Andra Day opens up about her quick journey to the Grammys
One year ago, Andra Day was perhaps best known for an eclectic mix of bluesy, jazzy covers she posted on her YouTube channel, particularly her rendition of Jessie J's "Mamma Knows Best" that peaked at No. 2 on the YouTube Music Charts.
Flash forward to last Monday, and the artist found herself on the Grammys stage, broadcast into millions of homes across the country.
"I'm kind of blown away by it," she told AOL in an exclusive interview about performing on such a huge scale. "I think you have to tell yourself that it's not a massive audience."
Since she was raised in a very musical family, the 31-year-old vocalist has been inundated with music her entire life, first being exposed to her parents' repertoire of Luther Vandross and Fleetwood Mac and later being classically trained in jazz at a performing arts school. The masterfully visceral artist, whose soulful voice harkens back to old jazz greats, recalls Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" as one of her first inspirations.
Although it's been a long journey, she's still processing the whirlwind last six months -- from the release of her debut album, "Cheers To The Fall," in August to her Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance (for her hit single, "Rise Up") in December that culminated in an incredibly well-received duet with Ellie Goulding at the awards show.
"It was pretty quick and shocking for me, and I think I was just grateful. But it is kind of an incredible experience to see all those years of hard work and years of praying come to fruition ... to watch it manifest like this is really amazing," she said.
The singer's quick rise and unique sound, which takes inspiration from soul, R&B and jazz with a pop sensibility, also means grabbing the attention of music's finest -- heavyweights like Anthony Hamilton and John Legend have both expressed interest in working with her.
"It's been pretty surreal that all these people that I grew up listening to are even familiar, let alone enjoy the music," she said.
While Day would no doubt love to work with "amazing singers and vocalists and artists and passionate people" like Hamilton and Legend, as well as Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, the rising star is in no rush to put out a second album for the sake of it.
Artists like Sade, Maxwell and Adele inspire her for their dedication to staying true to themselves.
"I'm a big believer in taking time to go live and go experience life and be really be inspired by things. I like to create music and speak what's true to me on an album and I have to be able to live that truth," she elaborated.
It's for that reason Day prefers to perform in smaller, intimate settings. While she acknowledges that larger venues allow artists to reach more people, the singer aims for a personal, spiritual connection with her audience.
"I think it's because the album is so autobiographical, and I think its going to resonate with people in their own personal way, so I like when there's an exchange. We're together going through the emotions together," she said. "I can relate more when my audience is more tangible and I am more tangible for them. There's a freedom there."
Day will be taking to a small, intimate stage on Thursday night at Skyville Live!, where she'll perform in person to approximately 300 guests. Watch her performance live on Go90 and AOL.com at 8 p.m. EST.
Listen to "Cheers To The Fall" below: