver an emotion. She really made you feel exactly what she was singing. I feel like sometimes with jazz, you get so technical, but I think it takes a giant of jazz to be able to deliver the emotion to the audience as well.
VD: Do you think that adding pop sensibilities into jazz music is necessary to maintain its relevance?
AD: I think it takes a certain person’s ear to be able to sing jazz, but it also takes a certain way to be able to translate it to an audience. I think a lot of times Jazz artists are fearful of the audience. Because, you have people who are jazz purists and they want to delineate what is jazz and what isn’t. I’m sure there are people who will listen to my music and will say “this is terrible this isn’t jazz,” but for me as an artist you’re supposed to convey a message with a style that you like and a feeling and, to evoke a feeling you can’t be afraid of mixing genres– that is what I was thinking about as I endeavored to make the album. I know that jazz is what I do. And what I love and what I learned, but at the same time my mother loves Fleetwood Mac and The Carpenters and my father loves Motown records and soul music, and I didn’t want to be afraid to play around with different sounds. And I think honestly that a lot of the jazz greats like Charlie Parker, they weren’t afraid of experimentation, that’s how we got a lot of the greats. That’s how we got hip hop. And, I think that people forget that. Experimentation has always been a part of jazz culture.
VD: Finally, please tell us how can we achieve your signature vintage look?
AD: Don’t work too hard at it. I’m obsessed with Lucille Ball, everything from her red lips to her style and her hairdo, so she is definitely my style icon and inspiration. But to achieve my look I follow this basic formula: Eyeliner, lip sitck, a pin up hairdo, and then also make the look yours through accessorizing. Take the basic aesthetics and then don’t be afraid to add elements that are more you.