Hillary Clinton wasn’t low on star power at her recently sold-out “I’m With Her” fundraiser at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday (March 2). Headlined by piano man Elton John and fiery popstress Katy Perry, soulful songbird Andra Day also brought her talents to the rally with performances of her uplifting hit “Rise Up” and Sam Cooke‘s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Hours before her sold-out March 6 show in Houston, Texas (she’s currently on the road for her own headlining stint before heading back on tour with Leon Bridges), the Grammy-nominated chanteuse hopped on the phone with Billboard to recall meeting with Hillary and Bill Clinton, receiving Elton John’s praise, the power of “Rise Up” and why she’s in no rush to crank out her second LP.
Billboard: Describe what the evening was like.
Andra Day: It was pretty amazing actually. I felt a little silly to be on the bill when I saw the flier [read] ‘Oh headlining for the event — Elton John, Katy Perry and Andra Day.’ I thought I tricked someone. [Laughs] But no it was amazing and the experience was incredible. To be among those artists, to meet Hillary, to meet Bill — it was just a great feeling to be a part of the event.
— Andra Day (@AndraDayMusic) March 4, 2016
What was the conversation like when you met Bill and Hillary?
It was brief. I’m not gonna say we were sitting there and were able to get into some deep philosophical conversation but it was very brief and she just thanked me for being there. I just thanked her for having me and I just told her I was inspired by a speech she gave at the Global Fund for Women a few years ago. I heard her speak there and everyone was really excited to have her so I just thanked her for having me at the event, what she’s done over the years and being a role model for women.
When did you decide you were going to support her in her presidential campaign?
I think fairly early on. Like I said, I was at an event for the Global Fund for Women and she did a speech there. She had hinted at running too and at that time, I was definitely interested in voting for her and supporting her. When this performance came up, it was kind of like a no-brainer for me to jump onboard and be a part of it.
— Andra Day (@AndraDayMusic) March 3, 2016
You also snapped a photo with Elton John. How was meeting him?
Oh my gosh, that was just unreal. I mean it’s Elton John so it was just incredible. He told me how he first heard my music through Zane Lowe at Apple, who’s been an amazing supporter of [mine]. So then [he told me] he bought the album and he loved the song [“Rise Up”] and listens to it all the time. He actually kissed my hand and said, ‘You’re the bomb.’ And I was like, ‘Ah!’ [Laughs] It was really amazing, watching someone I’ve always looked up to and admired. His performance was amazing.
Did you get to mingle with Katy Perry?
I did briefly. My piano player and this singer/producer I work with [named] Charles Jones knows one of her background singers so he introduced me to [Katy]. Oftentimes, I don’t like to bother performers before they’re about go on-stage ‘cause I know people have their thing and own process to go and perform but she was so sweet. When I saw her, she came right up and thanked me for being there. She was really sweet and I was like letting her get back to her thing but she was like, ‘Don’t worry about it. I was the one who asked you to be here.’ She was very sweet, very genuine person and extremely energetic performer as well. The environment was just very encouraging and uplifting.
Speaking of uplifting, “Rise Up” is such a powerful song on its own but it’s taken a sort of new life, from performing it at the Grammys to being featured on a Beats by Dre spot with Serena Williams and now, a Hillary Clinton rally. What does the song mean to you now?
For me, it’s a blessing because it means that the song is doing what it was created to do. I tell people all the time — I’m a very spiritual person so I pray over everything that I do including creating music, a new song. Really, my prayer and desire for [“Rise Up”] was that it was healing, encouraging, and that it encouraged people to persevere. And so, it’s been doing that.
I tell people I’ve met more people who were struggling with cancer or depression in the last year and people say, ‘Oh is that depressing?’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’s been so encouraging because they’ll tell me, like, ‘Hey I’m struggling with depression’ or ‘I’ve been diagnosed with cancer and I’m going through chemotherapy and I’m listening to your song every day and it’s helping me get through it.’ That, to me, is the most fulfilling thing that this thing we’ve created and what you’d hope would have a life is giving people stability. Now it’s attached to the Black Lives Matter movement, which is obviously, extremely important to me. I didn’t have an agenda for the song — the song was really meant to speak to everybody wherever they’re at in their lives and it’s doing that so it’s really fulfilling.
What’s next for you? Any upcoming collaborations?
A few musical collaborative things in the future. Just kind of [taking it] a day at a time. Hoping to work out something later with John Legend and probably do something with Ellie Goulding as well. I’ll definitely get back with my own band to work together but I’m not in a rush to create another album or anything like that. I’m just kinda living, you know?