Two years ago, when Lucky Daye first arrived at Billboard’s New York City offices, he was a bit shy. He occasionally cracked a smile but was extremely reticent before the interview. After a few minutes of sharing jokes and going full-throttle on our kitchen snacks, Daye eventually let his guard down.
He provided us with a thoughtful discussion about dream-chasing, couch surfing experiences, and how a broken relationship with his mother served as fuel. No one knew the depths of Daye’s heartaches but himself. Using his pain as ammunition, he unleashed his Grammy-nominated album Painted in May 2019 and zoomed up the ranks of R&B’s most promising up-and-comers. Two years later, Daye is no longer couch surfing or at odds with his mother. Everything is solid.
“I think the wound just healed over, and we understand each other more,” Daye shared with Billboard over a zoom call in early March. “She came out. We spent a lot of time, and we realized we didn’t know each other at the house because when I left, I was a teenager. We never really chilled one-on-one days in a row… we had a chance to do that last year. Now, we just been starting from scratch — trying to rebuild. She understands me, and I understand her. That’s mom. You only get one.”
Though Daye’s mended relationship is a huge victory, he admits that he’s still trying to get one area sorted out: his love life. Enter Table for Two, his seven-track EP including collaborations with some of his favorite female R&B singers. Daye doesn’t hide his shortcomings: He leaves his mate in angst on the candid Tiana Major9 collab “On Read,” while considering an early exit in the ethereal “My Window,” featuring Mahalia. Despite his struggles with romance, Daye’s honesty continues to serve as the most vital attribute in his arsenal.
“It’s going to take more than one album,” says Daye about his outlook on love. “It’s going to take more than two projects. It’s going to take a few things. I have to get it all out. It’s hard to get it all out and make people listen unless it’s pretty.”
Billboard caught up with Lucky Daye to speak on his new EP Table For Two, working with Babyface, and understanding his flaws.
Before we dive into the new EP, you released a song last year with Babyface titled “Shoulda.” The song is rooted to the 1992 movie Boomerang where Halle Berry told Eddie Murphy “Love shoulda brought your ass home last night.” Whose idea was it play off of that scene?
What’s crazy is I only knew what I saw, and I never watched the movie straight from front to back. I got to the studio and I didn’t know what song [Toni Braxton’s “Love Shoulda Brought You Home”] he was talking about [Laughs]. They sent it to me to listen to and my manager was like, “Hey, man. Don’t make a fool of yourself.” So I went to the studio and [Babyface] was like, “Did you listen to it?” I said, “Nah [Laughs.] I didn’t wanna compromise what we finna make with what you already made.” He was like, “Hmmm.” And we just went in there and we created.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m kind of hurt that you missed out on a Black classic. Have you watched it since releasing the record?
No [Laughs]. But you know what? It was like I just needed it in the background — the visuals. Sometimes, I watch movies quiet. I guess it’s because I’m used to seeing them but not see them. That’s one of those movies. Like Dead Presidents. I’ve seen it, but I ain’t seen it.
Last year, you got busy with the features. You linked up with Kehlani, Kiana Lede, and Kirby. Did those string of features catapult the theme for your new EP Table for Two?
Nah. The song with Kehlani I literally was trying to swindle her into getting on my EP and it became, “Hey! I need you on this song.” I was like, “All right. That’s cool. Since we here, let me do that and then, I’m going to catch you on the record.”
The whole thing took a long time to complete. I know it’s only seven songs, but it took a long time. It was a lot of, “Oh. I gotta figure out how I’m going to get this person,” and “Oh, I gotta figure out how I’m gonna get this verse.” It was an idea before I did any of the features. I even had the Kirby song on the playlist, but every time their songs came out it was like, “Damn, I can’t do it. I can’t use it.”
What was the recruiting process like for the project?
It was a little bit of alchemy involved. It was just a thought and I had certain people that I knew I wanted to get off-top. Then, there was certain people that was on there unexpectedly and I was like, “Wow.” It just turned out amazing. When it’s good and you’re not looking from that side and it hits you, you’re like, “Oh wow. Thank you to the powers.”
You have a record with Tiana Major9 titled “On Read,” which speaks to ghosting someone midway through a text conversation. Since releasing the song, did your perspective about leaving people on read or being left on read yourself change in anyway?
Well, I never cared about being left on read, but I was on the receiving end of it. So I would kind of leave people on-read and I was using WhatsApp at the time. People would be so mad. And then I think I was on the other side [of being left on read] and somebody did it to me. I was like, “Oh. I get it.” That’s very annoying and now I’m about to get emotional because you’re not answering. I was like, “Bet. I get it.”
Then, I got an iPhone. [Laughs]. Now I just be like, “If I don’t answer, I wasn’t ready to answer.”
Let’s jump into “My Window” featuring Mahalia. Whose idea was it to interpolate the Ann Peebles-via-Missy “I Can’t Stand the Rain” melody into the song?
That was actually Tungi’s [co-founder of Keep Cool Records] idea. He brought the idea and asked [producer] D Mile to get in on it, and we recorded different versions of it — until we realized it would be a better fit if we had Mahalia and myself on the record when D Mile touched it.
I thought it was a great idea, because we worked together before — but this song right here was a little different. I understood her voice the first time we worked [together], as far as, it’s a vibe, and she’s not going to belt out like hard, hard, but she’s going to give you something to ride to in the car. She’s going to give you something to chill to by the fireplace. And that’s what that was. Her voice is a perfect fit, bro.
I want to touch on “Access Denied,” as well. When’s the last time you denied a love interest access and vice versa?
All my pain in music comes from being denied. I didn’t get denied personally, because I feel like if she felt my energy, it would be different. I definitely cut somebody off, for sure. I usually do cleansing once every October, but it’s been a lot more lately.
Is it the pandemic?
Maybe it is the pandemic that got me looking at myself [differently]. You know how you start looking at yourself and you start blaming yourself for everything? You’re like, “I might as well start cutting people off. [Laughs].”
How would you describe your view on love since the start of the pandemic? Did your outlook change in any sense during the last 12 months?
Yeah. I tried to date someone but…[Laughs]. I feel like we got it messed up. I felt like I was just a messenger to try to clear things up, but I feel like it’s messed up. It’s so upside down.
The other day you said on Twitter that you’re a huge Lil Durk fan. When are we going to see you guys collaborate?
I’m working, I’m working. I’m working on something. I’m working on some ideas. We been in contact. That’s all I’mma say.
Switching gears, I have to say your story and come-up is one of my favorites. From couch-surfing to being nominated for four Grammys, what surprised you the most so far about your journey?
Oooh. When people get exposed. The real intent behind people come out real fast. Like way faster.
Do you feel like your bulls–t detector got stronger?
What?! I can see it from a mile away now. I’m talking sharp. Machete-sharp.
I love how you and your mom reconnected. That has to be a beautiful feeling.
Yeah and you just want to do whatever it takes [to maintain it]. You want to put everything to the side. I just really want you to feel special and stay special in my life. What is it about me? What is it about you that makes us still go back and forth? It was a lot. It started off rough all the time because that’s your mom and she raised you, right? Then, it starts turning around where it’s like, “No. I’m buying you a house. I’m taking you out. I’m doing this.” You gotta hear me out because I have values in this relationship and it just became that. I feel like we’re stronger than we ever been now.
Has getting closer with your mom allowed you to look at love differently?
Nope [Laughs]. And that’s kind of the reason why I was doing it — ’cause maybe it was a disconnection somewhere. But nah, it wasn’t that. I just think it needs to be fixed on its own thing. I don’t know. It’s just love. It’s upside-down.