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Zella Day has an incredible voice, a gorgeous musical vibe, a killer style, and the kind of warm personality that makes everyone instantly want to be her friend. Yep, this girl’s clearly the total package — and, with a name as cool as hers, what else would you expect? The Pinetop, AZ native has been performing for a few years now, and this summer’s release of her debut album Kicker proves her star is only burning brighter. Just after her record dropped, we called Zella in LA to chat about her new music video for “Jameson” and the life lessons she’s learned as an artist. Read our interview below, then check back here soon for even more on the 20-year-old (hint, hint!).
On her dream performance venues: I really want to perform at the Hollywood Bowl – that would definitely be one of my dreams. I would like to be in Europe, although touring around my own country is amazing, too. Just learning so much about America through these different performance dates…music has sort of served as my little ship where I can explore.
On how the “Jameson” video came about: It’s actually a funny story. I moved from Arizona to Long Beach, CA about two years ago. I was hanging out at the bay during the summer, and I met a guy named Dana Morris, who’s a talented filmmaker. He has a knack for shooting musicians, but he hasn’t done a ton of music videos. We had always talked about working together, but I hadn’t found the right track yet. I eventually wrote “Jameson” a year and a half later, and he immediately agreed to do it.
Anyway, we got into his 1960 Land Rover and headed off to Mammoth Mountain. We decided that the first shots would be at the hot springs, and we shot for a few minutes. But then, only about 20 minutes later, his car started leaking oil and broke down! It was awful. We were so disappointed because we were only able to do that one shot. We just figured that the whole thing wasn’t supposed to happen. Then, a few weeks later, I got an attachment in my email, and the attachment was the footage you see in “Jameson.” Somehow the light was perfect and the vibe of the video just fit. It’s just me, no makeup, in my overalls, and with a camera. It felt like a miracle!
On her goal for her album: My overall goal was for people to listen to it, relate to it, and then ask me to come their town. That seems to be happening a lot, which is so exciting. It really shows the connection between the listener and musician, and that’s everything I could ever ask for.
The experiences that define the record: The first song I wrote off the album was “Sweet Ophelia,” which dictated the feel sonically. It took getting out of my hometown and kind of finding myself in this new place as a young woman for me to come into my own musically. But, at the same time, embracing the place that I’m from. Living in Pinetop [Arizona], I always wanted to be in LA chasing after my dreams. But, I realized that what makes people so special is your background and those experiences that help shape you. Kicker starts out about embracing where you’re from and having an optimism about the future. It eventually takes a bit darker turn – I went through some traumatizing experiences out here – so when you’re listening to the album, you’re listening to my journey. Everything on the record is there for a reason, from the songs themselves to the order they’re in.
On her late-night debut for Conan: Oh my god, it was such an awesome experience. What’s wild is that the whole week basically revolves around this one, 3-minute performance. So there’s all this work and all this tension put into this small window of time, and then it’s basically over. That day was so crazy and I was so exhausted, I even had to take a nap on Conan’s couch before the show. [Laughs] The performance itself felt amazing – it felt comfortable and honestly, it felt like what I was supposed to do.