a Lebo pop princess

The secret is out. Mt. Lebanon has a budding new pop star hitting the airwaves from coast to coast. Daya’s new hit single, Hide Away, is working its way up the charts. It is available for purchase on iTunes, and can be heard on GooglePlay and Amazon MP3. In addition, people around the country have been able to hear the song on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and it can be streamed on demand on Spotify. On May 28, Pittsburgh’s WBZZ, Star 100.7 FM became the first local station to play Hide Away. Then on June 1, Pittsburgh’s KISS 96.1 FM was the first local station to give it prime time air time in the Steel City. But to understand why her music is causing a buzz in Mt. Lebanon, and around the nation, you need to hear the story of the girl behind the music of Daya. web-exclusive-logo2

Her birth name is Grace Tandon and at 16, she just got her drivers license and virtually wrapped up her junior year at Mt. Lebanon High School. A cross country and distance track runner for the Blue Devils, she recently helped the 4×800 girls’ relay qualify for finals at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in May; that relay went on to place 5th in the state.

Parents Christine and Hans Tandon raised their energetic family in the tree-lined Mission Hills neighborhood. Grace is one of five girls. Her sisters, Rachel, 18; twins, Celia and Mariana, 14; and Avery, 11, support Grace in her rise to stardom. Each sister brings a special talent to the table and hers was shown early on in life.

At just the age of three, she started playing the piano because her older sister insisted that Grace accompany her to piano lessons. A natural musician, Grace quickly began entertaining those around her, which grew into playing the guitar, ukulele, flute and saxophone. That musical exposure helped her internal instrument come to life — her voice.

Grace Tandon is Daya

“At 10 years old, I found my voice,” said Grace. “I started singing to accompany myself while playing the piano and other instruments. I was also in musical theater growing up and started doing gigs around Mt. Lebanon. Last year I played at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and had a small tent. By the end of my performance it was packed.”

Christine remembers many moments when she knew Grace wanted to get serious about singing. “Some friends had given us tickets to a Sara Bareilles concert before Sara Bareilles was big,” said Christine. “Grace watched the performance and looked at me and said ‘I want to do this.’”

Grace comes from a multi-ethnic family with relatives in Europe and Asia. Her family often travels there to visit and Grace always takes her ukulele. “She’s not a very loud personality,” said Christine. “But once she would start to sing and play, people from all backgrounds would gravitate to her. She’s not only drawn to music, but has the ability to pull others in to share the experience with her. It’s just so cool.”

She’s received a lot of encouragement and guidance along the way. Locally, it started with Christina Chirumbolo, her local voice coach and CMU alumnus. Later, jazz piano teacher Ron Bickel of Duquesne University said Grace really had talent and encouraged her to pursue a music career. Most recently, professional singer song-writer Gino Barletta, with ties to Christina and CMU, lent a helping hand and invited Grace to California to explore songwriting. And now, Steven Zap of Los Angeles-based Z Entertainment is managing and promoting her, along with famous YouTube star Tyler Oakley, making waves via social media.

So why the alter ego name of Daya? When she began to record Hide Away, her team discovered that another young pop artist known as “Grace” had just launched. Grace, who wanted to be different, channeled deep family roots from India — Grace’s grandfather is Indian. She decided on Daya (pronounced Day-a), which is the Hindi translation for grace.

The buzz around Daya’s success has been phenomenal to say the least. When Hide Away appeared on iTunes, Grace did not have a typical day at school.

“It spread fast on social media the day it was released,” said Grace. “My friends were playing it in the hallway and every teacher played it as I walked into the classroom. My friends have been hearing it on SiriusXM and sending picture texts with the song.”

As of June 1, Hide Away has been streamed more than 45,000 times on Spotify, viewed more than 25,000 times on YouTube, and was playing on 15 radio stations nationwide.

Growing up in Mt. Lebanon has proved to be a special community for Grace to mature as a singer. “The support has been great,” said Grace. “A bunch of people have contacted us to tell us how much they support us. People are buying it on iTunes to support me. It’s been a great platform for me.”

When not concentrating on her singing career, you can find Grace and her friends at The Galleria, or grabbing a slice at favorite pizza shops, like Mineo’s and A’Pizza Badamo. She also loves spending time at Uptown Coffee and eating sushi at Little Toyko.

So what’s next for Daya’s music? “The next project is recording a couple of new songs, which will be compiled into an EP, hopefully to be released later this summer along with a music video.”

Until then, Mt. Lebanon and the entire country can continue to listen to Hide Away on repeat over and over again. http://www.theofficialdaya.com/