When most were planning for homecoming and what their license photo was going to look like, Daya was already a working musician. So we wasted no time getting into what it was like being a teen taking flights to live the dream many talented people can only wish for. We also got into what’s helped keep her head on straight, and more like her latest single, “Downtown,” and more!
Kendra: You’ve been writing since middle school and when most people were in driver’s ed, you were working as a musician, taking flights, performing, and seeing the world. You’ve noted that you know you’ve missed out on some things, but in hindsight – what’s a lesson you’ve learned in the real world that you feel grateful to have had sooner in life than later that perhaps your peers are still waiting to learn?
Daya: I don’t know what anyone else’s journey looks like, but I think I learned a lot about the nature of people, and especially about myself. I had to confront a lot of my own inner issues possibly earlier than I would have because everything was all so public-facing all of a sudden. But I’m really grateful for it because I think learning how to authentically be yourself and be accepting of it is one of the most important things you can learn in life, and also makes you realize how little other peoples’ opinions really do matter.
Kendra: Again, you’ve been out there, you’ve been getting things done from working with The Chainsmokers to becoming a Grammy winner before you could legally buy a drink. I recently connected with another artist who had a similar path as you and it seems like a lot of pressure at that age to handle that level of success. What’s helped keep you grounded mentally?
Daya: My family is the main thing. I come from a big family with four sisters, and they all live very different lives, which helps to put things into perspective, good and bad. Cultivating relationships within a community and with friends is also really important because ultimately even if you do reach those career markers, it won’t matter if those relationships aren’t there and there isn’t a team that you can trust to rally around you.
Kendra: You also came out swinging with albums like ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty,’ and as a “Girl Power” gal with a Spice Girl-shaped heart, I think that was such a telling title for a young woman in the industry, and you’ve said that when it comes to your craft – creative control is key. Starting as young as you did, do you feel you had to put up more of a fight for that?
Daya: When I first entered the industry I honestly had a hard time advocating for myself because I didn’t want to overstep at the risk of losing what I’d already gained. But as I grew up I started to tap into that power more, and it definitely caused some tension with people I was working with who wanted me to stay a certain version of me as an artist.
I understand now that it was just easier for them and they probably didn’t mean any real harm, but it also helped me to actively seek out people who would be supportive of my vision and my music no matter what, which has been one of the most beneficial things in my career so far. I’m proud of myself for sticking to my guns in those moments and feel like it also helped shape me into the artist I am today.
Kendra: Are there any artists whose careers you were inspired by like, yeah – that’s the path I’d like to have when it comes to owning what I do and doing what I want with my music?
Daya: Frank Ocean has always been a guiding light in that sense. The way he released ‘Blonde’ independently just felt so empowering and inspiring. He’s just always set his own rules and not cared what others think and that’s always been very motivating to me.
Kendra: So let’s talk about “Downtown.” It’s your latest single and in many ways, it feels like the start of the next chapter of your already impressive career. I’ve always appreciated artists who aren’t afraid to allow their sound to grow with time. What sort of started to transpire in your life that made you lean towards a different direction with this track?
Daya: I was spending a lot of time writing sad breakup songs for the previous year or, so and got kind of tired of it, to be honest. I was craving a more intense and bolder energy with things. I love songs that feel like they’re putting a finger on the pulse of the moment. I also feel like there’s been a cultural shift recently towards community and friends and a more universal/communal love, and I’ve recently been feeling more inspired to capture those types of feelings and moments. I kind of just wanted to have fun with it and see what would come out.
Kendra: Lastly, with “Juliene” and “Downtown” out now and more on the way, what else can people expect as we continue toward the new year?
Daya: I’m working on a few things that I’m very excited about. Now that I’m independent, it’s been very motivating to set my own timeline and release songs much closer to their creation, so the flow feels more organic instead of waiting months or years before a song comes out. I feel the most creatively inspired and free that I’ve ever been and I can’t wait to share it all very soon.