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San Diego singer-songwriter Andra Day has a voice that transcends time; one moment she’ll sound like the rising R&B star she is, and the next she’ll sound like a throwback to the era of classic jazz and soul. In either case, she’s a force of nature best experienced in a live setting, whether she’s belting out the verses to smash piano ballad “Rise Up” or channeling Amy Winehouse on the groovy “Only Love.”
Day may be a young artist, but she has the command and presence typical of a seasoned performer. It takes a special kind of confidence to take on a legend’s material and make if your own, but one of Day’s earliest hits was a cover of Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” that certainly made other musicians prick up their ears. These days, they’re practically clamoring to join Day in the studio, which explains how she convinced Questlove, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Dap-Kings horn section to appear with her on “Only Love.”
Andra Day’s background
After working a series of odd jobs in her native San Diego after high school, Day enrolled at the School of Creative and Performing Arts and focused her attention on music. She honed her voice by creating a YouTube channel and uploading covers of major hits by Eminem, Marvin Gaye, Amy Winehouse and others, all while hopping back and forth from contemporary R&B to classic jazz. Day eventually found her niche by combining both in a songwriting style that highlights her evocative vocal delivery.
But even talent of this magnitude needs a bit of a lucky break. That break came when Kai Millard Morris caught one of Day’s performances and immediately took her music to husband Stevie Wonder, who made sure the young R&B singer found an audience befitting her vocal brilliance. The rest, as they say, is history. Day released her debut album Cheers to the Fall in the summer of 2015 and began her ascent to inevitable stardom. These days, Andra Day tickets rank among the most sought-after in R&B.
Andra Day’s friends and collaborators
Cheers to the Fall has Day’s stamp all over it, but she couldn’t turn down help from some high-profile collaborators along the way. Aside from the all-star team that contributed to “Only Love,” Day worked closely with throwback R&B singer Raphael Saadiq and producer Adrian Gurvitz to make her sound as good on record as she does in concert. Other collaborators appeared in surprising places. A case in point: Day was so impressive while performing at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival that director Spike Lee immediately volunteered to shoot a music video for her, leading to him doing the camerawork for “Forever Mine.” Day’s career-making moment may have come the very next year, when she appeared alongside Wonder in an Apple TV commercial in which the two sang “Someday at Christmas.”
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