Already loved by the LGBTQ community, Daya has come out as bisexual and we immediately welcomed her into the community. She is a favorite daughter of LOVELOUD, and is owning her sexuality and sexual identity with release of new music on an ep “The Difference”, as her “full self” and her new song “Bad Girl” is one to hear. She has already had 3 top 40 singles in a row, all of this before she even graduated from high school.
We talked about her experience of embracing the community, and hopes for her music to reach more people being their authentic selves, and learning to drive. here we go.
JH: Hey Daya, thank you for taking the time, I do appreciate this.
Daya: Thank you for having me, I’m excited.
JH: I don’t expect you to remember, I was backstage at LOVELOUD doing interviews, in the catering room, during the Tegan and Sara set, you walked past me and I just said “Hey, you did a great set today, I enjoyed it”.
Daya: Oh so we have a history then, that’s great!!!
JH: Yeah, said about ten words, maybe eleven, but you were there in front of fifteen thousand people, so I don’t think you should remember me in the middle of all that. You gave a great performance that day, you didn’t say much to the audience, but you did bounce around and got in their faces.
Daya: Yeah’ that’s usually how it goes, that was a great day, a crazy venue, it was packed, and I think the thing about that show was to see in the middle of America coming out for the cause. I wouldn’t have expected that many people. There was so much energy and love, it just carried everything.
JH: The lineup that day was great. You nailed it, AJR was great, they are just a bunch of comedians. Every act was different, you, Laura Jane Grace, K.Flay, Ke$ha, Ty Herndon. Dan put a great list together for that one. What surprised me was when I got the roster for the lineup, and you were on the bill, and this was March, and I thought, “Wait, didn’t she come out in October?”, you came out, and 4 months later you were one of the big names on LOVELOUD.
Daya: Yeah, I was a little “Gayby”, for me it was honestly not that different, because I had been playing Pride before I came out, and for me, that was the best festival to play anyway. Even from “Hideaway” and “Look Pretty”, I made sure to do a pride festival. So it wasn’t like I had just been introduced to this new audience. But it was cool to see how welcoming everyone was, I felt like I was immediately part of the community. I felt so supported and loved, so to see that support in places like Utah is something that my younger self would have loved. So, I grew up in Pittsburgh, it’s half transitioning to a bigger city mindset. So there, I don’t know if you would have seen that kind of turnout. All my first shows after I came out were nerve-wracking, just because it was a new part of my identity that I was sharing with the world. It was good to be surrounded by artists who were so fluid and welcoming, in front of a crowd of the same kind of people. It was one of the first bigger shows I have played for that kind of audience.
JH: Well, it was a fifteen thousand capacity venue, and they were at just under fourteen, but Dan Reynolds can do that, he is just charismatic and full of so much love.
Daya: Yeah, he is amazing, for a specific “Gay” show, I am sure that plenty of people would show up for Imagine Dragons, but for this being for the community.
JH: How did you get on the bill for that, I mean, you weren’t out very long. Did Dan just call you up, or did he do it in person?
Daya: We actually hadn’t met yet, but my roommate at the time Parson James.
JH: NO WAY!!!! I love that guy, I have met him so many times, we are all crossing paths here, cause we all know the same people, EVERYONE knows him.
Daya: Yeah, he does know everyone. He is always putting on shows with his friends, it was cool to be introduced to the community out here so quickly. But he was on the board of LOVELOUD, and then I got involved after that.
JH: Yeah, you got everyone into the groove, you and K.Flay were the loudest, I remember pounding on the drums, it was great. Dan on the piano was not loud, he and Tyler Glenn singing “Somewhere over the rainbow” were not loud either.
Daya: Yeah, I wasn’t up against much for volume.
JH: I think most of my hearing loss is from shooting at that venue, it is just a loud place to be. So, I didn’t bother figuring out where your stage name came from, I just knew it was Indian, but I just looked it up, and thought “How wonderful”.
Daya: Yes, Daya means “Grace” in Hindi, and when I was coming out with music the first time, I thought there were so many “Graces” already. And for a singer-songwriter, it sounded just too personal.
I also love the single word names, and it looked symmetrical, it just fit. And my grandfather is from India, so it is also part of my heritage, that’s where the Hindi comes from.
JH: So you’re up there in the club of Cher, Prince, Bono, and Meatloaf even. Let’s talk about the new work like “Tokyo Drifting”, LOVED it, wonderful new work.
Daya: Thank you, that means a lot.
