Interview by Doug Brandt.
2005 was a great year for House music.
Just over eleven years ago, Czarina Mirani published the inaugural issue of 5 Magazine, and it was in that first issue that I interviewed someone who would become a good friend, someone who would continue to crank out the hits and arguably grow even faster than the magazine itself over those same years.
Despite the years of friendship with the magazine, it wasn’t easy finding time to have a professional conversation with Inaya Day. It turns out that June is a busy month for her…
Sorry it has taken so long to get to this. It’s been a busy week!
…and a busy month for me!
I can only imagine your frequent flyer miles! But first, congratulations are in order? I read you’ve been going strong for 20 years now, so I assume that’s since the release of “Keep Pushin'”?
Thank you! Yes! “Keep Pushin'” was released in 1996 and I’m still rockin’ it in almost every show to this date. As a matter of fact, it’s gotten a facelift for its birthday by Tujamo. We have a brand new version out on Spinnin’ Records and it’s killing! You’ve got to check it out when you have a chance.
5 Magazine has also passed a milestone: eleven years now since our first issue. And you were our inaugural interview! So much has happened in those eleven years.
Wow! Eleven years already? Happy anniversary to us both then, huh! But yes, I’ve been busy. I made a few tunes with my WonderTwin, Frankie Knuckles; I recorded a song with one of my biggest musical influences, Jocelyn Brown; and I had several Billboard, Aria, and UK Top 10s. So much has happened since 2005. Hard to list it all. But, for the most part, it’s good stuff.
A few producers tried to make me dumb-down my vocal style. Whitney Houston opened the channel for little black girls to see that it’s alright to let go on a David Foster or Diane Warren type of tune.
On a sad note, it’s been a tragic couple years in terms of artist and industry passings. Lots of giants have been taken too soon. Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston a few years ago, our friend Frankie Knuckles, and more recently Phife Dawg, Vanity, Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire, David Bowie and Prince. They are all great losses to the world, and influences to many of us. Did any of them influence you particularly? Vocally, perhaps? Or perhaps professionally? Or creatively?
Yeah, you’re right. We have lost a lot of musical pillars over the last few years. I remember that I used to mimic Michael Jackson’s vocals and moves when I was a kid. I’d stand on a chair holding a hair brush, and would sing and dance while looking in my sister’s giant mirror.
Listening to Whitney Houston, I learned that my belty gospel vocal was good enough for any power ballad, as long as I used other colors of my voice along with it. Sometimes, people are afraid of what they can’t harness nor understand, and a few producers tried to make me dumb-down my vocal style. Whitney Houston opened the channel for little black girls to see that it’s alright to let go on a David Foster or Diane Warren type of tune.
I can’t imagine anyone ever suggesting that you tone down your vocal strength. What were they thinking?
Okay, who else? I know you perform some Earth, Wind & Fire with your band, and that you’ve recorded some of Prince’s work.
Earth, Wind & Fire is my favorite band EVER! I learned to play drums to their albums and I’ve always admired the sensitivity in their compositions, both lyrically and instrumentally.
Of course, I LOVE Prince! I’ve recorded four songs that are penned by him: “Nasty Girl,” “Glamorous Life” and two others that are still unreleased. Shhhhh! hehehehe! He heard me sing “Nasty Girl” with a live band and I got his step-touch and nod of approval! I was nervous as heck to sing his own song right in front of him.
And Frankie, of course…
Frankie Knuckles…. [sigh] I love House music and I love Frankie. When I think of House music, the genre in which I’ve lived for the better part of 20 years, I think of Frankie.
So what are some of your current projects. What do we have to look forward to from Inaya Day?
Well, I’m in the Billboard Dance chart right now with my cover of M People’s “One Night In Heaven” produced by Toy Armada & DJ Grind. I’m almost done with my Christmas project, and I’ve started my funk-rock project. I have more Frankie Knuckles/Director’s Cut music coming with Eric Kupper, Ultra Nate, Frenchie Davis, etc., I have something in the pot with Eddie Thoneick, something brewing with David Harness, something on the stove with Harry Choo Choo Romero. I’ve got an original Frankie Knuckles throwback with DJ Escape which Frankie blessed before he left, and another massive club joint coming with DJ Joe Gauthreaux. Jeesh! That just made me tired!
[We both offer a cheesy courtesy chuckle.]
You just finished up your busy month of June – Pride month for most of America. Tell me about your relationship with the LBGT community. The gay community loves you! What’s the connection? What is it about you and your music that resonates with them?
God bless the gay community for their faithfulness to, and knowledge of, our music. Such avid dance music supporters. If no one else books the “Dance Divas,” the gay community keeps us rockin’ without a hitch. They dig their DJs but they love their “Dance Divas.” I’m super grateful that they still love my music enough to request my presence at their festivals and events. Many of us give back by performing for free from time to time, giving merchandise, etc, etc for charitable events. Most of us have lost a few people to AIDS and we don’t hesitate to participate in any event that seeks to destroy that awful disease. The community has our back because they know that we have theirs.
Back in my DJ days, I used to rock all kinds of M People. Heather Small is an amazing vocalist. How did the opportunity to cover one of her songs come about?
“One Night In Heaven” came about when DJ Grind approached me via email and asked if I’d wanna do the vocal for it. I jumped at it because the song brings fond memories of my time living in Germany. Loved it then and love it now.
Have you met her? Have you heard what she thinks about your cover?
I’ve never met Heather Small but her official pages on social media have been helping to push our version, so I guess that means she digs what we’ve done. We’re stoked about its steady rise in the Billboard chart. What a blessing!
You’ve worked with some House music heavyweights – Mike Cruz, Louis Benedetti, Boris Dlugosch, Mr Timothy, Ralf Gum, and one of my all-time favorites, Quentin Harris. And again, Frankie Knuckles. NO way you could pick a favorite, so I wouldn’t dare to ask you. They would each be your favorite for different reasons! But who have you NOT worked with yet, that you would like to work with?
I’d love to work with Baby Face! I love his melodies! So catchy and memorable. Not to mention, he’s funky as heck. His songs “My Kinda Girl” and “Love The Way You Love Me” (by Karen White) prove that! When you hear a Baby Face song, you KNOW it, you FEEL it, and you REMEMBER it. That’s what music is all about.
Okay, looking forward now. What else is in store for you? Writing for others? More acting? Producing? What other talents of yours are SCREAMING to get out?
[Laughing] I’d love to work for a big label as an A&R, in artist development or scouting. Always wanted to do those things.
But until then, I’ll continue to grow my own label, (Ny-O-Dae Music), I’ll keep writing for others, I’ll probably do more musical theater, and I’ll DEFINITELY be doing MUCH more producing. Time to own 100% of my music. 50% is cool, but time to grow.
Well good luck to you with all of those endeavors. You certainly deserve this success and all the best, my dear. Let’s not wait another ten years to interview.
Cooleritious. Thank you so much, Douglas. Muah!
Originally published inside 5 Magazine Issue #134 featuring Lay-Far, Inaya Day, Danism, Minneapolis Exchange and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music – on sale for just $1 an issue!