21-year-old English major and board game enthusiast Amelia Day has brought the Pacific Northwest music scene down to Nashville, TN. A student at the Blair School of Music and resident of Music City, Day has won the hearts of Vanderbilt students and Nashvillians alike with her skillful lyricism and angelic vocals. Entwining classic Gen Z self-deprecation and affection for the natural world into her indie folk-esque discography, Day has landed herself on playlists such as “sapphic songs for your talking stages that aren’t just clairo” and “tavern wench (fantasy core)“. I had the distinct opportunity to sit down with Day to discuss her childhood, break down her musical history, and analyze two of her most popular songs. Continue reading to learn more about setting boundaries as a musician and how you can become a therapist’s wet dream.

Before we get started, this upcoming Wednesday, April 17th, Amelia Day will be performing at the famous Nashville live music venue Exit/In. If you’re on campus, that’s just a hop, skip, and a jump down West End, no Uber needed! Tickets are still on sale at this link. Doors open at 7 and the show starts at 8. See you there!

Where did you grow up, and what influences did your upbringing have on your music?

“I’m originally from Sumner, Washington State. From the Pacific Northwest area you’ve got like The Head And The Heart, you’ve got Brandi Carlile, and Fleet Foxes. There’s something about being near the mountains and being near Mother Nature. It’s magical there with the coast and all. It’s just a beautiful place to grow up. So I grew up camping a ton. I grew up hiking and backpacking and so I always felt really connected to nature. And I feel like folk music kind of naturally springs out of that environment. That’s what I grew up surrounded by, so when I started writing music, even in middle school, I wrote a lot of very twee cringe. Not to say twee is cringe, but my personal twee music that I was writing was very, very cliche middle school stuff. Very angsty. And then in high school, I started writing a little more memoir and journalistic kind of stuff. I never really shared anything until later in high school. I had really awful stage fright until, like, mid-college. Honestly, it’s something I’m still kind of working through. I’m mostly pretty comfortable with it and honestly, I like performing. It is my favorite thing in the world now. But it didn’t used to be and so yeah in college, especially freshman year, I kind of worked through a lot of that stuff and just forced myself to perform, even when I was absolutely terrified. Through doing that a ton I got more comfortable and started experimenting with a lot of different styles, and with being in Nashville I saw a lot of other musicians and started listening a lot more widely. So now I’d say my musical style is definitely still aligned with folk, especially from a lyrical standpoint. Music may be the most natural thing that comes to me but storytelling is first and foremost. I will not put out a song unless I’m very, very intentional with every line, even if it’s more like a fun light-hearted thing. I still love the word-play. But like, I’m an English major, so it checks out.”

When you were first writing in elementary and middle school, did you think that it would be on a public platform? Or was intended to be more of a personal activity?

“It was kind of a combination of the two. I always wanted to put out music at some point. But mostly, it was just a mode of processing. I didn’t share it with hardly anybody at first, especially the more personal ones. And then potentially if I liked something enough, I wanted to put it out. I always had that idea. But yeah, it was more processing tool at first. That’s been something I’ve been kind of reckoning with like, where do you set those boundaries? If you do set any within your music, it does often inhibit the impact of the music, but I also think vulnerability within the music is key. But at the same time, often you’re writing about your personal life, you’re writing about people you know. When I release a song, the people the song is about are going to hear it or are going to have things to say about it. Especially with, you know, being openly queer for the first time in some of my music, that’s a whole other level of necessary vulnerability. But it is something that has repercussions and I have experienced some of those. Luckily, not nearly as many as in previous generations. And I found a lovely community through that online and through people who listen to my music who resonate with those parts of it. So it’s like, where do I set those boundaries? Between me as an artist and me as Amelia? Because it’s also like, my artist name is my name. I AM the artist. Mental health-wise, it is important to have those boundaries. That is something I’m kind of figuring out because even in this small sphere of influence, there is a weird thing with being a semi-public figure in a way right?”

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of making music? You said that you’re a writer and an English major. What are some other things that you feel people should know about you? 

“Oh, man. I mean – and this is such a nerd thing but I feel like, you know, it’s Vandy – I just love reading so much. I love discussing literature, I love just having deep chats about it. Having deep philosophical chats and theological chats I just love. I’m fascinated by people in general and understanding how everyone thinks, and I think one of the best ways to do that is just read as widely as possible. I feel like it does help me with my music, but I mean, I just love reading. Any kind of genre. But yeah, that’s definitely one of my main interests. It’s so hard because like, most of my life is music or is tied to music in some way. Which is, you know, healthy and unhealthy in some spheres. I also played soccer all while growing up. I love sports. I love any kind of competition like board games, video games, whatever. Like, I’m in. I’m all in. So yeah, board games are a big one. That comes from my dad especially. He’s a huge board game nerd. So we have a closet that originally was meant for jackets and then he just filled it with board games. But yeah that’s a big part of my family. So it’s become really special to me. And also, I’m a very competitive person, that’s how I approach a lot of things. Like, just the music business side of things. It’s a competitive business. It is very competitive. And it’s, it’s so weird because it’s like you are creating art. But then there’s the other side of things of having it be feasible, financially, which can be good but also work against the actual creativity and the beauty of it all. Yeah, it’s a mix. It’s a mixed bag for sure. But yeah, those would be some of my hobbies outside of music.”

I’d like to get to know a little bit more about your musical history. Have you always been musical? When did you start? You already talked a little bit about how you wrote personal things in elementary, middle, and high school, but have you always been interested in singing and making music?

