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Andra Day

The new classic soul singer is about her faith, her San Diego Chargers, X-Men, and the moment to ‘Rise Up’

She’s already been compared to Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse, and Eartha Kitt. Her first album, 2015’s Cheers to the Fall, was produced by Raphael Saadiq, featured drum work from Questlove — and has been nominated for a Grammy. From Spokane, Washington, and brought up in San Diego, Andra Day has already sung at the White House. She has already performed at Radio City Music Hall with Elton John and Katy Perry. She has already recorded a cover of Mississippi Goddamn for Netflix’s What Happened, Miss Simone. She has already been called out for her genius by none other than Stevie Wonder.

Already, Andra Day — who started out singing in church and graduated from a performing arts high school — is on the road to superstardom. The second single from Cheers, the inspirational Rise Up, has quickly become, in these tumultuous times, a prerequisite for group introspection and healing. I’ll rise up / I’ll rise like the day / I’ll rise up / I’ll rise unafraid — her voice sears and cools the air and leaves the audience in a state of peace and reflection. With Rise Up, Day has paid tribute to Muhammad Ali (with John Legend), and to the victims of Orlando, Florida’s, recent mass shooting. At The ESPYS on July 13, she sang her Rearview. And she performed on day two of the Democratic National Convention as part of a Rock The Vote campaign run. Rise Up is also featured in the trailer for Nate Parker’s forthcoming Birth of a Nation. She was in Kansas City the day before a show there, when Day talked about faith, fame, music discovery apps — and Marvel.


Has the new fame and recognition been weird for you?

Hasn’t really affected me, or even hit me. It’s funny to use the word ‘famous,’ because I don’t really think I am. I feel like a working musician.

Is there’s an app on your iPhone that you love, but isn’t superpopular?

This app called Radio with a bunch of Os at the end of it. It gives you a map of the globe and you can click on any country, and on any decade and it will play you the music that was popular locally in the country or area at that time. So if I put in Madagascar in the 1960s, it’ll play me what was popular then, what was indigenous to that area. It’s really cool. I discovered someone who has become one of my favorite jazz singers, Rose Murphy. I discovered her through that app.

I use Radiooooo! It’s the coolest thing to come from the internet in a long time.

It was basically like someone opened a bag of M&Ms for me! I think they’re still working on some stuff, and working out some kinks, but I think it’s cool.

What’s your favorite sport?

Football. I like basketball, but I’ve become a bigger fan of football. I’m from San Diego, so I like the Chargers. As much as they might break my heart, and as much as they might not address their offensive line in the draft …

Do you play games on your phone?

I don’t really play games on my phone. Most of the time I’m looking up vintage clothing and funny videos.

I have a Snapchat with no friends. I don’t follow anyone. I just got it because I wanted those faces … those cool animations.

Do you have a trend right now that you’re really into?

It’s not necessarily something I’m just into now — but I love hairnets. I love incorporating them. I like the industrial look of the 1950s, or the sort of wartime/working woman look. I’m into different styles of hairnets, and they have all kinds of designs and styles.

Is there an account on Instagram that you absolutely love or like to check in on?

There’s a lot of really cool vintage dealers [on Instagram] that are also on Etsy. It’s actually competitive shopping, too. It’s ridiculous. It kills me. When I see something that’s absolutely one of a kind that’s vintage and it’s been sold, I will go find the person who bought it, and probably offer them more for it. A … vintage one that I love … Oh, it’s Cheshire Vintage. Also there’s a girl named Dana Chanel. I can’t remember how I found her, but I came across her page, and she’s always posting really positive and faith-based messages.

Do you have a Snapchat?

It’s funny you ask. Two days ago — I can’t remember who I was talking to — but I told them ‘OK, I think I’m ready to Snapchat.’ They were like, ‘Girl, that train’s moved on.’ You know what the funny part is? I have a Snapchat with no friends, I don’t follow anyone. I just got it because I wanted those faces … those cool animations. That’s the closest thing to a game — I’ll get on Snapchat and just make those faces and screenshot them. That is superlame.

No, that is the thing to do!

My friend is always laughing at me. But I decided … I will be sending Snapchats soon.

So what’s your last Google search?

Oh, that’s easy. Let me pull this up. My last Google search is the ’12 most powerful X-Men.’ Oh. man, you’re making me look bad.

You’re a big Marvel fan?

Anytime Marvel comes out with anything, I’m going to watch it. And sometimes I’ll watch the cartoons online. Especially if there’s a character that’s coming out that I’m not familiar with. I’ll go and read up about the character, their history and backstory.

My last Google search is ’12 most powerful X-Men.’

Do you have a book you’re reading now or have just finished? And what’s your favorite book of all time?

A lot of times — I’m a Christian — I’m always reading faith-based books, self-help, constructive literature. One I’m reading right now is called Fashioned To Reign, which goes into the history of women as being one of the most persecuted groups of people on the earth. And just the ways in which people have done that, and fallacies people have used to oppress women. I’m always reading some type of book like that, and this is a great one. One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. One of my favorite books that he wrote was The Screwtape Letters. It’s a really interesting fantasy kind of based in reality book about the devil training his minions to undermine people and their fitness and authority. When it comes to poetry, I’m a Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes fan.

What’s the last concert you went to, that wasn’t your own?

I went to see Chloe and Halle. That was my first introduction to them, and that was my last concert. And those girls, my God! Those girls have it. They are truly phenomenal and so sweet. I became a fan instantly, truly, from the first few notes. They have their own identities, but their voices have a Beyoncé power and texture.

What are you watching on TV?

I watch Law & Order. I only ever watch Law & Order. [But] I love Black-ish. I watch every episode. I watch Forensic Files. There’s a show called Peaky Blinders that I love. Not too, too much, but I do binge-watch.

Do you sign up for any newsletters?

There is one that I signed up for a long time ago and I always look at it. It’s called Daily Disciples. It’s encouraging, faith-based devotion, or readings that come in. I check those all the time.

Where does your courage come from?

That’s a very easy question. My courage comes from my faith in God. That faith that I’m here for a reason and a purpose. Relying on His strength and not my own. Things get challenging, but it lifts the burden. I’m not doing this so I can look good to people. I’m doing this because I’m just trying to be a vessel. And so when things get challenging, that allows me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Darian Symoné Harvin is a NYC journalist into people and their situations. Her affiliations include NBC News and HRDCVR—and her excellent podcast is called, Am I Allowed to Like Anything?