News / Arts & Entertainment

    Singer Andra Day Rises as Soul Songstress

    Recording artist Andra Day poses for a portrait in Atlanta, Jan. 24, 2016.
    Recording artist Andra Day poses for a portrait in Atlanta, Jan. 24, 2016.
    Associated Press

    A phone call from Stevie Wonder changed Andra Day's life. He called Day and asked if he could work with her.

    Wonder heard about the songstress from his now ex-wife Kai Millard Morris, who discovered Day in a video clip. The clip showed Day singing in front of a strip mall in Malibu, California.

    The conversation with Wonder nearly six years ago was brief, but it gave Day the inspiration she needed.

    "I was so nervous,'' she said. "I kept saying to myself that he's just a regular person. But in the same breath, I was saying, 'He's a legend.' I felt like a meteor hit my house. It inspired me to keep pushing.''

    Day said her manager "sabotaged'' her business relationship with Wonder, so it took more than a year to reconnect. After she left that manager, Wonder introduced Day to longtime producer Adrian Gurvitz, who signed her to his label, Buskin Records.

    Now her career is taking off. The 31-year-old singer is nominated for two Grammy Awards - for best R&B album for her debut album, "Cheers to the Fall,'' and for best R&B performance for her standout single "Rise Up.''

    The Grammys will include a duet by Day and fellow nominee Ellie Goulding. Meanwhile, Day is focusing on her upcoming 35-city concert tour.

    Everything seems to be falling into place for Day, who typically mediates and prays daily.

    "My prayers are being answered for my career,'' she said. "These are prayers I've been praying for as a kid. There's a reason I have this platform. There's a reason I have this gift. It's a blessing.''

    Day has performed at the White House and is being featured on ESPN's Black History Month special. She can be seen in commercials with Wonder and Serena Williams.

    Filmmaker Spike Lee offered to direct the music video for her debut single, "Forever Mine,'' after seeing her perform during a Nina Simone tribute at last year's Sundance Film Festival.

    "Rise Up'' caught the interest of Apple executives Tim Cook and Jimmy Iovine, who paired the singer with tennis star Serena Williams in a Beats by Dr. Dre commercial.

    Over the holidays, Day joined Wonder to sing "Someday at Christmas'' in an Apple commercial. The White House also asked Day to perform at first lady Michelle Obama's education initiative "Better Make Room'' and the star-studded 2015 National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C., in December.

    ESPN is featuring Day and her song "Rise Up'' as part of the network's Black History Month hour-long special, which airs Feb. 14. Her song will be featured throughout the special, which will honor a host of black athletes, including ballet dancer Misty Copeland.

    Day credits her rise to her team of supporters, watching Wonder in studio sessions and the mentorship of Gurvitz and Raphael Saadiq, who helped produce "Cheers to the Fall,'' an album she co-wrote. She said the two producers have helped hone her craft and reach her potential as a vocalist and songwriter.

    The singer said Gurvitz and Saadiq pushed her to tell an honest story about her life on her album, including a past relationship where she often cheated on a former boyfriend of eight years.

    "I want people to ... not be afraid of their truth,'' she said. "No matter how dark or precarious it may seem, continue to pursue your truth.''

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