At 16 years old, Zella Day had already walked away from a major record deal (and television offers from Disney and Nickelodeon).
At 20, the Arizona indie-pop-songstress has all the hype of a rising star.
“My age had a lot to do with my mindset,” Day says during a phone interview in advance of her New Rock 104.1-sponsored show Saturday, Sept. 26 at Strummer’s.
“Being 16 years old, you don’t think about the consequences of saying no.”
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Consequently, Day became a success on her own terms.
Some critics have called Zella Day a happier-sounding Lana Del Rey.
Indeed, the singer has mentions in hip publications like Fader, Nylon and Paste Magazine, and full-on features in Teen Vogue, V Magazine and Playboy (as an “Artist to Watch.” She was fully clothed). She’s been at the top of Hype Machine’s popular chart nine times and her song “Hypnotic” was an iTunes Single of the Week. She recently performed at Billboard’s inaugural Hot 100 Festival and at last weekend’s iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.
That one put her on a bill with Kanye West, Demi Lovato, Kenny Chesney and The Killers.
Her music has been featured in the movie “Insurgent” and on the trailer for Disney’s upcoming “The Finest Hours.”
Her latest album, “Kicker,” was released in June and is an elevated version of what Day played starting out as an acoustic singer-songwriter. It is big, organic pop rock, she says.
It’s music purposefully designed to sonically fill a venue like the Hollywood Bowl, while appealing to the singer’s sense of lyrical poetry. She is inspired by the strong vein of poetry that runs through the music of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.
“They are playing music, but they are also painting pictures,” Day says.
After a summer filled with playing big-name festivals (Lollapalooza, Nashville’s Live on the Green), the singer is in the final stretch of a run of West Coast tour dates. She leaves for a European tour in November.
Being on the road has been a challenge, Day says. It requires a different skill set than she was used to in the studio writing and recording.
For one thing, she misses her dog – a miniature Golden Labradoodle she’s had since she was 17. The dog is at home with her family, which means there’s lots of pictures “and/or FaceTime and speaker phone chats,” Day says.
“It hasn’t been easy.”
There’s a whole different skill set that comes into play when you’re on the road.