This Grammy award winner has an Indian connection and we’re sure you didn’t know about it
January 21, 2019 · 5 Minute Read
Well, if you haven’t been living in a pineapple with Spongebob, you probably know who Daya is, but did you know that this 20-year-old singer and songwriter has an Indian connection? Grace Martine Tandon better known as Daya, has taken our playlists by storm with her celestial voice and even earned herself the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording for The Chainsmokers collaboration, “Don’t Let Me Down”!
We recently caught up with Daya to talk about her experience working with RL Grime, Gryffin and Illenium , and learned more about her love for the Indian culture, parathas and the reason why she chose a Sanskrit name to represent her artist alias.
One of your most recent tracks was with RL Grime titled, “I Wanna Know”. Could you walk us through the songwriting process and how was the final product made?
I actually wasn’t a part of the songwriting process for this track; I was connected with RL through a friend and also heard the track through him; I fell in love with the song immediately and wanted to record it right after. I’ve always admired RL’s work and the lyrics resonated so it felt like the perfect storm of everything. I got in the studio and recorded it the fastest I’ve ever recorded anything, it just all felt really natural and raw.
The music video of “I Wanna Know” celebrates female empowerment, was that the thought when you were writing the track?
My interpretation of the song where it resonated most with me at the time of recording was more literal, I was in a relationship where I was starting to get desperate and almost cynical, always feeling like I was overstepping or doing too much. But I think Megan, the director, did a brilliant job of turning those initial feelings into feelings of empowerment/companionship. I’ve talked to many girls who’ve run into relationship issues because their significant others feel intimidated by their power or confidence, and that’s wrong. We should be celebrating those qualities and trying to raise each other up rather than trying to dumb ourselves down so that our boy/girlfriends can be more comfortable. I think my perspective with it has evolved over the past year or so, and it’s probably gonna continue to change, which is one of the cooler things about growing with music.
We absolutely loved your collaboration with Gryffin and Illenium, “Feel Good”. How was your experience working with them?
I probably wrote this song around three years ago now, with cowriters Toby Gad and Nisha Asnani. It was one of the first songs I’d written before signing that I felt truly proud of. Dan (Gryffin) heard it and asked if he could do production on it and pulled Illenium in as well. They’re both insanely talented and added brand new energy to it that I think finally brought the demo to its full potential.
Also, what are your thoughts on the popular dance music genres in the industry?
I think dance music is and has always been a defining moment in pop culture. It can be mindless house party background music or carry a lot of emotional depth to it. There’s so much potential to it because of its natural dynamic. I’m grateful to have the foundation that I have in dance music and hope to continue pushing the boundaries of it and collaborating in that world.
You have a Grammy award to your credit for your track with The Chainsmokers. How was “Don’t Let Me Down” made and did you expect it to blow up the scene like it did when you were recording it?
I don’t know that I could have ever predicted the magnitude of the impact it had on culture but I knew it was something special while recording it. “Hide Away” was just starting to make its way up the charts and The Chainsmokers’ first radio single was as well so it was the perfect storm of things. Radio can be really unpredictable, but we went with our gut and worked really hard to have it reach as many people as it could and it ended up going #1. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that it was gonna do what it did.
How does it feel to have achieved so much at such a young age? Do you feel under any pressure when you are working on a new track, keeping in mind you have to outdo the previous one? Does the fear of failure ever bother you?
I am a crazy perfectionist, so yes, the fear of failure is a constant push and pull because of my desire to be the best and my anxiety of not living up to that standard. It’s a mental battle but something I’ve had to come to terms with over the years and try to use it as a strength rather than something to hold me back. I’ve learned to put my successes in perspective and celebrate myself more, even with the small things. Caring for your mental health is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and will ultimately help you achieve anything you want. I’m optimistic about my new music and think it has the potential to be even more impactful than my last releases, so stay tuned!
Not a lot of people know that your paternal grandfather migrated from Punjab to the United States. While growing up, were you connected to your Indian roots?
I feel blessed to have any connection with Indian culture, I find it really beautiful and fascinating. My grandfather and father have brought moments of it into our childhood— we used to go out to Indian brunch or make parathas at home every Sunday. My family and I also visited my cousins in Delhi when I was in middle school and fell in love with the colors and the food and art and the ways of the culture. I’ve never celebrated any Indian festivals but have always really really wanted to be invited to an Indian wedding since I was young.
Your stage name Daya, is Sanskrit translation for “kindness”, why did you choose this specific name to represent you globally?
I wanted to pay homage to my ancestry while keeping it personal to my name. My birth name is Grace and “Daya” translates loosely to grace, compassion, and kindness. It felt like the perfect name to represent myself publicly while keeping my private life private.
What do you think of the impact of the Indian culture on your music?
I’m still trying to educate myself on types of Indian music, but as I’m learning I’ve been trying to pull elements of them into my music. It’s always been really intriguing sonically, the way most Indian singers grow up singing quarter tones really amazes me. I’ve talked to my producers about bringing it into my music and hope to create something special really soon.
On those lines, are you planning to fly down to India for a show any time soon?
I would love to!! I love my Indian fans and the support they’ve shown me through the years. I’ve toured parts of Asia but never India so hopefully, that’ll change soon.
That’s that from Daya, but don’t forget to stream her Selects Playlist on JioSaavn and show some love to her!