If you tuned in to the Super Bowl LI Pepsi Half Time Show last year, then you saw her dancing right next to Lady Gaga. If you’ve flown on Virgin America airlines, then you’ve watched her sing the emergency evacuation plan on the screen in front of you. And if you’ve been to a Brandy concert recently, you heard her on background vocals. Inarguably, artist Day’nah is one woman you could call multi-faceted. A bonafide triple–perhaps quadruple–threat, Day’nah is one of those rare breeds that not only does it all…but does all of it well. Over the last decade she’s traveled the world as an accomplished supporting phenom. But in 2018 she’s poised to step fiercely into her own lead. Luxe Kurves caught up with the talented beauty as she plots her next move in world domination.
Tell us how you got started in the music industry.
I have been singing into hairbrushes and dancing in front of mirrors ever since I can remember. However, I didn’t realize the possibilities of being an actual recording artist until high school. I was discovered at a talent show and an artist management company recruited me to be a part of a girl group that he was putting together. My first day in a real record studio was mind blowing! I could not believe my ears when I heard my own voice on playback. We had a good run as a group and opened for artists who were big back then (telling my age a bit here) such as B2K and IMX. I left the group because I wanted to go college. I continued to pursue music through out my college career at Hampton University, although nothing too major came from it. I decided to move to Los Angeles following graduation and was immediately picked up by a popular dance agency. From there I went on to dance for artists including Diddy, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and more. I also worked on a lot of television shows and commercials. I eventually realized that my focus had strayed from music to dance, and that it was time to get back to what I was passionate about. I then realigned my focus towards music and have been successfully pursuing that avenue ever since.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Wow! There are so many to name! Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Andre 3000/OutKast, Babyface, Queen Latifah…I could literally go on forever and list names. Gosh, I’m forgetting so many.
You’re also an accomplished dancer. Was there a transition from dancing to singing, or have you always done both?
I have always done both, but there absolutely was a transition from professional dancing to pursuing my career full time as an artist and songwriter. When I was dancing professionally I would end up in studios where producers would treat me like, “oh you’re a dancer right?” I felt like I was so known for dancing that no one even wanted to find out if I could sing. It used to frustrate me because I didn’t understand how I was not being allowed to be great at more than one thing. I had to somewhat let Day’nah the dancer die and reinvent myself completely. Now there are people who only know me as an artist and have no clue that I had such a successful career dancing. When I received the honor of performing the Super Bowl with Lady Gaga, everyone was like “I had no idea you dance!” I have always done both and will continue to do both; however, I think my days of dancing for artists are behind me.
You’ve written for other artists as well. How is it a different experience writing for other artists as opposed to writing for yourself?
Writing for myself is WAY HARDER! I am very good at putting myself in other people’s shoes and interpreting their stories through song. It’s much harder to look in the mirror and do that for myself. I get in my head when I write for myself, there is way more pressure, and it takes much longer for me to feel like I’ve come up with something great. So, my cheat code is that a lot of times I try to just write and not make it for any particular purpose, then I choose what I fall in love with for myself.
You’ll also record your own vocals in the studio. When did you pick up your audio engineering skills?
My husband, Devine Evans, drilled my Pro Tools skills into my head. He is like a Pro Tools Jedi and the force is very strong with him. I was very blessed to become one of his protégés, and honestly I still have a ton to learn. He made me realize the importance of being self-sufficient and I am very grateful for that. I love being able to go to work every day and not have to rely on someone else’s availability when I feel creatively inspired. It’s one of the best gifts he has ever given me.
Studio or live – do you love one over the other?
I love them both. I love the challenge of the studio. I love how you get to hear yourself and then outdo every take. Studio singing is like being in the gym, and each take strengthens me. I’ll do a riff or a run and be like, “I can do something even better there”. I also love background vocals and layering and playing with different vocal textures. Live singing, on the other hand, is so freeing. You just go for it and each time is a new opportunity to be honest and fearless. There is an adrenaline rush that comes from live singing that you don’t get when you sing in the studio.
Tell us about the Reasonable Doubt: The Lost Tapes. What was the initial inspiration for that project?
I wanted to drop a mixtape, but I don’t really rock with the idea of simply singing over someone else’s beat. Jay-Z is my favorite rapper and there was so much iconic music in the samples that contributed to him making his iconic first album. I figured it would be even more dope if we reimagined the music and lyrics and just took the same concepts and energy that lived in his original work and made it our own. Jay-Z’s version tells his raw uncut truth, my version tells my truth. Jay is a genius and this was my way of touching the hem of his garment to catch a bit of that genius myself.
What do you feel has been a career highlight?
There are so many, but I think the Super Bowl tops them all. The feeling of coming out of that tunnel with that many people cheering, knowing we only have one shot to get it right, is a feeling that is unmatched. One of the most amazing things about it was that Lady Gaga inspired all of us to do this one for ourselves. She shared her moment with us, and she didn’t have to do that. Most artists wouldn’t have done that. She wanted each of us to know we were stars and that we were supposed to be there. I’ll be there again one day. God willing I’ll experience it all over again from her point of view.
What do you feel has been one of your biggest challenges?
Balance. I want to do EVERYTHING! I am still learning to find the balance and to be okay with missing my mark sometimes. I want things to be perfect. It is good to strive for perfection but unhealthy to have a constant expectation of perfection.
Without question, the music industry is changing. How have you changed your strategy as an artist as a result?
Well, I can’t give away all my secrets now. But, I have learned that people have short attention spans now so the goal is to cater to that as much as I can and still feed their souls the real music they need.
You were one of the masterminds behind Sheet Music: The Diary of a Songwriter, which is a book that features over 100 stories from women who experienced sexual harassment or injustice in the music industry at the hands of men. How has the music industry changed recently in its attitude towards women? Has it?
I don’t think it has. I think the conversation is open and that’s a good thing. We still live in a society where I have to teach my daughter to protect herself because people won’t teach their sons right from wrong. The good thing is that we don’t need the labels the way we used to, so there aren’t as many men that are able to dangle our futures above our heads. We have kind of taken the power of our destiny into our own hands. But, men will still behave as they have for centuries. We are just prepared for the war now and unafraid to speak out.
What’s next for you?
Lots of new music and visuals. I’ve had a lot of things cooking behind the curtain in 2017 and this coming year it is time for the reveal. I have been working hard, so stay tuned for lots of new vibes and maybe a tour.
Visit Day’nah’s Official Site: http://www.iamdaynah.com/
Follow Day’nah on Instagram @iamdaynah
Photos by Kbmphoto.com
Styled by Joey Thao
Makeup by Kellie Corbett
Hair by Liz Rich
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