November 16, 2016
Few recording artists have had as rapid a rise to fame in 2016 as Daya. Little more than a year ago, she was “living a fairly normal life.” Then Sit Still, Look Pretty came out. There’s nothing normal about the Pennsylvania native’s life now. We caught up with the fast-moving artist recently to ask about her sudden success, musical influences, nomination for an American Music Award and streaming in the age of digital music.
SoundExchange: You’ve had quite a year since the release of your EP in September 2015. Fans really embraced the EP, and they like your positive songs about empowerment. Your new album, Sit Still, Look Pretty, came out recently. Can you describe the album for us? Musically, does it resemble the first EP?
Daya: I’m so excited that my debut album, Sit Still, Look Pretty, is finally out into the world!! I’ve spent the past year working on it in the studio with my co-writers—every song on it carries a piece of me and I truly believe there is something in there for everyone who listens. Sonically, it leans a little more electro-pop with some cool beat drops and synths. I worked with a lot of talented, new producers for this album and I think we put together something really awesome and unique. Lyrically, it continues on the subjects of female empowerment, youth, and self-development because those topics are all relevant in my life currently. There are a few love ballads in there and some up-tempo summer jams. The feedback has been incredible so far and as more and more people hear it, I’m stoked to see how they react!
SoundExchange: Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you were roaming the halls of a high school rather than hitting stages across the country? What advice or guidance have you received from other artists that has helped you throughout this first tour? Do you have any advice for young up-and-comers in the music biz?
Daya: It’s crazy to me that two years ago I was just a girl in high school living a fairly normal life and now I’m touring the world with my songs. There are definitely certain people and things that I miss from time to time, but then I think of the exhilaration of performing in front of thousands of people and I know that this is what I should be doing with my life without a doubt. The best advice I’ve received is to listen to myself, which can honestly be the hardest thing to do sometimes when I feel like I’m being pulled in so many different directions. I would recommend the same for any new artists trying to make it: stay true to your authentic self because at the end of the day that’s what makes you unique and makes the world want to listen.
SoundExchange: Who do you look up to musically? And you’re not the only female singer from the Pittsburgh area, so we have to ask whether Pittsburgh area’s Christina Aguilera has influenced you at all?
Daya: I pulled a lot of my inspiration early on from Amy Winehouse. Her voice was so incredibly powerful yet vulnerable, and its uniqueness made me excited to find my own sound. Also, yes, I love that Christina Aguilera is from Pittsburgh too—she is a true legend and such an inspiration.
SoundExchange: The music business has changed dramatically over the past few years with the rise of digital music. How important is revenue from streaming?
Daya: The way people listen to music is changing so rapidly that eventually almost everyone will be streaming music instead of buying it. So, yes, I do think it’s important for music creators to receive revenue through streaming because at some point that will be the only way for them to be paid for their work.
SoundExchange: You come from a pretty big family; you’re one of five girls! Growing up, I imagine that you often wanted a break. Where did you go to “hide away?”
Daya: I guess the piano was my “hide away” growing up. I’d always be writing or working out new covers or just improvising. It was a nice, refreshing escape from the world where I could live in my own separate reality for a bit.
SoundExchange: Your certified Platinum debut single “Hide Away” spent 23 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and peaked at #23. Your sophomore single and album’s title track, “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” reached #28 on the Hot 100. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind this song; what message are you trying to relay?
Daya: “Sit Still, Look Pretty” is my favorite song from the album lyrically. It embodies the independent feel of the album. It talks about being a girl and not feeling limited as to what we can accomplish in life. We don’t need a guy to depend on or to find our happiness; we can find that within ourselves instead.
SoundExchange: Finally, you were nominated for an American Music Award for Collaboration of the Year for your vocals on The Chainsmokers’ hit single, “Don’t Let Me Down.” Congratulations! How did it feel to earn an AMA nod and what was it like working with The Chainsmokers?
Daya: It honestly feels so surreal. The AMAs were the first award show I attended last year when I was a new artist and I remember watching from the back of the theater, separate from the madness. Now, I get to be a part of it just one year later with a song nomination for Collaboration of the Year. I’m so glad I get to share it with The Chainsmokers—they have been amazing to work with this past year. It’s crazy how much has changed in such a short amount of time, but I’m so thankful for the support I’ve gotten from everyone along the way. It’s gonna be a fun night!