OH HEY, ZELLA DAY
written by SHAYNA GONSALVES.
To call her a retro-pop, folk-inspired artist works, but it does not do justice to the spunky newly 20 year old that is Zella Day. A girl who looks like she was grown in the sun with a voice that recalls both the desperation of heartache and the kind of hope that comes only with youth, Zella is the kind of musician who plays by her own rules.
Raised in Arizona, Zella started playing music at 9 years old, heavily influenced by the Folk pouring out of the speakers of her parents’ coffee house. Now that she is older, she still gives a nod to her roots, her current influences including the likes of Stevie Nicks, The Gorillas, The Cure, The Rolling Stones, and Rodriguez. Making an effort to actively look forward, Zella’s music, though folk-driven, incorporates a fantasy element that can be attributed to her love of reading, a love so intense that she has titled two of her songs “East of Eden” and “Sweet Ophelia” (bonus points if you can name the references).
Zella wants her music to inspire others to do whatever they can to fulfill themselves and their dreams. She stresses that one must be themselves, believe in their own heart and message, but also be willing to listen.
Her pre-show routine is simple – a moment of calm in a bathroom stall, a moment of silence before entering a loud room full of energy. Before her recent show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, a group of teenaged girls in matching uniforms of cut offs and floral tops were buzzing – “I swear that we were just in the bathroom with Zella Day! It had to be her! If she’s wearing distressed jeans and a black flowy top when she gets on stage then we’ll know for sure!” And she was. The immediate squeals and giggling, giddy laughter, Zella’s crowd that night was predominantly girls in high school who likely only just barely hit the 16 year old minimum for entry, but they knew every word to every song and unabashedly sang along to Zella who transforms into this lion, this incredible energy on stage. She told them between songs that “reading is sexy” (because, duh, it is), and was edgy while still being able to be called modest. Young enough to be cool and relatable to this younger demographic, Zella is poised to be some type of role model for girls while simultaneously creating music that anybody can – and should – want to listen to.
People have been quick to call her a “happier” Lana del Rey but, aside from the too obvious rhyme of their names, there is really little connection. Her album, will offer no room for confusion as to who you are listening to – it is undeniably Zella Day.
With an infectious sort of hope in her voice, she confidently says that her calling is to write music. Though most musicians make the whole process seem nonchalant, she is very open that songwriting is no walk in the park and that, like anything else, you can get rusty without practice which, she admits, can be difficult during the stretches of time between moments of inspiration. In order to exercise that muscle, which she so adoringly calls songwriting, every day, she draws from both personal experiences and outside influences, anything she can to keep herself from going stagnant.