Custom Search 1

Andra Day: Ready to rise up in the UK


SHE’S RECEIVED Grammy nominations, rubbed shoulders with the Obamas and performed at a host of prestigious events. But here in the UK, it’s possible that Andra Day may only be recognisable to some as the smoky-voiced singer who sang with Stevie Wonder in a Christmas-themed TV advert.

The commercial from technology giant Apple, saw Day joining forces with the music legend to perform a stunning rendition of his 1967 hit, Someday at Christmas. It also had many British viewers wondering who the talented female vocalist was.

To those a little more in the know, Day’s rise to music prominence could be deemed phenomenal.

Her debut album Cheers to the Fall was released in August last year; she then embarked on a US tour, opening up for rock star Lenny Kravitz; then, all roads led to Washington D.C., when the San Diego native was invited to perform her empowering song Rise Up at the White House, as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room education campaign.

Next, came the Apple commercial, which first hit screens in November. And as if the past few months hadn’t been breathtaking enough, Day then rounded off 2015 with two Grammy nominations: one for Best R&B Album and another for Best R&B Performance for Rise Up.

Does she feel like an overnight sensation?

“It depends on how many nights you can add up and class as one night,” the 31-year-old says, with a hearty and infectious laugh. “It’s been thousands of nights, over a period of 15 years. So it took me 15 years to become an overnight success!

“But I will say that when it does happen and things start moving, they seem to move very quickly.”

Day’s music journey began in performance arts school, where she did jazz vocal performance and studied the music of legends including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald.

Also doing musical theatre at the time, the youngster was, at that point, unsure whether she wanted to pursue a career as a recording artist or a Broadway actress.

Eventually, it was joining a girl group in high school that began to sway Day towards singing.

“We had this really lame harmony that we would do when we introduced ourselves! But it was really cool because it was the first time I heard my own voice recorded back and I was like, ‘wow!’ So after I graduated, I started to pursue being a recording artist.”

The budding songstress started going to “random studios” in San Diego, initially recording pop and R&B songs because “people told me that’s what I had to do in order to make it as an artist.”

DREAM TEAM: Andra Day performed with Stevie Wonder in a Christmas TV commercial for Apple last year

But it wasn’t long before Day realised that those music styles weren’t for her.

“The more I was recording was the more I realised that my voice didn’t suit that style and I realised that I had to accept my voice for what it is. A producer at another studio then played a song for me that had a jazz feel and I was automatically drawn to it. I realised this is where I wanna be – this is my space.

“We then created a couple of records that caught the attention of this manager/producer I started working with. While I was working with him, I did a performance outside a shop front in a mini mall. A clip from that performance got into the hands of Kai Milla, who was Stevie Wonder’s wife at the time. She played the clip to Stevie, who then reached out to me by phone call.”

And so came her initial connection with the Sir Duke hitmaker – but it would be over a year until Day actually got to work with Wonder.

“Things didn’t work out [with Wonder] immediately because unfortunately, the person I was working with at the time was a bit untrustworthy – to put it politely. But a year-and-a-half later, [Wonder] reached out to me again by phone call.”

It was a phone call that proved to be the catalyst of Day’s rise to prominence.

“I was in this tiny apartment that I lived in with my mother and I got a call from Stevie Wonder – it was crazy! We talked about songwriting and us doing a song together. My mother was like, ‘Come and do the dishes’ and I was like, ‘I’m on the phone with Stevie Wonder!’ It was an amazing experience.”

Day went on to record Cheers to the Fall, which introduced audiences to this supremely gifted vocalist, who fused elements of jazz, R&B and soul to create a body of work that feels both classic and contemporary.

The album also earned her a hugely high profile fan – First Lady Michelle Obama, who swiftly invited the singer to perform as part of her aforementioned education campaign.

Day then returned to the First Family’s residence earlier this year, when she was invited to perform as part of a Black History Month event that saw a host of artists pay musical tribute to Ray Charles.

“I’m not gonna lie, meeting the President and the First Lady and being able to interact with them really tripped me out,” Day laughs. “The last time we were at the White House, we walked in and the President was like, ‘Andra! So good to see you again.’ And the First Lady was like, ‘I’m glad you’re back!’

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘I’m having causal conversation with the President and the First Lady!’ My parents were there too and it was an incredible moment.”

Now, the singer is keen to establish herself on UK shores. Having made her debut London performance at The Roundhouse as part of last year’s Apple Music Festival, Day will return to the UK next month to perform two shows with US soul singer Leon Bridges.

“Finally, I’m coming back to the UK – that’s all I’ve been talking about! Last time I was there, I spent about a month out there and I was working with the producer Steve Brown.

“I did an amazing show and we stayed at this great house in Putney [south-west London]. I said to my day-to-day manager, ‘I’m not going back to The States’. He was like, ‘Why?’ I was like, ‘Look at this place – we’re rich out here; we’re high society! I’m not going back to my raggedy place after this!’

“No, but the people out there were great and I really love the UK culture. I can’t wait to come back.”

Andra Day will perform with US singer Leon Bridges at the O2 Academy, Liverpool on April 7 and the O2 Academy, Brixton on April 8. The single Rise Up is released in the UK on April 22. For more information, visit

Subscribe to The Voice database!

We'd like to keep in touch with you regarding our daily newsletter, Voice competitions, promotions and marketing material and to further increase our reach with The Voice readers.

If interested, please click the below button to complete the subscription form.

We will never sell your data and will keep it safe and secure.

For further details visit our privacy policy.

You have the right to withdraw at any time, by clicking 'Unsubscribe'.