Inaya Day talks divine inspiration, longevity and European connections
It’s always interesting preparation for an interview to gauge the reaction of others when you tell them who it is you’re about to chat to. In some cases people just burst into song because of a particular chart success or memorable moment soundtracked in their own lives. In others people maybe squint and chin-stroke at some degree of possible recognition. When I told people I was chatting to Inaya Day, however, the reaction was universally one of a knowing smile and considered nod as if to say, “Ah, now you’re talking.”
On a personal level I’d been tracking her since her days as part of Boris Dlugosch’s cohort of collaborators in the late nineties. Doing my research before an interview is always a voyage of discovery because in almost all cases people of this calibre have done way more than most of us realise. As it turned out, in Inaya Day’s case there was even more than I’d realised…
I’ve been enjoying your recent track with Ridney and Richard Earnshaw, how’s it been working in these weird times?
Well, the only thing that’s really different is that I’m not doing live gigs. I have my own studio in my home so I can still record and I’m doing live streams so that’s pretty cool because in summer it would have been festival time and a lot of people are having online festivals so I’ve been rocking with them so I’ve been pretty busy. Lucky.
You started out with Boris Dlugosch – tell me how does a native New Yorker come to start out by working with a German producer then?
[Laughs] I was living in Germany at the time doing musical theatre and a mutual friend of ours referred us to one another and just to appease him we were like ok, ok and then I got to the studio and started singing and he was like, “Oh Inaya, you have a great voice!” I was like thanks, and we kept going and that was how Keep Pushin’ was born. Once Keep Pushin’ was born it blew up and we had to follow it up with Hold Your Head Up High and so that began my house music career twenty five years ago.
You also worked with Mousse T on Horny – when did you feel like you’d made it?
Well I think it was after Horny because three times in the beginning I wasn’t using my own name – my name was in the credits but we always used a project name, like “Boris Dlugosch presents Booom!” for the first two records and when I did the record with Mousse T it was called “Mousse T vs Hot ‘n’ Juicy.” The voices are mine and Emma Lanford’s.
What are you most memorable collaborations because there’s been plenty?
I collaborated with Mousse T before, but Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Magoo, because I was into hip hop and R&B before I got into house music so to double back into that was good. To do a duet with Queen Latifah on her Order in the Court album, that was amazing. Everybody thought that she would rap and I would sing but we’re both singing, it’s a ballad. Creating and producing background vocals for Michael Jackson’s remix of Ghosts, that was great. The sad thing is I didn’t get to see him in person as I was in Germany and he was in LA, so we did everything remotely.
Thinking about songwriting, what place do you go to when you think about your lyrics?
It depends. Now, as you probably heard, I’m singing about love, hope peace and music! I’ve written songs during quarantine about couples being far apart because of quarantine, will things change, will they remain the same, will another situation interrupt ours because we’re so far apart. I write according to my life experiences and I write with the God inspiration. A lot of the time people might think I’m singing to a guy or a friend or whatever but I’m really singing to God. It’s really about God and that’s where the core of my inspiration is.
There’s a bunch of artists like you that I’ve been playing since the mid-nineties who are still going now, why do you think that is?
I think we sing songs that people can identify with, I think we care about our tracks, the producers, how they work, how they present and how it makes us feel. I think if we feel it then we can make everybody else feel it. It’s about being genuine. People feel that and they grab that and they honour that. I think that’s what keeps us going because we sing from the city of our souls. Everybody wants a piece of that.
So, what can we expect to see next from you then?
Of course more house music, but I am doing a project that consists of cover tunes of one artist, and it’s all cover tunes. I’m not going to say which artist but I’ve been working on it for three years and it’s almost done so I’m looking forward to that. We’re trying to decide when the right time is to release it, but outside of that I’ve also done a project with DJ Sting International who is the producer for Shaggy [sings] Oh Carolina and Mr Boombastic, that’s him. I have a song that we recorded actually seven or eight years ago and finally it’s going to come out. I’ve just signed the contract and this song is going to be major, and it is a dance tune.
Wow, well I’m just grateful you made time for me, thank you!
Thank you so much!