No matter how you look at it, Zella Day‘s star is rising. In the past year, the 20-year old native of tiny ranch town Pinetop, Arizona has released a hugely successful eponymous EP, played SXSW and toured the US, contributed a song to the blockbuster Insurgent soundtrack, become the subject of a mini-documentary for Free People and been named to countless watch-lists – including Billboard’s Tomorrow Hits and Teen Vogue’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2015 (the full-length album in question, Kicker, will be released on June 2nd). Ethereal yet gritty, Zella somehow manages to make modern pop sound distinctly Americana, whether on the aching ballads like the slow-burning “Compass” or synth anthems like the sweeping “Hypnotic.” We caught up with the alt-pop wunderkind ahead of her show at DC9 this Wednesday, May 6th.
Zella also just dropped a brand new single: “High.” Stream it below.
What is coming up for you this summer? I know your album comes out on June 2nd, but what else are you excited about?
I’m looking forward to playing firefly and lollapalooza. This is my first year being a part of the festival circuit, it feels good to be amongst artists I admire.
Can you talk a little bit about Kicker? What’s different about the new tracks from those released on the EP? What’s it like being on the verge of your first full-length release?
Kicker is a name that has long been a part of my artistic background. He was an early influence in the beginning when I was discovering my creative abilities. The record is progressive for the listeners as the deeper tracks lean more rock. The EP (which will be included on the record) introduced a pop heavy sound that lightens up on the full length.
You have said before in interviews that your upbringing in small-town Arizona has informed your music. Can you tell us more about that?
My small town upbringing has been transferable during my growth in L.A. I spent all of my time back home writing songs on the guitar without anybody telling me what I could or couldn’t do. I have a healthy relationship with the music in my life because everything I’ve created is authentic, just like it was in Pinetop. The simplicity remains.
What is your writing and recording process like? Where do you find inspiration and how do you translate that into your music?
I will never cease in creating music. I’m documenting my life how it is, how it was and how it will be. My inspirations come from people, story books and spiritual ideology.
What other artists are you excited about lately?
I’ve heard that Frank Ocean is making a new album. I’m a big fan of his. I’ve gotten into Twin Shadow and Delta Spirit‘s new record as well. “Gooey” by Glass Animals, “Hold Me Down” by Mansionair, “You Can’t Talk To Me Like That” by Nikki Lane, “Love Like Ghosts” by Lord Huron.
What has been your favorite moment on tour thus far? Favorite venue/stop?
Riding bikes through the Commons in Boston and eating Mexican food in Nebraska. Lincoln Hall in Chicago currently holds my heart.
If you’re in DC this week, catch Zella Day live on Wednesday, May 6th at DC9. Tickets available here.