We spoke with singer Lucky Daye about his career path and how Marvin Gaye inspired his new EP Table For Two.
Lucky Daye has a lot to say about relationships. Daye, who calls himself a “hopeless romantic,” acknowledges that he’s a dreamer who often overthinks conversations he has with women. “When you’re confiding in a guy that’s your friend, a woman can take [that same thing] as an insinuation,” Daye said over a Zoom call from his Los Angeles home in early February. “As soon as that starts, I don’t know how to reverse it.”
His vulnerability becomes even more apparent when discussing if men and women have different thought processes. He believes women “think differently;” but, after some probing, he admits, “I think we shouldn’t try to think the same… I don’t think that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Originally born in New Orleans, Daye grew up in a strict, now-defunct Christian church. Lucky Daye had an affinity for music from a young age. But beacuse he couldn’t listen to secular music, he felt deprived for years. He was in his church’s choir and it was there where he tailored his smooth, moving vocals through hymns. Once his mother and his family split from the church he would later discover timeless acts he still counts as inspiration, from The Gap Band to Prince.
His debut album, Painted, is a lush deep dive into Daye’s thoughts on fledgling affairs, heartache, and the woes of newfound love. It’s also a combination of the mid to late ‘90s R&B that he constantly pulls from. By submerging himself in the heyday of the popular genre whilst digging into the roots of soul, Lucky created his signature sound. The release came after he took a life-changing 36-hour road trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles in an attempt to cut his teeth in the music industry. Though it initially was unveiled via two mini EPs (I and II), by the time Painted arrived in full in 2019, listeners had already grown smitten with his version of R&B.
During our conversation, he pointed out that the songwriting on the album, which was mostly produced by Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II and DJ Camper — two producers he met during his time in Atlanta — came easily to him. “It was already at the tip of my tongue. I was just holding it [in],” Lucky Daye said. “I just wanted to get it out somewhere.” Lucky’s earnest commitment to completing the album proved fruitful; he was nominated for four Grammys, including one for Best R&B Album. Though he didn’t win any, he still has his eyes set on creating relatable, emotionally riveting albums.
Lucky Daye has just released Table For Two, his first new project since Painted. The EP consisted of six duets with women R&B singers he admires, from Ari Lennox to Tiana Major9 to Mahalia. The EP is largely inspired by Marvin Gaye’s 1969 compilation album Marvin Gaye and His Girls which featured duets with singers Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and Tammi Terrell. “I thought it would be a good idea, since nobody ever did an album with all females besides Marvin Gaye,” Daye says. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps and try to pick up where he left off.”
Lucky Daye calls Table For Two a pit stop, a taste of what’s to come later this year — his second studio album.
“It’s a Valentine’s album and I’m not talking about love as far as being in love, I’m talking about the absence of it and the complications of it.”
Read our conversation with Lucky Daye where he talked about his inspirations, Table For Two, his upcoming second album, and more.
Who were you before you changed your stage name to Lucky Daye?
I was normal. Right before, I was in a state of panic. But it was because I was thinking the way I was presented to think. I guess I was just insecure and didn’t know it. I was too nice without understanding the repercussions of the niceness. Now I can still be myself and be nice but I manage it.
So it’s like, “[I’m] not going to waste my niceness on this, not going to waste my niceness on that. I’m going to save it for something nice, that gives me nice.” I learned to conserve energy for the right moment. That is important to me. That way I’m not fed up with nobody but me.
How do you feel that growing up in a religious cult affected you as an artist?
I feel like it gave me something. I’m always going to have this thing where I feel like I’m catching up. And I feel like that’s cruel because I didn’t get to see a lot of stuff, I didn’t do a lot of stuff, but as I went, I started to try and figure it out. And my thing became, as a kid, you should be living life. You shouldn’t be thinking about who you keep up with. But I started out like that.
I think that from that moment, it allowed me to disown that time aspect. Every time I think about it, it makes me feel sad. And I don’t like it. I think that allowed me to want to know more, want to do more. What would I love?
I don’t know if what you love is because of what was shown to you, but that what I love [is] music. And that’s what was shown to me, and that’s the one thing I never let go, and I feel like that, as far as the COVID thing, it helped me out with that.
Who did you grow up listening to and who you are inspired by? I know Prince, but who else?
I grew up listening to D’Angelo, and I’m inspired by [both] D’Angelo and Usher. I have a high respect for those types of people. If I go back, I’m a funky type of soul. I like Rick James and these people that I never got a chance to see. I like to try and study them and find all the shit that everybody else mixed, and I pick up the pieces and say, “All right, bet. Tried this, it didn’t work. What happened? What went wrong? Why didn’t it work? Let me try.” I don’t want it to die, because music to me is like a life form.
Can we talk a bit about Atlanta and how you woke up one day and you were like, “I’m leaving.”
Well, I got evicted. I had my apartment, my first one, and my homies and everybody with me, real homies and fake homies, it was hard to tell at the time when you get your first little paycheck. And I’m like, “Aw, damn. I don’t have [any] money. And you evicted me, and I had just bought a car.”