JH: Well, I AM a critic, and I’ve been known to piss off artists. When I say I like something, I mean it, life is too short to not be Scottish. So, the production on “Tokyo Drifting” was really smooth, and very mature sounding compared to your previous work. The lyrics were also mature, then you ended with the acoustic guitar. I had to go back and listen again, and then I had to redo this by paying attention to the lyrics. “When you’re driving away from that underpass, in Tokyo I’m drifting out, … I’m just looking for a way to get the picture out of my mind of you driving away”. Those are heavy lyrics, especially heavy lyrics from a 22-year-old.
Daya: I wanted it to feel conversational when it opens, like, just shit that I would say completely unfiltered. I wanted it to have that feel and the Tokyo Drifting part of it, basically represents guilt and regret, and feeling like I let time carry this distance between me and the person that I love. There wasn’t one thing that happened, just time carried us apart, and feeling regrets over that, and now I am in a completely different space than this other person. I am in this disorienting space, and I want to see “Tokyo Drifting” with this disorienting feeling to it, and also very distant “I don’t know what you are doing right now, I just remember seeing you drive away from that underpass.”
JH: Song lyrics like that don’t write themselves, they come from an experience. I could tell you had been “IN” something, it was heavy in a scaled-down way, hey, mission accomplished.
Daya: Thanks, to me it’s actually about friendships that I have had also about a love relationship and others that I just haven’t maintained like I wanted to. Wishing that the drifting hadn’t happened.
JH: Imma say here, there you were at age 18, you already had 3 “Top 40” singles, I mean, U2 were 18 with their first album, which was fantastic (She is a HUGE U2 fan BTW), but they didn’t get a top 40 single till 7 years and 5 albums later. You are 18, and you have already “done it” while you are still in high school. How was it to climb that ladder so quickly?
Daya: It was a weird feeling, I was kind of in denial most of the time, I just didn’t face the reality that it was happening. I feel like I just retreated because it was happening on a scale that I couldn’t even comprehend yet. I was wondering why are people paying attention to me. I haven’t lived enough life experiences yet to have this kind of thing happening. I didn’t think I was worthy, I had worked hard, going to every radio station in the country, playing shows to 2 people to 100 people, learning to perform, and teaching myself to stay afloat and swim, while I was a junior in high school. I wanted it to happen, and I did work for it, but at the same time, it felt too “Good” for all of this to be happening to me at once. Where do I go from here? How do I top this? I felt like it was such a high at such an early young point in my career. I didn’t have a handle on who I wanted to be, or what I wanted to say or to write about, and it was such a whirlwind. I felt so lucky and grateful, but I knew that I needed time to develop myself as an artist and a person, to be confident in the music I was making to release again.
JH: So during that time, when were you able to identify as bisexual, and how did that steer the situation. You came out early, did you feel like it was kind of risky?
Daya: I think that it happened fast for me, and it wasn’t one of those things that I had bottled up, I knew something was lingering. I was not “afraid” of it, I think I was always open to the idea of it, and then when the opportunity presented itself with the right person, I knew it was right. To me, it wasn’t the biggest deal, because I don’t view you for who you are in love with, or in a relationship with, who you hook up with. I don’t view that as a part of your identity, I felt like I had just discovered a part of me that was new. I was ready to put it on socials right away, I was already posting pictures of my girlfriend at the time, just posting “cute” love pictures. I experienced a bit of resistance to coming out publicly because of my “middle America” fans, or my older fans, or people telling me to let my fans know, but not everyone. But then that kind of pissed me off even more, so that motivated me to be louder about it on social media.
JH: Then next thing you know, you’re performing in front of fifteen thousand fans in Utah. So, that song “New” that was the sexiest car in the video, that green Mustang, was a vintage beauty. I was paying more attention to that part of it than anything else. I hope you loved riding in that car.
Daya: Now that you mention it, the kid that was supposed to be my EX-boyfriend in that video, “the present” love interest, then got triggered as the story goes. That guy didn’t know how to drive, he had never driven a car before. So it was terrifying, I think he was fifteen, we were in the middle of nowhere in the desert. The dolly was following us, and he kept jolting cause he had no idea what he was doing. I don’t think I ever said anything about it before.
JH: That is the coolest story from a video shoot EVER. You put a guy who can’t drive, in a classic 60’s mustang. AWESOME. So, taking apart your video “First time”, you were sitting in the back of the truck, and it’s an old nice truck, another classic. And you were sitting in the back, and then clips of you driving it too. So, it’s symbolic, someone is taking you somewhere, and then you are in the driver’s seat.
