During the past year, Andra Day’s voice — a stunning alto recalling her idols Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald — has felt inescapable. Her rousing aria “Rise Up,” the certified gold lead single from her soulful 2015 debut, Cheers to the Fall, peaked at No. 6 on the Adult R&B Songs chart, earned a Grammy nomination and became a de facto anthem for the Black Lives Matter and equal rights movements. “I pray about all the songs I do,” says 31-year-old San Diego native Day, “but with this one in particular, I’ve watched it affect things on both macro and micro levels. I’ve always wanted my music to be honest, and this year I see it truly changing the trajectory of people’s lives.”
“Michelle Obama’s zeal for women, education and health has changed the way I look at myself and at my ability to accomplish things, my capacity to effect change. I’m grateful to her on so many levels.”
Her Leading Ladies:
“Adele is absolutely a bright spot; she dances to the beat of her own drum and connects with people in such a spiritual way. And I love Laura Mvula’s new album, The Dreaming Room; she’s like a modern-day Nina Simone to me.”
A Woman’s Worth:
“Women in this industry need to know that their value does not lie in their physical beauty or their sexuality. Our characteristics are rich and necessary for a world that can survive and thrive.”
Andra Day talks about performing for President Obama and the First Lady at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony (“Am I looking too much? Is the Secret Service bugging out?”) and what being a ‘powerhouse’ means to her:
?This article originally appeared in the Dec. 10 issue of Billboard. Billboard’s Women In Music event takes place on Dec. 9 in New York City and airs on Lifetime Dec. 12.