Daya Talks College Parties, Younger Fans and Why She’s Not Good at Relationships

"I never really censor myself."

At 19, Daya is one of the youngest artists in history to win a Grammy. She took home the gilded gramophone for “Don’t Let Me Down,” a collaboration with The Chainsmokers that hit no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was partied to by people around the world. (You’ve definitely heard it—more than once.)

But that award-winning, chart-topping dance song isn’t the only place you can hear Daya’s jazzy, synth-driven pop sound. The young singer has hits of her own—her 2015 self-titled EP featured her debut single “Hide Away” and the empowerment anthem “Sit Still, Look Pretty.” Now, she’s working on her first full-length album, and the hit-maker is ready to move into a more mature phase. In October, Daya released her latest single, “New,” a bass-thumping pop song that introduces a grown-up sound and an even more grown-up message. (It’s super sexy!)

During Daya’s recent visit to Toronto, we sat down for a comfy couch chat before her private, stripped-down performance in a trendy downtown loft. Wearing Kappa track pants, a Gucci purse and chunky white sneakers, the teen singer was, as expected, the ultimate coming-of-age cool girl.

When people hear your voice on that Chainsmokers track, they are usually turning up. It’s a radio song, but it’s definitely a rave song. But you were only 18 when you sang on that song, right? 

Yeah, I was only 17. “Hide Away” was going up the charts and [The Chainsmokers’] “Roses” was becoming big at the same time, so we kept running into each other at all these radio station promo events. And then they just asked me to sing on the song, and that was that.

Was that ever something you thought about? Being so young on a song that people are usually drinking and taking drugs to? 

It’s so funny. Basically, I should have been a freshman in college when it came out, so all my friends were in college for their first year. And it was the college song. Every single pre-game, every single night, it was that song.

When you look at your friends in college on Instagram and Snapchat, do you feel like you’re missing out?

I feel like I get all the good parts of college, cause I just college hop on the weekends and party with them, but I don’t have to do any of the school part or the work part.

You have a huge Instagram following, and a lot of younger girls follow you. Do you feel pressure to be a role model to them? 

Yes and no. I don’t ever want to view it as, I’m a role model, and these are my followers. I want to view it as more of a friend relationship. So I hope that because of my age, because of my youthful nature, I can relate to a lot of what’s going on in their lives. That’s something that’s really special and specific to me versus other artists who are older, and might be out of touch with younger people. I feel like a lot of my fans are 17-18 years old, and they’re going through very similar things in life.

In terms of role modelling for younger kids, I never really censor myself. I went to the Women’s March and I posted a picture of myself with a sign that said, “Pussy Grabs Back.” But that wasn’t me just cursing; it was a statement about our political culture. The president said that word first—I was using his own words back against him. I just want to speak to what’s real and what feels genuine.

Your first two hits, “Sit Still, Look Pretty” and “Hide Away” have very strong messages of empowerment. You were young when you put out those songs. Why was that message important for you to put out into the world? 

I was so young, I didn’t really have any experiences with relationships or with guys. But at any age, these [songs] are things that are really true. I have four sisters at home, and both my mom and dad worked, and both of them took care of us. It wasn’t like my mom was fully domestic, or my dad was fully domestic, they were just equals in their relationship. So I grew up with the perspective that women should be pursuing their dreams and not have to depend on a guy.

Your new song “New” is about love and relationships. It’s pretty grown up and sexy. Is this where you’re at now? Is this what we can expect for you to speak to in your new music? 

I am still very independent in my real life, and that’s why I’m always trying to get out of relationships prematurely. Which I think this song speaks to, because I’m regretting that I moved on so quickly from this person, and realizing that they could have been a really impactful part of my life.

Is maintaining relationships with this career—and in this industry—a hard thing to do? 

Oh my god, yes.

So that’s why everyone’s singing about it! 

Exactly. Find me one artist who hasn’t written this type of song. I’m always moving on, and I’m always trying to reach new career heights, and there are so many men who might feel threatened by that, or they might not be OK with the fact that I’m always gone. So that’s why I’m not good at relationships.

What is going to be new for you in the next couple of years? Do you have ideas for where you want to go? Music wise, relationship wise…

Sonically, I think my music is going to change a lot. I’ve taken control over the writing; I signed to a new label and I’m working with a lot of new songwriters and producers. I’ve gone into the studio ready to explore new genres and explore new sounds, and wondering how we can make things are weird and different as possible. And I think that’s where my best music comes from.

Last question: When can we expect your next album? 

We don’t really have a timeline yet, but definitely within the next year.

Watch Daya’s video for “New” below: