Andra Day On Her 'Rise Up' To Grammy Nominee

Myriam Santos
Andra Day

Scoring nods for best R&B performance and R&B album, the singer also stars in Apple’s holiday commercial with Stevie Wonder

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Andra Day. On the heels of wrapping her first headlining tour, she performed at A&E’s Shining a Light concert with Nick Jonas. Next, the singer/songwriter was among the music acts featured in the 89th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Then an early Christmas gift arrived: not one, but two Grammy Award nominations.

"I've been laughing the entire time. I don’t know what else to do," Day told Billboard of learning about her first Grammy nods. The Warner Bros./Buskin Records newcomer is up for best R&B performance for the single "Rise Up" and best R&B album for her debut studio project, Cheers to the Fall. In the former category, the San Diego native's fellow nominees include The Weeknd and Tamar Braxton; the latter includes newcomer Leon Bridges and Jazmine Sullivan.

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"This says that R&B is still great music," explains Day of 2015's R&B Grammy field, rounded out by a range of established (D’Angelo, Miguel, Charlie Wilson) and building acts (WB roster-mates Lianne La Havas, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kehlani). "It also says that R&B is diverse. Everyone always wants to define what R&B is. I love the diversity in each of the R&B categories."

Day's emotion-packing style -- a distinctive amalgamation of Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Motown -- is an immediate draw. Just ask film director Spike Lee. After hearing her perform at the Sundance Film Festival in January, he offered to direct the music video for Day's debut single "Forever Mine."

Or ask Apple executives Tim Cook and Jimmy Iovine. The pair tapped the singer's next single, "Rise Up," to co-star with tennis legend Serena Williams in a Beats by Dre ad that premiered in early September. That Apple association is still bearing fruit. It's Day that viewers see in Apple’s new holiday commercial, dueting with mentor Stevie Wonder on the latter's "Someday at Christmas."

Serena Williams & Andra Day 'Rise Up' for Beats By Dre During U.S. Open: Watch

Then ask Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer Raphael Saadiq, who produced Day's album debut, Cheers to the Fall, with Adrian Gurvitz (CeCe Winans, Ziggy Marley). Day co-wrote the whole album and describes the set as an "autobiography told in the form of 13 soul music tracks." Among the album's selections is “Only Love,” whose star collaborators include the Roots' Questlove and James Poyser, bassist Pino Palladino and the Dap-Kings. That song will soon get its shine with a performance at the Team USA Awards honoring U.S. Olympians (NBC Sports Network, Dec. 27) and an official music video. 

From turning in a stirring cover of "Mississipp Goddam" for the deluxe version of the acclaimed album Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone to opening for Lenny Kravitz this summer, Day has garnered an enviable list of high-profile looks. The next step stardom will be making radio programmers sit up and take notice.

"To get these Grammy nominations without substantial radio airplay makes them even more special," said Day who will kick off a radio promotion tour in January. "It’s OK if music just sounds good. You don't have to put some super-defined label on something to play it. Adele and Bruno Mars have been able to push past that. And I'm hoping to have that same effect with Cheers to the Fall."