Rising star Daya refuses to 'Sit Still, Look Pretty'

96 Seconds With Daya
96 Seconds With Daya

By: Gibson Johns

There's a new face in pop music that you should get familiar with, and her name is Daya.

Daya, who was born Grace Tandon and hails from Pittsburgh, burst onto the Top 40 scene last year with the inescapable hit "Hide Away" -- you know, that song that dispels that idea that every girl wants a bad boy, that song about wondering where all the good boys are.

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Following the single's massive -- and unexpected -- success, Daya, 17, released a self-titled EP in September with five other songs, all equally as addictive as her debut. One of those other songs, "Sit Still, Look Pretty," officially hit radio on Tuesday as her second single.

The song picks up where "Hide Away" left off: Its earworm of a chorus tackles more socially-constructed tropes about young women and proves them to be inaccurate.

With another song also climbing the charts ("Don't Let Me Down," a song by DJ duo of the moment, The Chainsmokers, that Daya sings the vocals for), Daya is one of the many rising young talents in pop music that is sure to find even more success with every release.

We talked to Daya on the phone before a recent performance at the White House for an exclusive interview about her newfound fame, sexism, inspiration and, of course, her fans.

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Check out our full conversation with Daya below:

So, news just broke that "Sit Still, Look Pretty" has already broken the Top 50 for radio play! How does that feel?

I know -- it's insane! The fact that it already went top 50 on radio having just been released is crazy.

I take it that reception from fans and critics alike has been great?

Yeah, definitely. I think people really like the message of female empowerment in the song.

It seems as though you're especially adept at writing songs that are relatable both in their descriptions of relationships and their ability to provide social commentary.

Totally. I think people can relate to that more so than they can to other things, because it's really relevant right now. It's just a great talking point, and it needs to be touched on. Especially with all of the sexism that happens in the world. "Sit Still, Look Pretty" is mainly about just not being that girl that's just there for someone else. It's about going after your own dreams and ambitions, and I think that's really important for young girls to hear.

Is "Sit Still, Look Pretty" based on any sort of personal experience of being told to do just that: Sit still and look pretty?

Definitely. It's also just from growing up with gender stereotypes and thinking, you know, you're not supposed to play sports, and you're supposed to dress up and wear makeup all the time. It's not as bad as it has been in the past -- and I think that's great -- but those stereotypes are definitely still there. It's important to be aware of that.

Do you have any plans for a music video for the song?

We don't have an official date or anything, but we definitely will be going out to L.A. to work on that soon. I'm super excited about it.

Obviously, the success that "Hide Away" brought you is absolutely incredible. When did you first know it was going to be a hit?

That's a hard question, because when we [Daya, Gino Barlett, Brett McLaughlin and Britten Newbill] wrote it, we didn't know the extent to which it would go. That was my first introduction to the pop world, so I really didn't know how it would do.

Sirius XM added it really early on, though, and then a bunch of radio stations added it after that. Celebrities reaching out also helped, with people like Tyler Oakley giving it a lot of support early on. I think that that just gave it a little push. Also the relatability of the song, along with people liking the message of it really helped a lot.

It's been a combination of things, but it's been really exciting that all of this has happened in just a year.

What's been your biggest "pinch yourself" moment of the past year?

Either today -- performing at the White House, which is pretty insane -- or, when I performed on New Year's Eve in Times Square in front of a mass of people. I had been watching that on TV my entire life, so to wind up there and be performing among such great artists was awesome.

You're also on a song with The Chainsmokers called "Don't Let Me Down." How did that collaboration come about?

They reached out to me through our label and asked me to sing the vocals for it! I heard the song once and basically fell in love with it. It's just such a jam! I love the drop and everything else about it. I also love their other stuff too -- I was a fan even before they reached out. I'm really glad they asked me, and I'm excited for it to take off.

Did you have any apprehension about being on the song, given that it's a totally different sound for yo?

No, actually. I've been listening to that kind of music for a while, and it's one of my favorite genres next to pop. I was really excited to branch out and form a little bit of a bigger audience by reaching people who don't normally listen to my music. It's a cool sound, and I really liked doing it!

Have you been writing a lot for your upcoming debut album?

Yeah! I just spent a couple of weeks in L.A. writing and recording for the album, which will probably be out in a couple of months. I'm really excited for it, as it has a lot of new sounds and some of it is a continuation of the EP.

Will it include the songs from your EP?

We'll have all of the songs from the EP on the album, yeah.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

That's hard! Definitely Amy Winehouse and Adele, who's really inspiring to me, just how raw and powerful and emotional her voice is. I also love Tori Kelly's sound -- it's just so unique, and she's super talented.

Any dream collaborations, either with producers or other artists?

Producer-wise, it would be really awesome to work with Skrillex and Diplo. That would be so cool. Ed Sheeran would also be super amazing to write with. He's such a talented songwriter.

I'm sure you've gained loads of fans over the last twelve months. What does their increasing support mean to you?

It means the world; I really wouldn't be here without the support of my fans, my friends, my family. It's really cool to see people going out of their way to support me. I'm not a huge artist, yet, but it's awesome to see and feel that support. It's always cool to have people feel the same way about things as you do and experience the same things in life as you do. It's a great way to make friends.

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