How many 18-year-olds do you know who already have won a Grammy Award? Pittsburgh native Daya joined the exclusive list in February, grabbing the Best Dance Recording trophy for the Chainsmokers’ massive hit “Don’t Let Me Down.” Sure, Daya technically serves as a feature on the track, but the song would be far from complete without the young musician’s powerful vocals.
Now she’s back with another jam, “New” — her first release since making her “debut to the world” last October with Sit Still, Look Pretty, her first full-length LP — and a new home at Interscope Records. Below, Daya discusses the song’s perspective on a failed relationship, how The Girl on the Train inspired the single’s music video, and the direction she’s heading in her next chapter.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You released the single on Thursday. Why was now the right time?
Daya: It feels really organic to release it now. I’ve been in the studio for the past six months. We wrote this song in June or so. It’s taken a while to really finish it and go back and forth with different producers. It’s been a year since I released anything, even though it feels like so much longer than that. I’m ready to get back out there. I’ve emotionally grown so much in the past year that I’m ready to show my fans this new era.
You posted a note that said this song captures a “more honest, vulnerable” you. What’s new in your music now that we didn’t see before?
With the last album, I didn’t write on all of it, but this new music I’m writing on every single one. I’ve been doing music my whole life — it makes sense. The last album I feel like I talked around a lot of my feelings and blamed other people and didn’t really focus on myself. For this one, I really wanted it to be a self-reflective thing where I’m realizing that I was closed off to a lot of these people in my life. I’m accepting the feeling of “I regret that, I shouldn’t have done that” [and] “I shouldn’t have left this guy, we could’ve been something good together.”
How does it feel to be signed to Interscope, home to some of the biggest names in the industry?
It’s really exciting. I love having a major label behind me. Independent was really great to start off as and I made some really big moves and gained a lot of fans. It’s about taking it to the next level now. I’m really excited because Interscope is really focused on artists. They’ve been working side by side with me creatively and allowing me to make a lot of the creative decisions, which you don’t always hear about. That’s why I didn’t want to sign originally with a major label. You always hear these stories about how they eat you up and spit you out and put you through this machine. I didn’t want to put myself through that. Now that I’ve met the right label — I’m not saying all major labels [are like that] — it’s more of a partnership.
Is there anyone with whom you’d like to work on new music?
I’m always seeing new artists and hearing new music and I’m just like, “Oh my God, what they have is so unique. I want to be a part of that.” I don’t think there’s any one person — it would depend on the song. I like people from hip-hop, different people from R&B that I would want to collaborate with. I think Labrinth is an amazing writer and an amazing singer. His voice is just so magnetic. There are so many people that I would work with inside and outside of pop. Right now, I’m focusing on the songs that I have for myself. Down the line, hopefully, I’ll have some collaborations on the album.
Sit Still, Look Pretty just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Do you have a timeframe in mind for new music or a new album?
I don’t have a time frame. I don’t even honestly have the rest of the album written. We haven’t put any titles or anything to an album. We’re just seeing how everything goes. It’s a big deal to be releasing just even one song for me. I’m excited for this and am just focused on promoting the single and sharing it with everyone now.
Where’d you get the idea for the “New” music video?
I was thinking of a The Girl on the Train kind of vibe, where she is on the train and she sees all these locations that trigger her and make her go into this emotional breakdown. There are a lot of similarities in my song because we wrote about a lot of location triggers, like when I’m at that diner or when I talk about him driving past my apartment. I wanted to bring elements of that in, and that’s where the couch and the phone booth comes from. I see these things in present day, and it takes me back to those memories that I had with my ex. I really admire Francis and the Lights. I love his dancing and his sporadic movements. I think he’s really talented and artistic. I love that all of his movements don’t feel overly choreographed. They feel very real and in the moment. That’s what I wanted the dance sequence to be for the video.
Given how far you’ve come since “Hide Away” in 2015, have you thought about where you’d like to be in a few years?
Hopefully, I’m still putting out music. I’ll still hopefully have some fans, at least my mom. [Laughs] I hopefully will be doing a world tour. A stadium tour would be amazing — that’s definitely one of my goals. Just to keep putting out real, honest music that people can really relate to and connect with.