If you listen to the voice of 20 year-old songbird Zella Day—especially with your eyes closed—you may envision swaying trees, lazy days spent poolside or other quintessential summertime settings. Her melancholy, and often heartbreaking, alto recreates the Gothic American sound made famous a few years back by Lana Del Rey. The Generation Y singer, who rolls into House of Blues Houston on Tuesday, spoke with us about her inspirations, the state of pop music today and life in Arizona hill country.
Houstonia: Who or what are some of your inspirations for songwriting?
Zella Day: I'm inspired by whatever has been introduced to me in my past and present environment. Everything from relationships, mythology, my hometown, existentialism, other artists, films. The list goes on and on.
What was there to do in your small hometown of Pinetop growing up? Did you escape to Phoenix often or stay in the mountains?
Phoenix is a four-hour drive from my town, so I would visit on occasion. For example, when I started taking music theory I was driving down their once a week for lessons. There were some things the town didn't offer that you had to seek elsewhere. But, as for Pinetop, I spent a lot of time at the ski resort, getting lost in the forest with my friends, and playing music in my front yard.
In the music industry, people are quick to brand someone’s sound. How would you describe yours?
I wouldn't because the music is reaching far beyond me, meaning that everyone is going to have a different relationship with it. I have my own personal ideas of what the music is but at the end of the day people are going to interpret it how they please and I don't want to get in the way of that.
From a listener’s standpoint how have you seen pop music evolve in the last few years?
It's become so many different things. Pop music is so much more provocative than it used to be, which can be disheartening because sometimes I feel like it's sex first music second. Sexual appeal has always been important but it's not number one for me, I would rather people connect with my music instead of my body image.