I had a roommate who happened to move out too, and at this point, when you move out and you both get evicted, it’s like, “I ain’t helping you, and you don’t help me. Let’s see who will figure it out.” As a Black person. Everybody else wouldn’t do that. Everybody else would be like, “Oh, let’s get a crib together, homies.”
He figured it out, he found a crib, but I didn’t want to be like, “Let me stay with you.” I [helped] him move in and all that. He got kicked out of that crib [after two weeks], so I was like, “Oh, that was some fluke shit.” And he got another crib, and I was like, “I guess he figured it out before me. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m by myself, ain’t nobody telling me nothing. I’m trying to figure it out.” So he had his crib, and he started throwing his little parties and stuff, but I still pop up because that’s my homie, and I was like, “You know what? It’s not the cribs I’m after. It’s not the cars, it’s not the party. It’s the music. This is a distraction.”
All of this eviction shit, it’s just unnecessary pressure. So I [thought], “I’m going to pray, take the car to LA.” I didn’t have a license, they suspended that. I told [my friends]: “I’m going to LA in two weeks.” Two weeks came, I went back to the crib with everything in my car. I still got my same TV. That’s all I brought [with me] — TV and some clothes. Filled up, pulled up like, “Hey man, you all ready? Let’s rock!” I’m driving, I’ve got the gas, I’m good.
They were all like, “Aw man, we’re going to try next week.” But at that point, I don’t have anything to lose. I’m going to be sleeping in the car anyway, I might as well sleep in that bitch on the way to LA. So I started riding. And at that moment, I think it helped me realize that I’m going to have to hustle by myself. I’m at the line by myself, and nobody’s about to tell me or help me or nothing.
So I took that little leap of faith and put my trust in a lot of people I didn’t know I could trust, and I took some bumps and bruises, but I think it came with a reward. Then [I] started hustling my ass off. [I wasn’t] trying to have a crib or impress people or have this or have that. I just want to do music, man.
What came next?
It got to that point where I needed money, and for me, I’m either going to die trying to do this or I’m going to make it home. I planned to go home so I don’t starve myself to death. But before I did, I wanted to create an album. Called everybody I knew, like I always say, nobody picked up. But [a friend ] picked up who was working with DJ Camper. Somehow he convinced DJ Camper to do a session with me and the first song was “Love You Too Much.”
And D’Mile is the last person on [my list of connections], and I was like, “Bro, I’m about to go home. But I can think I can make the craziest album of life. Because I have a lot inside that I want to get out, and I don’t how, and I don’t know who to ask, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to ask, but I know this junk [is] about to be crazy, and if I do it with you, if I do it without you, you’re still going to be my homie. But I would love to have your help.” He heard it [and] he felt that. I think humility changed everything, I feel like that’s the first time I was able to open up to a guy and be vulnerable to a male figure because I had never done that.
In the studio, working on some of these songs, do you feel like the songwriting came easy to you, or was it challenging?
Easy. It was already at the tip of my tongue. I was just holding it. I was holding my breath. I just wanted to get it out somewhere. And I never felt lighter. Every time I got in the booth, I would take myself to this place of all of this stuff I had to go through to get here, and it would always make me feel this ball in my fucking stomach, and I just sing from it. But it never felt good, it just helped.
How did it feel to get the Grammy nominations?
I knew they wouldn’t give it to me. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it was too random. I knew also that God wanted me to do more first. And I was ready to be the recipient of the nominations and I was happy and excited about that because I knew even just having that, that’s just like God saying, “OK, you’re getting close.”
[The nominations] really did help me to pay more attention to my craft. It made me want to want it, so this album here, and these things I’m working on now, I’m keeping in mind that Grammy, I’m keeping in mind the accolades, I’m keeping in mind the rewards, I’m keeping in mind the stats, you know what I mean? Because people care about that.
What was it like working with Yebba, Mahalia, Ari Lennox, Tiana Major9 and the other ladies?
I mean it was amazing. It really was a quarantine vibe. They didn’t expect it to do nothing.
My whole mentality is, “I don’t want nothing to interrupt my album.” What I did was, I betrayed myself, because the album to me is nice. I love it, I love the EP. But I told myself, “Don’t let nothing get in the way of this album.” Next thing you know, I’m not noticing it, I’m not noticing I’m doing it, and I’m like, “Yo, I want to do another female feature. Like two more female features.”
I played it for somebody and they were like is this the next project? I’m like, “No, it’s not the next project. I’m just working on it.” It was like, I’m thinking it’d be good if we put it out before the second project. The [second] album’s done. It’s coming out this year. I was quarantined, and I thought it would be a good idea to create [Table For Two], since nobody ever did an album with all females besides Marvin Gaye, I wanted to follow in his footsteps and try to pick up where he left off.
It became something amazing because it became not only a Valentine’s album, but the fact that it’s a Valentine’s album and I’m not talking about love as far as being in love, I’m talking about the absence of it and the complications of it, and a lot of people are alone for Valentine’s Day. A lot of people, they get gifts but they’re not happy. They feel alone, and a lot of people try to understand why. I don’t think there’s a why.