Andra Day is making waves this election season for her distinctive style, sound and message. (Courtesy Myriam Santos)

Andra Day offers inspiration, not sex, in her songs

It’s difficult to listen to “Rise Up,” Andra Day’s soulful piano ballad, and not be moved.

The neo-soul stylist sings every lyric (with the vow to “rise unafraid, I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again for you”) as if her life depended on it.

The tune, on her 2015 debut “Cheers to the Fall,” has won her some surprising fans, most notably, Hillary Clinton, who adopted the anthem for her presidential campaign, then invited Day to play the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“Hillary had gotten wind of the song, and she heard that I was supporting her,” says the San Diegan, who returns to the Bay Area this week after playing a Clinton fundraiser here on Oct. 13, where she dedicated “Rise Up” and a Bob Marley medley to Clinton, who was in attendance.

“After I performed for her at the DNC, she actually called me personally to thank me and to talk about other rallies and things in the future. It was so emotional that day, I had to stop myself from crying. It’s a momentous time, and we’re really making history here,” says Day.

She calls her performance at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (after dinner had been served to donors) an “awesome, awesome experience,” and adds, “We could definitely feel the excitement, or the readiness, I think you could say, in the room.”

Her sultry style was heavily influenced by her childhood.

Attending SoCal hot rod shows with her gearhead father, Day grew fascinated with the retro rockabilly fashions worn by women there.

Graduating from performing arts school — where she said to a professor who suggested she listen to Billie Holiday, “I don’t know who that guy is” — she settled into a bandanna-enhanced look that’s equal parts Lena Horne, Rosie the Riveter and her comedic idol Lucille Ball, and a classic R&B sound she trills through vintage microphones.

She’s also backed by fashion lines such as Pin Up Girl, Chanel and Marc Jacobs.

Day loves making political statements. Midway through her concerts, she often wipes off her makeup as a message to young girls.

“I used to feel that wearing makeup was what made me valuable, like, ‘Now I’m pretty, so people will like me,” says the renegade, who notes that her album contains no suggestive sex songs. She adds, “I want women to have fun doing makeup, but to not feel like they need it, like they’re not pretty enough.”

IF YOU GO
Andra Day
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 6
Tickets: $32.50
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.livenation.com

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