Zella Day tells us about the influences behind new album ‘Sunday In Heaven’

Zella Day, the LA/Austin singer who travels in similar circles as Weyes Blood and Lana Del Rey, just released her second album Sunday In Heaven, which mixes modern pop with a classic sensibility, incorporating folk, disco, soul and more. You can listen to the whole thing below.

We asked Zella to tell us more about the inspiration behind Sunday In Heaven and she sent a list of 10 influences, including Minnie Riperton, choreographer and filmmaker Bob Fosse, rolling-skating, Daniel Johnston, and more. Check out her annotated list below.


1. Bob Fosse
To prepare and rehearse for the “Golden” music video I worked with a choreographer and former rockette, Katie Rayle. She created a Fosse inspired routine that I danced to the bone in the weeks leading up to the shoot. I didn’t grow up dancing, but the sharp exaggerated theatrics of the Fosse style have always appealed to my instincts. For the first time in my life I was dancing everyday and attending class multiple times a week. Now when I listen to “Golden” all I hear is jazz hands and pigeon toed hip rolls.

2. Roller Skating at the Arclight
There was a time when you could roller-skate on the top level of the parking structure of the Arclight and not get caught. My sister and I would drive down Sunset Blvd. from our apartment around golden hour to catch the sunset and skate to AM radio on my boom box. It was the best way to take a break, clear my head, and practice my turns.

3. Guy Bourdin
Bourdin is a French visual artist who had radical success in the fashion world as well as with the contemporary art scene beginning in the '50s to the end of the '80s. He was obsessed with surrealism and worked under Man Ray for a short time as his protégé. You can see his love for surrealism reflected in his fashion campaigns, I love when strange intersects with commercialism. The hyper realistic coloring in his photographs are so graphic and memorable. He was an important reference for the album campaign I shot with Elizaveta Porodina in Paris last year.

4. The bluffs in Long Beach, CA
There’s a man made oil island off shore from Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach decorated with palm trees and a refinery that looks like a miniature casino, the Queen Mary sits quietly in the background barely in view. Hauntingly contrived, old, and made of steel. When my mother remarried she was photographed with her husband with this view behind her. My grandmother and her siblings grew up walking the beach path below the Bluff looking out at the same view.

5. White Rabbit
The white rabbit has many meanings and connotations though I’ve seen it as a symbol of self discovery and curiosity. My album Sunday in Heaven is all about following your inner guide and being reborn through the process of self discovery. Down the rabbit hole into the next dimension of reality.

6. Minnie Riperton’s Come to My Garden
Released in 1970 Come to My Garden has some of my favorite orchestration and vocals ever recorded. She gives the most brilliant performance on “Les Fleur,” it changed my life. The intro is so captivating, you can’t turn away.. and THEN she starts singing and you belong to her. She had a five octave vocal range that made everything she sang so effortlessly dynamic.

7. Daniel Johnston home footage
I played a song for a Daniel Johnston tribute show and after the last performance was given the organization showed never before seen footage of Daniel writing at home on his piano. I was in tears by the end of the segment. He was considered an outsider by industry standards but in watching the clip it's apparent that nobody was more on the inside than Daniel. He had that sacred relationship to music that most people can only dream of.

8. Quiet time
There is a corner in my apartment that holds a low wooden sitting chair with a fiddle leaf fig growing out of a pot next to it. I dedicate thirty minutes every morning to drink my coffee, read, and pull a tarot card. I can be a little loose with my time, but my morning ritual has stuck in place. I’ve solved many riddles in that quiet corner.

9. Tarot
Allegedly you are not supposed to purchase your own tarot deck. I have had the same deck find me twice. A close friend gift me her Aquarius deck on my 21st birthday, I used it for three years until losing it in a moving truck. I was given another Aquarius deck a year later from my sister who had no idea that it was the same deck I had formerly been practicing with. During the writing process for Sunday in Heaven I used my deck as an intuitive tool. The deck taught me to consider past, present, future as an ecosystem that works in unison.

10. The Neon Church
The album was recorded in Nashville in a renovated church. The control board sits in the middle of the room with stained glass windows on either side so that the whole studio glows like a candle. Essentially there is only open space. The only door that closes behind you is the door you enter from the outside. The music always felt like it was growing taller and wider with no restraint. It all felt very synchronistic to show up to the Neon Church every morning for the making of Sunday in Heaven.