Daya has soundtracked so many of our nights out over the past five years with her Grammy Award winning collaboration ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ with The Chainsmokers, as well as her mammoth singles ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty’ and ‘Hide Away’. Her whole discography is exclusively complied of straight-fire bangers that are not only immediately infectious, but also have an honest and reflective foundation.
In the five years between the release of her debut album, the singer-songwriter has been further exploring who she is as an artist and a young woman. With a drip-feed of singles during that time, she’s finally ready to highlight the person and artist she is now through a confident and mature lens. With her forthcoming EP slated for release later this year, she has kickstarted 2021 with a track that will have you wanting to strut across the dance floor.
‘Bad Girl’ is a bold, dark and pulsating track that brings you in with its playful and pulsating production, but behind the synths is a multi-layered story of self-acceptance. Exploring her bisexuality, she confidently proclaims that she knows what she wants which is charged throughout the song with its pulsating production. But then she layers that story with a reflection of what the phrase “bad girl” means as it’s always been referred to as someone who is a “lost cause” or “troubled”. Instead she channels an empowering outlook that refers to being a “bad girl” as someone who is confident and asserts themselves boldly into the world.
I recently chatted to Daya about claiming the confidence in her identity and sexuality that led her to writing ‘Bad Girl’, found out the disastrous set malfunction that happened on the music video shoot, and reflected on the five year journey since releasing her debut album ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty’. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your new single ‘Bad Girl’ is a confident pop moment that interpolates a bold, dark and pulsating production with a multi-layered story of self-acceptance. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?
DAYA: This is a concept I feel like I’ve been trying to write for a few years now. To me it’s about the exploration and discovery of my identity as a bisexual woman, and just realising that those temporary desires I held for guys in my past are just fleeting moments for really temporary relationships, or bad boys you could say. It shows the evolution of that, to being in a relationship where I feel that those desires are not only fulfilled but are also reflected back at me by someone who mutually understands me, what I want, and also wants the same things back.
TB: Was it a song that came together really quickly, or did it take a while to hone the sound?
D: It was really quick actually! It was one of the only in-person sessions I did this year as I’ve just been doing Zoom sessions. Because we had that hiatus of not seeing anyone in-general, when we finally got back into the studio together and could feel that flow again, it was just electric. With Zoom there are so many roadblocks to it, and it changes the process so much as you’re constantly recording something on your own and then sending it over. There’s no communal feel to it, or flow to it anymore. So as soon as we got into the studio together I feel like it was just infectious from the start. Andrew Goldstein hooked up this track with Michael Pollock, and it immediately transported me to this space where I knew what I wanted to write about. And we wrote it in less than a hour!
TB: What I love about this song is that is redefines what it means to be called called a “bad girl”. How important was that messaging and shift in meaning for you to translate lyrically?
D: I feel like it plays off a few different things for me. I have always been someone who’s been labelled difficult to work with, or a problem child, or whatever you want to call it. And I feel like you’re always going to be labelled that as a woman if you’re confident with what your saying, assertive, and know what you want. And I think that’s certainly a flaw not only in our industry but in all industries. But that is something I’ve always struggled with. I was like, “am I bad? Do I not fit in? Am I not doing this right?”. Even a few years ago in sessions, if I was to try lead the song in a different direction it could be looked at as problematic, and Im like… “this is my song! This is what I’m trying to say as an artist, and I want people to connect with it.
So it’s definitely stemmed from that and being labelled as “bad”, and now reclaiming that as someone who is boldly themselves, assertive, and knows what they want.
TB: There’s a musical thats currently touring Australia called Fangirls and it similarly redefines what the term “Fangirl” means because for so long people have related the words embarrassing and disgusting to it, but they look at boys screaming at the football as the love of the game and passionate. It’s double standards, and that can be related to Bad Girl and Bad Boy too. And I feel like these double standards need to be acknowledged and have representation more, and music is such a great way to highlight that.
D: I love that! It’s so true! I didn’t even mean for it to be this really heavy thing about gender, but you can definitely look it both ways. I obviously have all these feelings about gender, but you can also look at it as finding someone who makes you feel like you can do anything and are invincible, and that they are your person and make you feel like your most authentic self. It can really go any way you want, but these are definitely things Ive been thinking about myself with identity, gender identity, and everything.