Daya: That was a representation of my past, the early years of my career, how I was controlled, or “held hostage” by my expectations, in the back of the truck. At least, not in control of where it was going, and I am lost. We wanted to relay that through, that. And then the fact that I am driving is to represent that “I” was holding myself hostage to the idea of meeting the same success as I had done early in my career. It wasn’t anyone outside person, sure there were external pressures, but the most pressure was from me. And it was a moment of realizing that there were these outside pressures if I had understood “This is who I am. This is what I am doing”. So we wanted to show that with me driving, and being in the back. In the beginning, you don’t see me in the front, it comes later.
JH: Sure, then I saw you breaking free, running through the forest. Then you get on the dirt bike, what was that about?
Daya: Yeah the dirt bike was really fun, that was the most fun I have ever had on a shoot. I had never driven a dirt bike before, and I am watching tutorials on YouTube on the way to the shoot on how to drive one.
JH: Maybe that fifteen-year-old should have done the same thing on the way to the shoot with the mustang.
Daya: (Laughing) Yeah, wow, that was the first time I ever got on it, I was going faster and loving it. My girlfriend who directed it said, “You can’t take off like that, or we won’t get the shot”. So that was fun, I feel like that picked up the energy and set the tone. But it was supposed to be this liberating part, I’m running through the forest. Thanks for dissecting my video.
JH: So, here is what I thought was funny, the line from your song “Hideaway”, about “good boys”, then the new song “Bad Girl”, I thought, yeah, we are playing a different game now. In the video, there was no mistaking what you were about, what you wanted. Aside from the guy with the Davy Crockett jacket, he was so out of place. So, “Good boys to Bad girls”.
Daya: That was unintentional, I didn’t notice that till everyone else was catching it. For “Bad Girl” I wanted to flip the narrative of this desirable figure, especially in the movies, for a desirable one-night romance with a “Bad guy”. There was this promiscuous thing, to put that on its head for the “Bad Girl” to be the desired character. I also feel like working in the industry, and I know women and girls in the other industries, where women are being labeled as “difficult” or “problematic” or “bad” when we’re just being as assertive as our male counterparts, and not deserving the negative stereotype, but falling into it when we assert our visions. I thought that was a cool way to reclaim that term. There are a lot of meanings to it, and this was the first time that I explicitly talked about my sexuality in that way, so that was exciting. With the video, we wanted to be similar to “First Time” in my journey of my subconscious recognizing my sexuality and all the weird phases of it. The exploration, the confusion, and at the end, the self-actualization part which fully realizing it and being confident which was me going out and doing that whole “Showgirl” kind of thing. It was empowering because I hadn’t shown in my imagery, expressing it in a way that was more about my internal journey, and how I came to terms with it, and I finally did. That last part represents me getting more in touch with my femininity which I have had a weird relationship with in the past. I didn’t want to be generalized as this overly sensitive or emotional stereotype about girls. I would close myself off to those parts to get along with boys. Then to just get in touch with my sexuality, it wasn’t being girly or feminine to get the attention of men, but because it felt right to me. So the last part of me in that “Showgirl” outfit was me owning it.
JH: That was a magnificent story of your journey. I have 3 girls, they are all headstrong, and I am the only male in the house. They love you, and they love the sassy attitude from “Sit still, look pretty.”
Daya: Hey I’m glad to hear that.
JH: I wanted to cover “The Difference” made me feel like, you are realizing how deep you are into this, and don’t like it.
Daya: That was a new one for me because I never talked about the intricacies of being in the relationship. I was always thinking “I don’t need you, I can move on without you.” But once you find real love, you have no control over the feelings you have. So, you are too far deep into this person, it was as much as my head was saying that, my heart was saying they make me feel good about myself. I never meant for it to come off negatively.
JH: So final question then, what would you say to the young person, the young gay kid who is afraid, in the closet, and in that vulnerable state.
Daya: So many things I feel like have experienced levels of self-hatred and feeling outside of the box, I think for anyone who is feeling away, it can be tough to envision a world where you are loved for who you are. Especially when you are young, and you don’t know that there is a world outside of where you are. I think that it’s really important for them to know that they do have a community, and once they find it they will be wrapped up in so many hugs. Lean on the people who support you, and get rid of the people who don’t if you can love yourself.
JH: As we say in France “VIVE”, I do appreciate your time, I wish you all the success with the new EP.
Seek out Daya on these sites.