Next Wave #627: Zella Day

Glamorous pop perfectionist with a smalltown feel...

Zella Day may well be hot property in the pop world but the American artist remains a small town girl at heart. Recently playing an intimate London show, the bashful performer struggled to gain access to her own concert.

“It was funny, actually, there was a moment when I could not get in to the room. Everybody was blocked because it was overcrowded and I couldn't even really make it into the green room. I thought I was going to be late for my own show! I made it in the end.”

Such anonymity is hardly likely to last, however. Tracks such as '1965' epitomise the singer's lush, grandiose take on the pop template, with her pointed lyrical flair matched against a wonderful voice which soars up into the heavens before swooping down to the valleys below.

“I mean, I always tend to switch between my falsetto and singing from my deep baritone voice, if you will. The melodies are very natural,” she says. “I've never had voice lessons. I've never had voice lessons. I've just been singing since I was a child, and never stopped.”

Currently working on her debut album, Zella Day tends to operate on pure feeling. For each track, what first emerges is wordless, vague, driven entirely by atmosphere – then the songwriter hones, refines her ideas, like a sculptor turning base clay into something precious.

“At first, it starts out as like a stream of consciousness, for me,” she explains. “And then, it's just all of these ideas out on a piece of paper, or wherever it is. It eventually starts to make sense. For me, that's how music is really therapeutic because I write without thinking about it. It's just a feeling. It's something that needs to come out.”

This process of sculpting and refining, though, has turned the songwriter into something of a perfectionist. “I'm not willing to release anything that I don't love or feel like is my best work,” she admits.

“I think I know the difference between being inspired and hard work. That's sometimes what separates musicians, the ones that are willing to really sit in the studio and be very careful about what they do. I like listening to records and artists that have a very clear idea of what they want to say.”

– – –

WHAT: Glamorous pop perfection
WHERE: Silverlake, Los Angeles
3 SONGS: '1965', 'Sweet Ophelia', 'Hypnotic'

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