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Singer-songwriter Zella Day headlines Belly Up Aspen

Zella Day will perform at Belly Up on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

Who: Zella Day

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 8:30 p.m.

How much: $22/advance; $25/day-of; $35 reserved

Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com

Zella Day’s debut album, 2015’s “Kicker,” and her stunning concert at Belly Up last summer showcased a self-possessed performer and a magnetic singer with a wisdom and maturity that belie her 21 years of age.

Day, who returns to Belly Up on Tuesday night with a four-piece band, writes personal songs with some creative skin in the game like the songwriters she most responds to, like Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks.

“I think music is therapeutic in that way — sort of a window into the human psyche,” she said in a recent phone interview. “It’s helped me in my life and I can only hope that the experiences I’m sharing through my music can help people as well.”



But Day isn’t writing first-person confessionals. In songs like “Sweet Ophelia,” in which she writes about herself by looking at Hamlet’s doomed sister, and in “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” where she writes about her dad by riffing on Clint Eastwood’s cinematic gunslinger, there’s enough grey area for listeners to hear themselves in the lyrics.

“I’m always hesitant to tell people exactly what my songs are about because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody,” she said. “Everybody takes something different from the message, and I like that interpretive element and how people can integrate the music into their lives.”




Day picked up a guitar and began playing as a child in her native Arizona. Her introduction to the professional side of music came at 15, when she began doing writing sessions in Nashville studios. That experience pushed Day to devote her life to her art.

“I’m always going to be a writer,” she said. “It’s a craft that I’ll always be working on. Say my career didn’t work out as a performer, I’m can always be a writer. So it was when I was 15 and meting people like that I got more faith in my path and made it not so scary and one-dimensional.”

Day is only about two years into her touring career and is still crafting her live show. On her current solo tour, she’s playing the “Kicker” material — songs that rock a little harder than their subdued versions on the album — along with a few new tracks that are in the works (a new single, “Man on the Moon,” is due out next month). On the road, she’s been learning who her audience is and learning about herself as a performer, while writing songs for a second record that she hopes to release by the spring.

“When I wrote ‘Kicker,’ I had never toured a day in my life. I wrote it before I had a band. So it was kind of a big experiment that, luckily, has been going well,” she said.

With an aggressive touring schedule, Day is gathering a tribe of fans around the U.S. in clubs and theaters and in some well-received spots at festivals like Coachella this summer.

“My music has only lived out in the world for a short time, and it’s my job to put it on my back and carry it into the world and share it with people,” she said. “From there, it’s out of my control, which is kind of the best thing.”

Earlier this month, Day played Red Rocks for the first time while opening up on Michael Franti’s tour.

“That was a stage I got to cross off my bucket list,” she said.

She’s hoping to headline the iconic Colorado amphitheater before too long.

Along with opening for Franti, she toured this year with Fitz and the Tantrums and has been playing her own club dates. Playing on the bill with those old pros has been instructive for this singer-songwriter on the rise.

“I’m just lucky and grateful to be able to watch them do their craft every night,” she said. “Michael Franti knows his audience — it’s like a science. Every time he gets on stage he knows exactly what to give the crowd. I’ve been watching closely.”

atravers@aspentimes.com


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