Photo courtesy of Inya Day.
As potent a songwriter as she is a chanteuse, Inaya Day penetrates the mind and soul with every enticing beat she elucidates. The New York-based musician has found a way to keep classic soul, jazz, gospel, and R&B relevant while bringing to it the sensibilities of pop music’s latest infatuation, electronica. She’s bold; daring; and she likes to play with your instinct. A union of mainstream taste and marginal spectacle, Day has written for the likes of Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Missy Elliot, Diddy, and Big Daddy Kane; assisted in production for the King of Pop, himself, Michael Jackson; and also taken her turn on stage in a variety of musical theater performances.
With the new year approaching, Day’s focus now shifts to her solo work, completing her first album in 2013, and also stepping up her game as a songwriter. She talks to BTR about her eclectic background and breakout into the music scene.
BTR: Your music is pretty provocative – what would you say are your artistic goals?
ID: My artistic goals: Hmm…To write and produce for high profile artists on a regular basis so I can sing only because I want to and not because I have to.
BTR: How does your music compare to who you are as a person?
ID: My music is very much like the person I am; it can be fun, motivating, soulful, empowering, diverse… all of those things are words that can be used to describe me.
BTR: You’ve written for a bunch of superstars – what’s the difference in creating a song for yourself and for someone else? How much of your own personality are you able to reflect in other people’s music?
ID: When writing for other artists, I have to be mindful of their vocal ranges and utilities. I have to know their strengths and weaknesses. Some artists ask that I just write and not consider that it’s for them. Others want their “styles” matched completely so they can stay in their comfort zones. So, my personality usually shines through in the lyrics and the vocal arrangements. Those are the parts that I can control and not interfere with the artist’s interpretation of the song.
BTR: Your bio suggests you’re an actor and church girl as well – what was your childhood like and how do you think you’ve changed since you were a kid?
ID: My family is a church-going family. There are lots of ministers and musicians in my family. The first place I was taken after my “new-baby-stay-at-home-time” was to choir rehearsal at church with my mother. So, my faith and religion were instilled in me from birth and remain to this day and always. The only changes are that my faith is stronger and I not only listen to music, I create it, as well.
BTR: What do you remember about your first experiences as a singer?
ID: Well, I started singing in church at the age of four. I remember being fascinated by the reaction of the congregation and loving the applause. I sang for church events and community shows and contests until I went on to do a musical when I was about 12-years-old. The show’s star was a character named Petey who was a mischievous boy. I was a chorus member, one of the students, in this play set in an elementary school.
We went on holiday break or something. Then, when we returned, they decided to change the Petey role to a girl (it was now a nick name for Petunia), and SHE was ME! Seems the little chorus member knocked the lead guy out of the box. It was then that my passion for musical theater, and the stage in general, was nourished and flourished.
BTR: I read you’ve been influenced a lot by house music – what struck you about the genre that peaked your interest?
ID: I’ve loved house music since it began. I remember my friend put a Walkman on my ears and said, “You’ve got to hear this new music called house!” We were kids, of course, but we were both baby musicians. We’d plug into Cassandra’s Walkman everyday and listen to it. The bass, the beats, the synth licks and string layers… I loved it then and I still love it now.
BTR: What plans do you have for 2013?
ID: In 2013, I’ll be releasing my FIRST album; I’ll be writing much more for artists that you know, and I’m going to add a bit of a different flavor to my shows… My “dancers” are also going to be singers with me onstage. [laughs] THAT’s gonna be fun.
BTR: Greatest accomplishment to date?
ID: Thank God, there are many. But one that stands out is singing and arranging vocals for Michael Jackson on his remix for “Ghost.”
BTR: Hottest record you’ve heard all year?
ID: I must be biased and say Frankie Knuckles’ Director’s Cut remix to my single, “Every Breath,” Marc JB (of Bimbo Jones) and ME.
BTR: Where will you be on New Year’s Eve?