New Music: Newcomer Andra Day’s “Coolin’ in the Streets” feat. Ziggy Marley

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Take one look at Andra Day, with her saucy rockabilly-inspired look (she routinely rocks a bouffant and red-stained lip) and you know you’re in the presence of a unique individual. The San Diego-bred singer and songwriter’s eye-catching personal style complements her brassy, yet voluptuous voice, as well as her music, which is both groovy and bluesy. “I call it retro-pop-soul,” she says. “It’s a blend of jazz, soul, doo-wop, plus a little bit of rock, and a little bit of hip-hop on the underbelly.”

Day says her influences come not only from the Motown records her father loved and the rock artists her mom favored, but also the jazz, doo-wop, and blues she was exposed to while attending the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. ”During those years I fell in love with Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Etta James, Lauryn Hill, and Janis Joplin,” she says. “Women with big voices who can really communicate the emotion they’re feeling when they sing. One of my favorite songs by Billie Holiday is ‘You Let Me Down’ because it’s so true. You can practically hear her crying on the record.”

After graduating from SDCP, Day began working with various producers and posting clips of herself performing on YouTube. Stevie Wonder’s wife stumbled upon one of the clips, which she played for Wonder. The R&B legend called Day and said he’d love to work with her, a moment Day describes as “surreal.” Though the timing didn’t work out, Wonder introduced her to singer-songwriter/producer and hard rock pioneer Adrian Gurvitz (The Gun, Stevie Wonder, The Bodyguard soundtrack) with whom she has been writing and recording for the past year. “Adrian has been in the music industry for decades and has worked with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Whitney Houston,” Day says. “He brings experience and depth to the music and gives it a timeless feel.”

After holing up for eight months and writing an album’s worth of songs, Day and Gurvitz decided to post a series of covers on YouTube and see how the public would respond to her sound. Day’s jazzy, soulful takes on Muse’s “Uprising” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” were so well-received that a buzz began to build. Ellen DeGeneres called and offered to help the singer get recognized. It wasn’t long before a bidding war erupted between record labels. Everyone wanted to sign the statuesque beauty with the unforgettably angelic voice.

Day is now signed to Warner Bros. Records, which will release her debut album later this year. Adorning her siren sound with uncompromising poetry, Day writes about the mistakes she’s made and the heartbreak she’s both caused and experienced. “They lyrics highlight the lessons I’ve learned,” she says. “My goal is the speak the truth,” she says. “It sets you free.”

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