“So it’s funny, I’ll talk to some artists, friends of mine, who are like “I always knew I was going to be a musician,” and I didn’t know that. I think partially just because the narrative is that you can’t do it. Which is a fair narrative given that I’m about to graduate. I’m like oh my goodness, life is so expensive and terrifying. But no, I really always did create music. That was something even when I was young. I would sit in my car seat and sing along to things and dance along to things. I had a very joyful childhood like that. Even when I was like, four or five, I wrote a little song and we have it on VHS. It just makes so much sense that this is what I’m doing in a lot of ways. I just always loved performing and talking to people. I also took piano lessons as a kid. I asked my parents to play because both of them play piano and I was like, “Can I please like play piano” because I wanted to be like them and I loved hearing them play. But whenever I took lessons I hated all the classical stuff. I just wanted to mess around. It was cool because my teacher worked it into our lessons. We’d have little improv time. I’ve always loved creating something, like my own little piano compositions when I was in fifth grade. I mean, they weren’t good looking back, but for a fifth grader, they were pretty good for that age. But yeah I’d say I’ve always wanted to do this more than anything. So I feel very lucky to be getting to do that.”

Let’s talk a little bit about one of your more popular songs: Therapist’s Wet Dream. Let’s debrief. Let’s do a close reading. Where does that song come from? What is the inspiration? 

“This is probably one of the most self-reflective of my songs as far as being directly about my life. To get personal, I was going through a breakup. Very soon after the breakup, I got together with someone new and was still processing that breakup. I was feeling rather torn between both sides of myself: mourning the loss of that relationship but also being so excited and ready for that new relationship. So the song is kind of a very self-deprecating song. It’s reflecting on the ways in which I wish I had been better in that past relationship. And also it’s about struggling with that tension of both people being in my mind, struggling between the two, and reconciling both of those together. So the bridge is kind of the epitome of that, where it’s really taking these vignettes from both relationships and mixing them all together. I’m remembering things and I’m forgetting things. I’m finding me, but it’s fleeting. That’s where the chaos comes in a little bit. And the lyrics always take the forefront for me, or at least take the most priority. I mean the music is obviously very, very important. That comes more naturally, more viscerally. The lyrics do come naturally to some extent, but it’s also a labor of a lot of work and a lot of love. You know, where the chord progression is a lot more innate. So yeah, that’s the space that the song is occupying. It talks about the end of my last relationship with the beginning of this next one. And so it’s kind of in this weird, what do you call it? Liminal space? So yeah I tried to really find images from both of those relationships that really fit the feeling as much as possible. It was a hard song to write. Yeah, I had to be like “Am I gonna like put this out or share this” because it’s not the most flattering, especially the chorus. I’m like, I need therapy, And I have therapy now!”

There are a few lines that stuck out to me if you don’t mind touching on those a bit. They read “Aint nothing that never hurt that never mattered at all. Don’t deserve your tears when you cry. Just keep them inside and don’t pay me no mind”

“Oh, man. I think something that’s good to remember when going through a difficult time – whether it’s like a breakup, friend breakup, issues of family, whatever – the reason it’s hurting is out of love. The reason you’re feeling this much pain is because you care so much. So it’s out of this beautiful thing, it’s out of this very pure thing. It’s much better to experience big highs and big lows than to just keep yourself safe and kind of stay in that. That middle space. That’s something I was reminding myself of: the reason it’s hurting is that I cared – because it was a good thing. In some ways. It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good that it ended as well. But yeah, “don’t deserve your tears when you cry, just keep them inside don’t pay me no pay me no mind” was very probably one of the most self-deprecating lines. Like, I’m not worthy of your pain over this. Like, I’m not. I’m not deserving of you being heartbroken over this. I haven’t been the best partner lately. I haven’t been invested in this as much as you have. And so I don’t deserve that kind of thing. Like you should give that emotion to someone else, you know? So that’s more what it means. I’ve always worried that might be misinterpreted as “I don’t deserve you to be mad at me.” It’s literally the opposite. But yeah it’s, it’s very dark. But I mean, it’s what I was feeling at that time or certain moments. I finished it less than a year ago, so it’s still fresh somewhat.”

Another one of your more popular songs is called Eastward of Eden. You and I are in a class together called Ecofeminism (shoutout to Dr. Rose) and this song sounds like it should be listed on the syllabus. Can you tell me a bit about it?

“Yeah so I did write this while I was in a climate history class, so climate fiction was a big part of its inspiration. I was definitely reflecting a lot about how our times are changing and how it’s very much human-wrought destruction. At the same time, I was in a mythology class. I was really pulled to this idea of structuring humanity’s rise and fall in this mythic story told from an omniscient perspective. And so one day when I was doing a bit of reading for that class, prepping for a paper or something, I read the phrase “Eastward of Eden” and thought it had a cool ring to it. So the song is definitely centered around that almost Celtic sound. I wanted it to feel like a folktale, you know? So I came up with the first line before class and recorded a quick voice memo, and I really wanted to finish that and make that a full song. So it was over I think fall break when I wrote the first draft which used to be significantly longer. I’ve pared it down to the most core progression of things. But yeah, it definitely reflects a lot about environmentalism and about climate change. I grew up in the church too, so there’s a lot of commentary about fire and flood. Reflecting on how evangelism and the particular American brand of evangelical Christians can sometimes do amazing things, but can also feed into those processes that are extremely disruptive. The idea of Christian conquest of owning the earth, owning the land, owning the people, as opposed to building community and serving the earth. Like we ARE nature, right? We are absolutely nature. We are part of nature. We’re not above it.”

What even more of Amelia Day? Check out her Spotify artist playlist and Instagram page below!