This article is from Issue 82: July/August 2016

The Rise of Andra Day

You know her Grammy-nominated song ‘Rise Up.' But do you know what she had to rise from?

The past year saw the rise of R&B artist Andra Day.

It all started when the legendary Stevie Wonder got his hands on a recording of Day’s performance at a Malibu strip mall and was so impressed he reached out to her.

The connection with Wonder led to a record deal with Warner Bros. and the release of her intensely intimate debut album, Cheers to the Fall.

Since the album’s release, she has toured the U.S., made music videos directed by Spike Lee and M. Night Shyamalan, received nominations for two Grammys and performed at the Grammys and the White House. Her breakout song, “Rise Up,” has elevated her to a near-household name.

But all of this almost never happened.

"My mother converted to Christianity when we were very young. When I got into my teen years and into my younger adulthood it was, 'Yeah, yeah, I believe.' But I was smoking weed, drinking, heavily into promiscuity—cheating on whoever I was with."


Not much longer than year ago, Day was at the lowest point of her life: “I was smoking weed, drinking, heavily into promiscuity— cheating on whoever I was with—just doing things selfishly, and doing music for my own sort of vain persona,” she says.

“I didn’t have a job, completely broke, sleeping on my mom’s couch in her tiny little apartment. And any deal I had at the time basically fell through.”

In the world of music, these aren’t necessarily uncommon circumstances. But her’s is nothing like the typical celebrity success story: “It was a low point,” she says, “but it was the greatest point in my life.”

Why? Her whole life turned upside down when her breaking point led her to faith in Jesus Christ. For the first time since her rocket-like rise to fame, Day talks openly about hitting rock bottom, finding faith and living vulnerably—even in the brightest of spotlights.

Can you tell us how you got to where you are right now?

My mother converted to Christianity when we were very young. When I got into my teen years and into my younger adulthood it was, “Yeah, yeah, I believe.” But I was smoking weed, drinking, heavily into promiscuity—cheating on whoever I was with—just doing things selfishly, and doing music for my own sort of vain persona.

I ended up moving out to New York ... but my conscience just started to catch up with me.

I told Him everything I had done, I told my family everything I had done. Dealing with the guilt and the shame, you know, it was a very low point in my life.

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