Teen musician Daya means compassion
Daya—Hindi for 'Compassion'—is a young musician best known for her breakout single, “Hide Away,” which has been streamed over 100 million times on Spotify and has been certified platinum, having been played for a radio audience of more than 50 million worldwide. Her debut EP DAYA features her single “Sit Still, Look Pretty.” The song, which has begun climbing the iTunes Pop Chart, has already garnered 10 million streams on Spotify. Did we mention she’s only seventeen?
Also known as Grace Tandon, Daya’s short career is an inspiring one for those with musical aspirations. She’s come a long way in a short time. She is currently nominated for The Freshest (Best New Artist) at the 2016 Radio Disney Music Awards and will be performing, which is her first awards show performance. Earlier this year, this prodigy went on tour with Jack & Jack and has also had a string of headlining dates, including Webster Hall in New York City and a sold out show at the Stage AE in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“Basically, I’ve been singing since I was ten years old,” she said. We should note that was nearly seven years ago. Musically, she names a couple of powerful female vocalists as influences on her own style. “Early on, I’d say Amy Winehouse, I love her jazzy sound, and I also love Adele for the rawness and power behind her voice. Those were definitely my two big influences…”
She’s grateful for the success she’s enjoyed in the last year. “I’ve always loved making music,” she said, “and its always been my dream to get to the next level. This year I’ve had the opportunity to do so, and it’s definitely been the best year of my life. I’ve been doing a bunch of shows and after we wrote ‘Hide Away’—we put it out about a year ago—it just started taking off on the radio. My EP is out and I’m working on a full-length album, so it’s just crazy how much has changed in a year.”
Daya has met her share of famous people through her music, but she couldn’t help but fangirl about one in particular. “Meeting Troye Sivan was one of the better moments, because I just love his music and his messages, and he’s a really cool person. So that was definitely an awesome experience, to meet him!”
She credits the success of “Hide Away,” and thus her career, to the song’s message. “The relatability of the message of the song, I think, is a big part of what made it take off like that,” she explained. “A lot of people have talked to me about how much the lyrics of that song speak to them. Celebrities have reached out and supported me on it as well, so it’s a combination of things.”
“A lot of my LGBT fans have done covers of my songs too,” she added, as we discussed Pride later. “One gay couple posted a cover of ‘Hide Away’ online which was really cute. A ton of people have reached out to talk about how my music has helped them get through things and how positive it is …there have been countless people who’ve reached out to let me know how they relate to the music, which is the best thing for me to hear, as an artist.”
This summer is a busy one for Daya. She’ll be finishing up high school on the road. “I’ll actually be graduating with my class in June,” she said. “I actually only needed one more credit to graduate, so it all worked out so I could take that online and still travel. Its super flexible for my schedule.”
Meanwhile, she added, “I have an album in the works that I just finished co-writing in LA and I have some shows, a lot of festivals, so a lot coming up this summer that I’m really stoked for.” That includes Pride festivals, of course!
“I performed at Phoenix Pride earlier this year,” she said. “That was so wild, definitely one of my more energetic shows. It was such a great experience overall and I can’t wait to perform more Pride shows in the future. It’s just a fun place to be.”
More than that, she feels like supporting Pride is an obligation. “I also feel that these festivals send important message to the community, and it’s important for me to be able to be there and show my support for people being who they are.”
Sending a message is important to her as an artist and songwriter. “I think it’s really important to stand behind what you’re saying—I want to be the most uplifting person I can be, and through songwriting I can do that.” One of the message she’s most concerned with is “female empowerment, and encouraging people—not just females but everyone—to go after what they want to do and what they believe in, and not let people stand in their way. I think that’s a really important message for people, but especially young girls, to hear.”
Photo by Noah Bility