‘Kicker’: Singer/Songwriter Zella Day Talks New Album, Music and Inspiration
From her days performing her hypnotic blend of hook-laden music in Arizona coffee shops, it was only a matter of time before twenty-year old singer/songwriter Zella Day made the move to the larger pastures of the California music scene – and with impressive results!
Day’s debut album, Kicker is an introduction to Day both as an artist and person. Her hauntingly infectious songs personify the young singer as a cosmic force to be reckoned with.
Songs like “Hypnotic” and “Compass” lend themselves well to the self-conscious while tracks like “Jerome” offer up a revelation to the solace of home.
I recently spoke with Zella Day about Kicker, her music and where she finds her inspiration.
How would you describe Kicker?
This was such a big project for me and encapsulates so many elements of who I am and what I’ve been through. You really get a strong idea of who I am as a person by listening to this record. It’s very eclectic. There are elements of pop, ballads, outlaw country and even some desert gypsy rock.
What was the writing process like for you?
I have so many different voice memos on my phone and song titles in my notes. Sometimes I’ll have a chord progression that will be sitting around for a long time when the lyrics will suddenly hit me. Other times it may start out with just a title. It’s always different but I try to write a little something everyday. It’s important to keep your creative muscle strong and working. My most inspiring method though is just sitting down with an acoustic guitar and coming up with melodies. It’s what I’ve been doing nice I was nine years old.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Kicker. What can you tell me about the song, “Hypnotic”?
That song was actually written on acoustic guitar. I had my producer bring up a beat that I was really inspired by, wrote a progression and then did a little rap melody over it. That’s how it was born. The song sounds great acoustically, which is something that’s very important to me. Part of my roots are playing my acoustic guitar in coffee shops. So it’s important that these songs can be broken down to the basics.
“High” was written after I saw The National play a show in California. I was so inspired by that experience. I remember it was outside the Santa Barbara amphitheater and it was raining and the whole crowd was immersed in a blue light that they were shooting out from the stage. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. That’s where the line ‘blue line in the sky tonight’ comes from. I came home that night and wrote the song.
That song was written from a stream of consciousness. I like it when that happens. I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say while I’m in the moment but later find out that I’ve either taught myself a lesson or got something off of my chest that I needed to. In this case, I had just moved from Arizona to California and the more I listened to it the more I realized that it was a love song for my hometown. “Compass” was my revelation song.
That song was placed #1 on the album because the song is about the woman I was named after. She was the wife of a coal miner in 1842 in Jerome; the town where my parents got married. I didn’t know much about her but I’ve always had this idea of who she was and what the ghost of Zella is and our connection to each other. I wrote the song about her and am essentially introducing myself by name.
What was the recording process like and working with collaborators like Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry?
I’ve worked with them for a few years now and we have a great chemistry. We really know each others strengths and know how to write together. By being able to push through the hard moments we’ve been rewarded with good songs. We’ve written a lot of tracks together and I’m so lucky to be able to work with such talented people.
Did always know that music would be your calling?
I’ve always played music because it just feels right and have been grateful for everything I have and the shows that I play. Even when I was playing coffee shops; it’s how its always been. Every day feels really good right now.
What excites you the most about Kicker?
I’m really proud of every song on this record. I’m not moving forward feeling doubtful or self-conscious about the creative decisions I’ve made. I’m fully behind what I’ve created and put out into the world. Whatever happens, I have that foundation and am really excited to tour the new record and connect with people. There are no secrets and as a new artist I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
Official Website: http://www.zelladay.com/