TB: As you mentioned before, the song explores your bisexuality, and as we just highlighted, representation is super important. We are heading into Mardi Gras month here in Australia, so who are some queer creatives that you look up to and inspire you?
D: Oh my god, there has been so many! But a lot of the classics for me stand out like Freddie Mercury and Elton John, as they really paved the way for us as queer creatives.
But it’s just so cool because I feel like every day there is a new artist coming out as queer or whatever they may identify as. I feel like there has been this door that’s been opened and now it’s okay to finally talk about it. It’s definitely signifying a move towards a more inclusive scope of sexuality and gender identity amongst artists.
TB: The accompanying music video for ‘Bad Girl’ compliments the brooding and dark-pop vibes of the song really well, while also being super playful. So what was one of the funniest or weirdest things that happened on set during that shoot?
D: Oh my god! We rented out this iconic Hollywood club called The Peppermint Club, and it’s been around for over 30 years and just has so much history to it. It just had that look off the bat that we wanted with this David Lynch vibe with the velvet, mystery, and seductiveness. So we were there and we had the runway built out of the stage for the last shot, and we had shot everything except for the red room shot that you see in the middle of the clip. Just as we were about to do that, one of the crew backed up into the curtain and the entire thing snapped and fell *laughs*. We looked at it after and it looked like it was already broken and had been duck taped together or something. So we ended up having to go somewhere else at another time and film that scene.
TB: It’s been five years now since you released your debut album ‘Sit Still Look Pretty’. So looking back on that release creatively, what would you say is something you learnt from releasing that record that you’ve actively taken into ‘First Time’, ‘Bad Girl’ and this forthcoming EP?
D: I think I learnt so much about performing, myself, and about the industry in general. When I was touring ‘Sit Still Look Pretty’ I was so young and impressionable as I was straight out of high school and had no idea what I wanted. I really needed time to grow more, but with this album it really accelerated a lot of things growth wise for me. I realised quickly what sound I liked, what I like to perform, what I want my message to be, and everything I needed to know as an artist. I think it definitely helped in so many ways. I don’t think I would be ready at this point in my life if I didn’t have that accelerated.
TB: It was such a great debut album but obviously your social trajectory right now is so exciting, it’s so much darker, and I’m really excited to hear what’s next.
D: Thank you! It’s not that I don’t relate to that music and who I was at that time, as I think it was really reflective of where I was in my life with not having a full relationship yet and talking about not liking boys *laughs*. It’s definitely helped as I’ve had more time to live as a human, grow, fall out of friendships and relationships, which has also made me such a better writer too.
TB: I also kinda feel like ‘Bad Girl’ is kinda a mature older sister of ‘Sit Still Look Pretty’ with it’s embodiment of confidence and standing up for yourself.
D: Yes! Someone actually also told me that ‘Bad Girl’ is like the opposite of ‘Hide Away’ because of “good boys” and “bad girls” *laughs*. But I definitely think messaging wise, I always knew I wanted to speak for myself as a woman and manifest that I’m a bad ass woman who doesn’t need to rely on anyone else for happiness. And ‘Bad Girl’ is definitely the continuation of that messaging.
TB: My favourite song from your back catalog is the absolute banger ‘New’ which I still believe is one of the most underrated songs of 2017. And what I loved about it was the very honest lyrics about moving on and searching for new beginnings. So where does the lyric “Turns out I don’t want new, I want you” take you to now emotionally?
D: It just feels like a past life. I’ve moved on so much since that relationship, it’s crazy. But in the moment it was the biggest relationship I had up until that point. It was a big deal, and it was my first love that I was into way more than I should’ve *laughs*. That track was very emotional for me at the time, and looking back it just feels like 10 lives ago, but I will always have a special place for that track.
TB: You’ve had major success with your tracks ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty’, ‘Hide Away’ and your Chainsmokers collaboration ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. So where is one of the weirdest or strangest places that you’ve heard one of your songs playing?
D: I was at a hot pot restaurant in Chengdu in China. It was my first time trying that delicacy before, and there were all these different types of fish and animal parts, it was quite overwhelming. Anyways, so we’re halfway through eating our meal and ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty’ started playing, and then the rest of the EP followed it and we were all like, “what is happening” *laughs*. It was so random! It was this tiny, tiny, restaurant in the middle of China, so it was definitely a surreal moment.
‘Bad Girl’ is out now!