Derek Day is a singer and musician who recently toured with “Living Colour” where he promoted his new song “Face Me.” The twenty-three-year-old hails from California and has been performing since he was a young teenager. Having shown musical promise since the time he was a baby, in 2014 Derek and his brother Waldemar started their own band called HOTSTOP.

In a recent and exclusive interview, Derek discussed his career, music, and why he considers three to be a lucky number.

Music, songs, and melodies

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially sparked your interest in music and how did your childhood impact your interests?

Derek Day (DD): I picked up a plastic guitar when I was very little and wrote a one-string melody. My mom, from Honduras, played a lot of amazing disco albums loudly at the house; from ABBA, The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson as well as popular singles from that decade. She sang a lot throughout the house. My dad, from Poland, showed us the heavier side of things with some Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Jimi Hendrix. I had three older brothers, two of which showed me a lot of amazing bands at a very young age. We were a lower-middle class family and were confined in small living spaces our whole lives. I suppose the togetherness and music research made it an inevitable lifestyle. When you’re a kid, life and whatever presents to you is a lot easier to handle because you know just what you want the moment you get a feeling in your bones.

Music has kept me a kid in that sense to this day.

MM: How did you approach breaking into the music industry?

DD: I was in multiple bands from middle school on, yet always kept close to my own writing and practice. Some of these bands made it as far as television appearances along with successful touring, but it wasn’t until I fully engaged my solo project where I started to make a splash.

I teamed up with Ali Shayesteh, my current manager, through connecting with connections. He got me the opportunity to perform at the now popular Ultimate Jam Night, a weekly fun, free event in Hollywood. I managed to prove myself enough to be brought in as a regular, which created a buzz among the community as well as open doors for touring with bigger acts.

Ali contacted a longtime friend, Steve Vai with a video of my street performing, which made the man reach out his godly hands as an invitation to open for him for a few dates in different states. From these performances, many more great ones were born in a domino effect.

MM: You started a band with one of your brothers, can you tell us a bit about that?

DD: Hotstop was a really fun project. We recorded one album together. At first, two of my older brothers were in it, which made it that much more personally fun. We got a deal for an indie label about a year and a half into being a band. I had let the band know it could only be a side project for me as my main thing was my solo career, newly born.

Things were looking good. We had our first tour in January 2016, which was a bit brutal for me physically but even more so spiritually as I was diverting my strength and energy into something I didn’t believe in. I finished the tour and quit the band immediately after. Nothing personal, some of the coolest people ever, I just had a very important mission to take on. After that, I went on multiple like-brutal tours that were the best experiences of my life.

MM: How do you get the ideas for your lyrics and melodies?

DD: I take my time writing songs. Sometimes one song will be done in a few weeks. My main inspiration for lyrics is people. Plus reading different stories sparks separate trivial thoughts worth talking about.

And I usually sing out all the Riffs, progressions, and melodies I’ve written. The best ones come from improvisation. And I look at constructing song structures as fun puzzles, with an intention of containing something unconventional.

MM: So, Derek, what are your favorite songs?

DD: “Remember” by Jimi Hendrix “Summer Soft” by Stevie Wonder “Mr. Green Genes” by Frank Zappa “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” by Nina Simone “Locomotive” by GNR “Hell Broke Luce” by Tom Waits “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin “Badge” by Cream “Mercy Mercy Mercy” by Joe Zawinul and Cannonball Adderly “Cold Sweat” by James Brown “Superhuman” by Velvet Revolver “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin.

Fans, career, and advice

MM: Which gigs have been the most fun and what kind of fan feedback have you gotten?

DD: Every single gig is its own thing with much magnificence. But maybe a few come to mind with that question. Playing the Complex in Salt Lake City was a game changer for me - my first show opening for a major act: Steve Vai.; great crowd and strong performance. Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA was a HUGE screaming crowd on my bassist’s birthday (we call him Steaks). That was one of many shows opening for Ted Nugent. That and a show in Portland, Maine, a new theatre called The Aura; it was built in a way to really make you sound amazing (plus I had a giant screen with my name behind me).

On the Living Colour Tour- we had amazing shows in Memphis (New Daisy Theatre), Ft. Lauderdale (The Culture Room) and Alabama (Iron City) - with more beautiful people and sounds. A number of those shows I got to get up on stage with Living Colour and do a few tunes with them. It’s usually on a big stage where I remember every detail. Fans, as well as Vai and The Nuge, compared me to Steve Marriot and Mark Bolan which I can say “holy hell” to because they themselves are badasses. Fan feedback usually runs with a positive flow out on the road, even though it’ll be nowhere near reaching the lengths of or own self-criticism. Yet people enjoy this new “energy” running all over the country. Some say it’s been missing and needed.

MM: How do you envision your music and/or performance career evolving from here?

DD: My career has been running uphill since 2017. And I don’t expect to slow down any time soon. The measurement of success to me is defined by two words: “new” and “BIG”; new places, new audiences, new material, new numbers and BIG places, BIG audiences, BIG material and definitely BIG numbers. I see all of this on the horizon, and although I cannot disclose specifics as so much of it needs some t’s crossed, and I’s dotted - expect major musical growth for 2018!

MM: What advice can you personally offer to aspiring musical artists and would you like to talk about anything in addition?

DD: Follow your heart to the fullest, and the universe will give you the tools and opportunity you need.

It’s that simple- in one year I’ve accomplished four times as much in my career than I have in 10 years. During those ten years, I was making moves, working with certain people and moving in a certain direction in music I knew weren’t what I really desired. Study yourself, build a story, and understand your worth, that way you know just what you want. And you’ll get it.