Pop star Daya has been busier than most high-schoolers over the past two years. She has a self-titled EP (2015) that shot up the Billboard charts, a hit single,"Hide Away," a Grammy for her collaboration with the Chainsmokers, "Don't Let Me Down," and a national headlining tour under way.
While her peers were worrying about colleges and career paths, eighteen-year-old Daya was cementing herself as one of the biggest pop players on the circuit today, all while attending Pittsburgh's Mt. Lebanon High School, from which she graduated last June.
Her debut album, Sit Still, Look Pretty (October 2016), features more of her familiar electronic synth-pop sound, accompanied by a vocal range envied by singers twice her age.
We asked Daya about her newfound success and celebrity ahead of her March 22 tour stop in Denver.
Westword: First off, how's the tour going?
Daya: It’s incredible! This is my first time on a headlining run, and I built this tour from the bottom up with my team, so it’s extra special to me. We spent a lot of rehearsal hours assembling a show from scratch, and to be able to live it out each night with a different audience has been truly magical. I feed off the energy of the crowd every night, so even though it’s the same songs, it never feels boring. During the last couple of shows, I’ve performed my newest song with Gryffin & Illenium called “Feel Good,” which definitely elevates the show to a new level of energy, and it's been fun seeing the crowd's reaction to it.
It hasn’t even been two years since your self-titled EP came out, and you’re currently one of the most popular pop singers out there. Can you put into words what the past year-plus has been like for you? What was the hardest thing to adapt to at first?
It’s been insane. I haven’t slowed down enough since to really let everything sink in, but I feel more and more inspired every day. The hardest part to adapt to was probably losing a bit of my privacy, but I've found ways to manage that by now. Also, finding the energy to get through a day of interviews is difficult after having flown across the country that same morning. When "Hide Away" first started gaining a bit of momentum, I was visiting at least two radio stations per day – sometimes in different cities – to spread the word about the song. It was a hustle, but so worth it.
Experiencing so much in the industry before graduating from high school, did you expect the amount of success you’ve had thus far, with the hit single and Grammy award?
Yes and no. I think in order to accomplish anything in life, you have to visualize yourself there — accepting the award, hearing your song on the radio, whatever it is — or you lose the willpower and the drive. But on the other hand, this all started with a simple songwriting session, and it's taken off in faster ways than I ever could have truly visualized or imagined. It’s been a whirlwind, and many moments feel truly surreal, but it’s also been a lot of hard work. It challenges me to stay ambitious and continue to set the bar higher for myself.
Are there some days when you have to remind yourself this is real life?
Definitely!! Life feels like such a fantasy right now. From leaving Pittsburgh at the end of my junior year to now being in the middle of my first headlining tour, I've been on the road pretty much every single day, so much that it feels like a new normal to me. I went back to Pittsburgh last June for my prom and graduation, which was when it really hit how different my day-to-day life had become in such a short time, and it was definitely a weird pinch-me moment. Grammy day was by far the most surreal, and after getting up on stage and giving an acceptance speech, it took several people to convince me that it was not in fact a dream.
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Lastly, what does the future hold for Daya, musically and personally?
So much! I'm always working on new projects. Throughout the past two years, I’ve learned so much about myself both creatively and personally, and it's cool, because now, after my debut release, I'm in a space where I can explore a bit with my artistry and my sound. I'm just so grateful for all the support, and fans will have to stay tuned for what's next!
Daya will play the Bluebird Theater, Wednesday, March 22, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Jess Kent will open.