Daya Talks Breakthrough Hit “Hide Away,” Her Debut EP & Musical Inspirations: Idolator Interview

Mike Wass | September 22, 2015 8:30 am
Daya's Cute "Hide Away" Lyric Video
We're excited to premiere 16-year-old Daya's "Hide Away" lyric video. Watch now.

After a chance meeting with a producer, 16-year-old Daya flew to Los Angeles for a three-day writing session. She returned home to Pittsburgh with “Hide Away” — a supremely catchy (and relatable) pop anthem, which is exploding at pop radio and slowly ascending iTunes with minimal promotion. As such, it ranks as one of the few organic pop hits of 2015 and establishes the talented teen as an Artist To Watch.

I recently caught up with Daya on a return trip to Los Angeles and we discussed her whirlwind journey from incognito high school student to budding pop diva. She opened up about the inspiration for “Hide Away” (boy trouble) and talked me through some of the highlights on her self-titled debut EP. The newcomer also revealed her musical inspirations and shared a couple of tidbits about her first music video. Find out more below.

How did you get your big break?
I have been doing music my whole life, singing since the age of ten. I love it and I hoped it would become my career. I basically got this opportunity, last winter, to go out to Los Angeles to do a songwriter’s session with someone I met in Pittsburgh. That’s where I’m from.

We spent three days writing and came up with six songs. “Hide Away” happened to be one of them. We loved the song. We wanted to push it to radio. We took it to someone who has been in the industry for years. He was like, “I really love this. I want to manage you and take you to radio.” That’s how that all started. It’s been a wild ride since then.

Who did you work with on those songs? I know Leland was involved.
Leland was one of the writers. He is one of three writers that I worked with. Britten Newbill was another. Do you know Gino Barletta? He was the main creative director. He was the one who invited me to come out. Him and Leland were the heads of this project, in terms of writing. Production-wise, Noisecastle III did all of the tracks.

How did you connect with Gino?
Gino went to Carnegie Mellon University with my voice teacher from Pittsburgh. She has a school called Accelerando. He would come in and out and help with the kids there. It’s a performing arts school. I met him through that. He was like, “Wow, I really love your voice. You’re really talented. Why don’t you come out to LA?”

Were you shocked?
Yeah. People at home had told me, “Oh, I love your voice. I love your music.” I never thought that it would go this far. I never thought that people outside of Pittsburgh would be really interested and willing to invest in me.

You’ve got a really distinctive voice. Have you always had that tone?
I think so. I think I found my belt around age 11. I was always doing ballads. I was doing Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” at the 7th grade talent show. Just belting it out on the piano. I think it’s always kind of been my thing, my voice. I listened to Adele. I did a lot of her covers early. I tried to stylize my voice after her.

Did you know “Hide Away” was special when you first heard it?
I was really new to this whole world. I hadn’t worked with a producer before, all the electronic synthesizers, stuff like that. I thought that everything that we were creating was amazing. I think the driving beat mixed with the message of the song was really put together well. I fell in love with it.

It has a relatable message. Was it based on personal experience?
Yeah. It’s sort of like an outlook on high school. Little things in high school, drama and stuff like that. I’ve never been one to always have to chase after a guy, always have to have a boyfriend. You know? I think it’s more about finding yourself and going after your own dreams and ambitions, first.

“Hide Away” connected so quickly at pop radio. Were you surprised?
It’s been crazy. My manager is really a great guy and the rest of my team, we’re just hard working people. We like to get stuff done.

What was it like hearing the song on radio for the first time?
It was insane. I was driving in my car because I just got my license, back home. I heard it on Sirius XM. They have been playing it a lot, which has been great. I heard it on there and it was like, “Oh, wow.” I had to pull over. I was like, “Is this really happening?” I was sandwiched in between my favorite artists.

How has everyone at school reacted?
I was actually home for the first time in months and got to go to my high school football game. I’m actually not going there full-time. I’m taking online classes now. It was cool to see everyone. It was fun. We chanted “Hide Away” at the game. People from the other schools were coming up and asking “Oh my God, is that really her?” It’s just weird to go back home and get that kind of reaction. It’s been really great. They’ve been so supportive of me from the start.

When is the video coming?
We’re going to film it sometime this week. It’s been kind of crazy with radio visits. Hopefully it will drop this month or the beginning of next month.

Can you talk about the concept?
It’s about what the song is saying. Guys and girls are doing all of these different, fun things. I’m by myself, isolated and waiting for that right guy to come around.

Sounds like my life. Let’s talk about the EP. “Thirsty” is a really fun song.
I love that song. I think it’s super catchy. I think that the main gist of it is to know your boundaries, don’t overstep.

Another great song is “Sit Still Look Pretty.” What’s that about?
That’s actually my favorite song on the EP. I think it’s just about not being an accessory for someone else. Just having your own dreams and goals. Going after them and not having to always try to please someone. Just be your own person.

Have you thought about your next single yet?
I think “Sit Still Look Pretty.” I’ve had great feedback on that one as well. I think the message is really great for young girls. It empowers girls.

Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve listened to Amy Winehouse for a really long time. I love her voice. She is just so different and so raw. You can hear that in her voice and her songs. I love Adele and Sam Smith. I love Alessia Cara. I just did a show with her last week. I just love her voice and her sound. I think “Seventeen” and “Here” are my favorites.

Young female artists like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez are taking risks with their sound in 2015. Is that inspiring to you?
I think whatever feels authentic and real to you at the time is the path that you should go. I don’t think that you should stick with an image just to please other people. I think you should just go with your gut. I really admire what they’re doing with their music.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I don’t do karaoke, but I did have High School Musical karaoke when I was younger. It was great. I love High School Musical. I could watch that again and again.

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