Time Out catches up with Daya, singer-songwriter and star on The Chainsmokers hit Don’t Let Me Down, ahead of her performance at RedFestDXB 2017
Where are you at the moment? I'm in LA right now, picking out some outfits for my tour.
Are you looking forward to performing in Dubai? Yeah, it's going to be so cool. It'll be the first time I've been to the city or even the country, so I'm super stoked, and the festival sounds like it's going to be insane.
What are you planning to do while here? Well, I'm actually bringing my family, and we're going to be there for a good four or five days. I think we’ll take a trip into the desert. I also heard there's a massive mall with a ski slope, so we have to go there too – I love skiing.
When did you start singing? When I was around ten. I'd been playing piano and guitar up until that point, and I started performing when I was about 11 or 12. It's just always been a huge part of my life. I took classical voice training for a couple of years, and then I switched. I kind of found my voice, like my more contemporary pop style, so I grew into that.
Which artists inspire you? When I was younger, I was vocally inspired by Amy Winehouse, Dido and Alanis Morissette. They were huge ones. I loved just rocking out to their songs on the piano. And now, so many artists constantly inspire me. It's hard to pick one.
Is there a backstory to the name Daya? Yeah. Daya is a loose translation of my real name, Grace, in Hindi – it kind of means compassion rather than grace. My Grandpa actually emigrated from New Delhi, India, so I'm a quarter Indian – that's where it comes from.
You've been nominated for a Grammy for Don’t Let Me Down, your collaboration with The Chainsmokers. How did that come about? They hit me up last year and asked me if I wanted to be part of the song. I heard it once and fell in love with it, and immediately knew I had to be a part of it. It just took off. It surpassed my expectations in terms of what we would accomplish with it, but I'm so grateful for the support that I've received from everyone over the past year, for the song.
You also performed for the Obamas at the White House last year. What was that like? Yeah, that was for the Easter Egg Roll, it's just this annual celebration they have on their front lawn for Easter. And a bunch of families and kids were there, so they wanted to have like younger pop artists, I guess. And I was there, Echosmith were there and a couple of other artists were there. And it was so much fun. It was so great to meet the President and Michelle Obama – they're incredible people, and it was a blast performing there. It was just a surreal moment for me and my career.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Would it be that? That was a huge one, definitely. And I performed in Times Square for New Year's Eve last year, which was wild. The biggest crowd I've performed for, by far.
You were arguably one of the breakout stars of last year. How does that feel? I mean, it's such an honour to be recognised among so many talented new artists. I love being part of that new generation that's going to take over in a couple of years, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for me and the other artists.
What was it like writing your debut album? Had you done much song-writing before that? I had been writing a little bit before that. I'd been writing with a piano for a couple of years, but never with a group of people. I had so much fun writing with my team. I used the same songwriters I did for Hideaway and my first EP, as I did for the album, so we have really good chemistry, and it was a lot of fun.
Are you working on any new music at the moment? I'm in and out of the studio, but the focus right now is on my debut, which I released in October.
Finally, what can people expect from your RedFestDXB performance? A lot of energy, a lot of fun, and some new songs from the album that I'll be performing for the first time live. We're just going to rock out. It's going to be fun. From Dhs395. Thu Feb 2, 6pm-midnight; Fri Feb 3, 4pm-midnight. Daya takes to the RedFestDXB stage Thu Feb 2. Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.redfestdxb.com.