Andra Day Leaves New York Wanting More, Talks Headlining Tour & Evolving [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Andra Day is no stranger to performing in front of big crowds. With festival slots and recently opening for Lenny Kravitz on his fall tour, the singer is accustomed to getting the people going. But when it came to her own headlining tour this month, she didn't expect how quickly each venue would fill up.
“It’s great and surprising a little bit," she tells The Boombox in the dressing room shortly before she hit the stage at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on Tuesday night (Oct. 20). "Honestly, when we first started this tour, I didn’t think anybody was going to show up because nobody knows me. But hearing that this was sold out and Boston was sold out and Atlanta, I’m just excited. And I hope to just give the people what they want.”
Judging from the large crowd that gathered outside Le Poisson Rouge hours before her performance, it was obvious that people were ready to experience the San Diego native's recently released debut record, Cheers to the Fall, live. But despite the hype around Tuesday night's show, Andra, dressed in white jeans, a tee and an oversized sweater, looked calm despite what was going on around her.
“I think I’ve become more secure as an artist and person over the last few years,” she reveals. “And before you release an album, you’re not really sure how people are going to respond, you know. I’ll stand behind it and be confident in it just because it’s my life. It’s my truth, but you never know how people are going to respond. So as we’ve done performances and as we’ve grown and seen people gravitate towards is really exciting. It’s pretty surreal."
While Andra is still on her way to becoming a household name, she has made a splash on YouTube with her soulful, jazzed up covers of songs including Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Jessie J's "Mama Knows Best," both of which have surpassed over 1 million views. After signing with Warner Bros. Records earlier this year, she began working on Cheers to the Fall with Raphael Saadiq and Adrian Gurvitz as well as Questlove, James Poyser of The Roots, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Dap-Kings of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.
"I loved working with everyone I worked with on this album, Adrian Gurvitz and Raphael Saadiq," the 30-year-old says. "I was super happy to work with them."
Even though she got to work with a number of heavyweights in the studio, Andra explains that part of her success has been due to the family that she has onstage. "My band and I are even closer," she explains. "They’ve grown with me over four years so we’re closer and closer and closer. So I think what’s nice for fans who have been with me since the beginning is that they don’t only see a show, they see a really close-knit family environment. We do our best to make the audience feel like that they’re part of it, too. It’s been a journey, but it’s great. I’m grateful for the fans who’ve been there from the beginning and am excited about how we’ve grown and how we’ve evolved now.”
And at 10 p.m., Andra, who was now dressed in a 1950s Alice in Wonderland-inspired dress, a fluffy beige fur coat and flats, stepped onto the stage to give the people what they were waiting for all night. Staying true to her vintage style, she stood in front of an old school microphone and let her emotions run free. Performing tracks like her single "Gold" and "Only Love," Andra sang every lyric as if the audience was living out what she was detailing right along with her. Whenever she closed her eyes, it wasn't because she needed to hit that perfect note. Instead, it was so she could reach that exact feeling she had when she initially wrote the song or recorded the track. And that was most apparent during her performance of her "Rise Up," which instantly made you tear up.
“‘Rise Up’ is definitely my baby,” she admits before her set. “I think it was a gift because, you know, it’s like god just spoke to me and wrote that song. It’s very powerful.”
Even though everyone loves a great tear-jerking ballad, Andra's set was, for the most part, upbeat. She got the crowd moving to songs like "Forever Mine" and "Mistakes," where her jazz-trained vocals combine with soulful pop melodies. And since her OG fans got to know Andra through her covers, she made sure to include a few in her set and especially turned it up with a Bob Marley mini medley that had everyone singing along to "Could You Be Loved."
While the night’s focus was clearly on Andra, she couldn’t help but take a moment to highlight the talents of her keyboardist and backup singer, Charles Jones, whose rendition of Sam Cooke’s 1964 ballad, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” lifted up just about every person in the room. "I remember racking my brain. I don’t know any male singer better than him," she says, introducing her "special gift" to the audience.
Her set hit a little over an hour, but even that wasn't long enough. So when she said goodbye for the evening, hardly anyone in the club moved and continuously demanded Andra sing one more tune. And showing appreciation for her fans, the singer and her band got back onstage to perform her cover of "Big Poppa" by the late Notorious B.I.G., which seemed fitting considering she was in New York after all. Even though many in the crowd surely had to get up early for work the next morning, it didn't matter because seeing Andra Day live was a "school night" well spent.
Watch Andra Day Perform "Rise Up"