It’s been two years since Grace Tandon, professionally known as Daya, moved (with her parents) from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles. Just 16 years old at the time, she was ready to pursue a career for which she’d been preparing since her first live performance, in a bar at age 9. (“I wasn’t playing in bars, plural,” she clarifies, “like doing that every weekend.”)
Six months later, she was on “Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda” performing her first single, “Hide Away.” Six months after that Bro-DM duo The Chainsmokers dropped the single “Don’t Let Me Down,” with her vocals. And a year after that, Daya accepted a Grammy on behalf of the absent Chainsmokers, with “Don’t Let Me Down” winning for Best Dance Recording.
amNewYork caught up with the 18-year-old before she started on her first-ever headline tour, behind her solo debut album “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” to talk influences, performing live and her meteoric rise.
You’ve packed more into 24 months than some pack into a career.
It’s been a crazy two years, but it’s been something that I’ve been working up to my whole life. I’ve been doing music since I was 3, so it’s always been in the back of my head that I would do this when I was older. Now that it’s happening, honestly, at some points it doesn’t feel real, and it’s exciting, and I just keep setting the bar higher. But my family keeps me grounded. I just went on vacation with them, and I have four sisters, and we’re all hardworking, independent, and my parents did a good job raising us that way. They treat me like I’m nothing special, like nothing has changed.
Your voice has a little more depth than what many might expect from a young electro-pop artist. Whom were you listening to as a child?
There were so many artists when I was growing up. A lot of the R&B and soul you hear in my voice I think comes from listening to Amy Winehouse, Alanis Morissette, Dido. A lot of really powerful female vocalists. I used to play a lot of piano ballads, R&B ballads, and I wanted to blend that into the pop.
Many of your contemporaries got their starts online and have had to learn the live performance aspect. Being onstage is where you started, but is there still something daunting to headlining for the first time?
I love performing. It’s my favorite part of all of this, and I’m so excited to finally be on my own headlining tour. I’ve done a ton of opening slots and one-off shows over the last year, but I’ve never created an entire show of my own. The cool thing is that it’s been really hands-on for me, working through every aspect with my team. It’s exciting to go through that process.