Ultra-talented songstress Zella Day is set to play Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night with Coasts, and so I thought we could do a little throwback to an in-person chit-chat I had with her after a jam-packed CMJ gig at Santos Party House in the fall. During our talk (she is a total charmer, by the way) we covered what it’s been like to hit the big stages from humble coffee shop beginnings, as well as the transition from life in rural Pinetop, Arizona to bustling LA. Read up on all that below, and then 1. catch Zella live tomorrow night, 2. pre-order her forthcoming debut LP Kicker (out 6.2.2015 on Pinetop Records // Hollywood Records) and 3. be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news. HERE WE GO:
So you’re obviously super comfortable on stage, but did it take some getting used to to go to this type of environment from the coffee shop circuit?
Of course! I’m still finding myself on stage with the band, but I’ve been feeling more and more comfortable as time has gone on, and at this point, I feel like I’ve got some flexibility and can take some risks as far as the performance goes. When I was playing at coffee shops, it was just me and a guitar, you know? It was very limited. But now I’ve got the support behind me so I can perform more, and I’m really finding that performer inside of me.
Amazing! And on the flip-side of that, what is your writing process generally like?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but now that I’ve been working in the studio more and more, that’s where a lot of it happens.
So do you have a preference for either the writing or the performing, then?
I really like both. Writing allows me to express what I’m feeling, and it all starts there. But man, I love being on stage so much; I love connecting with people, and being able to invoke emotion in other people is what really invokes emotion in me. So I’m definitely looking forward to touring, because as much as I love my home, I’m ready to go. I feel like I was born to do this.
I mean, you completely seem like it! And when you say “home”, you’re referring to LA now, right? How long have you been there?
I’ve been in LA-LA living in Silver Lake for about three months, but from Arizona I moved to Long Beach where I lived for two years before the move to LA.
How do you feel that geographical shift affected your productivity, if at all? Because for me, there was definitely a period of just being fascinated about living in a big city when I first moved to New York, and I definitely had to find that balance between work and distraction.
It’s actually been amazing, because when I lived in Long Beach, the commute to LA was about forty-five minutes each way, and I was losing a lot of time in the studio. (Plus driving on the freeway is dangerous, as square as that sounds, but it’s true, so that was hard.) But to move to LA was very significant for me in that the music was ready, I was ready (because I’d been writing and recording), and it really has just been going faster than it ever has before. I feel like Long Beach was kind of a resting place, or a preparation place, but once I got to LA, I was just completely ready to go for it.
That’s fantastic, congratulations! And so even though it sounds like you’re very busy, then, what could we find you doing on your ideal day off from work?
Well, I’m currently very distracted by just being in my own home, because I just moved out of my mom’s house, and so I’m living alone for the first time. I’m very consumed in nesting, and I think it’s important, because I’m getting ready to go on tour, and I want a place to come back to that’s my little sanctuary, my little quiet space, so I’m very focused on making that how I want it to be. I bought a cabin, pretty much, in Silver Lake, so it’s very reflective of where I’m from; when I walked in I just thought, “Oh wow, this smells just like Pinetop!” because of all the wood finishing, and it just really does feel like home. So I’m creating my space right now and I’m just consumed with going to the flea markets and buying art to fill the house. (Kind of boring I guess, but it fluctuates!)
No, I feel you…I’m from Virginia, and I never realized how much of an outdoors-y person I actually was until I moved here, so anytime that I’m in a space that feels more like home, it’s always just a nice break from the concrete jungle effect.
I’m the same way. I moved to LA and I was like, “Get me out of this small town! I just need to be in a big city!”, and now that I’m IN the big city, I CRAVE isolation. And it’s almost like something that you had no idea you needed, but how you were raised and how you grew up is just ingrained in you, and you can’t change it no matter how hard you try. If I would have grown up in LA I’m sure it would have been very different for me, but I didn’t, and so I need the mountains, and that cabin is as close as I’m going to get in LA proper. So that’s what I’m doing right now. [Laughs]