Singer/songwriter Andra Day first caught our attention when she posted a video of herself covering Notorious B.I.G and Marvin Gaye in a creatively refreshing mash-up on YouTube.
The San Diego-raised singer’s voice is overwhelmingly soulful and melodic, yet riddled with very apparent jazz influences.
Like most up-and-coming singers, Andra has found herself in a few precarious situations with questionable characters. Her run-in with music’s most notorious mover and shakers actually landed her on a telephone call with the legendary R&B singer Stevie Wonder.
GlobalGrind caught up with the busy songstress to discuss her rise to fame and the stigma of being labeled a “YouTube” star, growing up in San Diego, and her forthcoming new project.
Andra is definitely a starlet music lovers should keep their eyes on.
Check out our exclusive interview below!
Who are you listening to right now? Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
Like current contemporary artists?
I always tell people I love voices. I love Adele and Amy Winehouse as well. I love different eclectic bands. I love Phoenix and Kimber. Florence + The Machine is amazing. Muse’s new album actually is pretty phenomenal, so I’m listening to that. Then, I have classical stuff. I still listen to Billie Holiday. She’s always in my car. I love the Black Keys, because I love that guy’s voice. I listen to R&B as well. Brandy’s new album is killing it for me. I like it. I listen to a lot of stuff. Nas’ new album too, is actually one of my favorites.
Yeah, Life is Good is really good.
That Amy track he has in there!
It’s so good, so so good!
What made you want to combine Biggie Smalls with Marvin Gaye, and do a mash-up cover?
My sister and I – she’s a musician – we jam all the time. We always play around for giggles with stuff that seem unconventional, or stuff that seems funny. A lot of the stuff sometimes is just a response from jam sessions in her room, so she’ll be on the guitar or the keyboard, and we’ll just start singing and doing stuff. She stumbled across the Biggie chords online, and so she found the guitar chords and then the piano chords, and she started playing. We started singing it and playing around. She was like “You have to do it!” I told my manager, and for some reason I started singing the Marvin Gaye song to the Biggie track, and it just kind of blended really well. From that, we actually pieced it together and I presented it to manager who said, “Yo, that’s dope! We have to record it.” That’s kind of how the whole thing came about, from a simple jam session with my sister.
What’s your favorite thing to do besides making music?
That’s hard! Let’s see, I like watching movies. I like grilling. I like sports – I love football – I liked basketball back in Jordan’s days and I kind of let go of it, but I recently got back into it. I really like football though. I’m a big football fan. I like reading. I like the beach. The beach is a really big thing for me; I’m a water bug. I like going to the beach and just chilling or wakeboarding, skimboarding…there’s a few things I like. I’m not very good at cooking. I like cooking, but I just suck at it. I like it, but other people don’t like when I cook. I like barbecuing and all that stuff. Then drawing! Sketching I’m okay at it, so I like to brush up on that.
If I sent you to a deserted island and you could only bring three albums, what three albums would you bring?
Billie Holiday’s Carelessly. I would definitely bring that…this is the hardest question in the whole world. I’d probably bring “Every Word” because the writing on that is just amazing. I’d probably pick any Rakim album. I have to have hip-hop in there. I’d probably go with Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. I know that’s kind of a random selection, but that’s like all of the influences I like.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I struggled academically in high school, because it was hard to focus. It was hard to focus on those things that were other than artistic stuff.
Most artists aren’t really into school.
I’m actually into school right now. I’m back in school.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Other than music?
Meatballs! It’s a very true statement. I don’t think I’d be able to survive without them. Meatballs are very important to me. They’re important to my career, this whole operation. [Laugh] I don’t know. Oh! Bandannas. I’d have to do my hair and life would be miserable.
He’s very, very humble.
I’m attracted to Phillip Rivers because he carries the Chargers on his back. Go team!
Who are you dying to collaborate with?
I’d say Stevie Wonder, I couldn’t believe that I’d even meet him or even be working with him. Outkast would be one of them. John Legend as well.
What upcoming music projects are you working on? Are you working on an album or a free EP right now?
We’re finished the album already. Right now, we’re taking our time. We’ve been approached by several people, so we’re looking to pick a partner. We’re just playing it by ear. We’re not in a rush to do anything. We’re just working on a couple of other songs. If any collaborations come up in the future, we’ll definitely take them. I’m definitely about trying everything. If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t…the album is finished, and it will be out hopefully soon.
I want your perspective on artists who are making a lane for themselves via YouTube. Karmin started doing covers on YouTube and now they have a deal with Epic. How do you feel about being labeled as an internet celebrity or a YouTube star?
It’s amazing to me because I am a self-starter in that way. I like to initiate things, and you have to work hard, in order to do it. I really love YouTube as a platform, because it’s hard for labels to take a chance on things. I feel like platforms like YouTube, where people are really gaining a following and traction. It kind of shows labels that you can’t keep using the same formula. You can’t use the same cookie-cutter formula to break artists because people want real things. They want things they can relate to. They want things that can wow them; things that can genuinely wow them – Not that “flash in the pan” type of thing – Real talented people and people who have drive. I respect artists who do that. Obviously, I have a heart for YouTube and artists who make it that way. It breaks the mold. It forces labels to take a chance, and to really say, “We have to invest in this if we want to survive.” I really do appreciate that as a platform and artists who used that as a platform. Take their career into their own hands.
Check out Andra Day on Twitter @AndraDayMusic