Were you able to get away in the past year?
‘I haven’t travelled since last December when I performed at the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York. It was cold as hell, but great. Everything was different; it was socially distanced and front-line workers were given free tickets to thank them for all they had done over the past year. The audience were spaced apart and everybody had their masks on, so it was eerie in that sense, but it felt very special too.’
Where have you felt happiest?
‘South-east San Diego. It’s home, it’s where I’m from – I get to see my family and friends, the people who raised me and those who really understand who I am. It’s where I went to performing-arts school and was introduced to the music of Billie Holiday, so it’s full of memories. The taco shops and drinks trucks are amazing too – The Write Juice is one of my absolute favourites.’
Your ultimate touring pitstop?
‘I played at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in 2017. It was brilliant; there was a lot of good music and I got to watch Kamasi Washington, who I adore. But, most importantly, I’d never been to Africa before, so it felt like coming home for the first time. It was an emotional experience and I wish I’d been there for longer. I did manage to squeeze in a safari, but I’m not going to lie, I would have rather spent more time in the city with the locals. The USA always portrays Africa as this mystical place that’s intrinsically poor, but driving through it you can see that’s not the case: it’s the epicentre of a lot of things, the entertainment industry is huge and it’s a real melting pot.’
What was the best filming location?
‘I might look into buying a place in Montréal because I fell in love with it after shooting The United States vs Billie Holiday there. The people truly are nicer and the food is delicious. There’s a Syrian restaurant called Damas – probably the best food I’ve ever eaten – and a Jewish deli, Arthurs Nosh Bar, which is a great breakfast spot. We were there between autumn and winter and it was fantastic to witness the changing seasons. The colours of the trees were hypnotising and then it snowed. I hated leaving. We stayed right on the water, and at the end of filming I remember sitting on this bridge, looking up at the city and crying as I said goodbye.’
Which is your favourite island?
‘Hawaii. I went there on a bridesmaids’ trip a few years ago and then again with my boyfriend. Oahu is gorgeous and the water is incredible; we went snorkelling and I got to swim with a sea turtle, which probably sounds trite, but I loved it. We toured Honolulu and visited Iolani Palace, which was built in the late 1800s. They told us the story of Queen Liliuokalani and how she fought for her people and her independence, but ended up being overthrown and locked away in the palace. While she was there she made a giant quilt that has been preserved and is still on display today.’
Any stories from being on the road?
‘I travelled to Paris with my band in 2016. It was my first time in France and I was so excited. We were walking through the streets together as we usually do, and my guitarist Dave Wood had read a report, way off in the ether somewhere, about kids pickpocketing, so we spent the whole time acting as if we were hiding from pickpockets. We were making fun of him for believing this ridiculous story, so we’d walk past a family and say, “Oh no, three kids y’all!”, then scatter like roaches leaving Dave behind and the family wondering what on earth was going on. We were acting like children ourselves.’
Describe a memorable view
‘We were in Nice for a show and my bass player and I went on a short drive along the Mediterranean coast to Monaco. It was one of the most stunning rides I’ve ever taken. We followed the cliff edge, which was a little scary but the air felt so fresh. We were listening to Hiatus Kaiyote, this Australian band whose music was the perfect soundtrack to the most wonderful views you could imagine. I spent the entire drive looking out over the sea to all these little islands dotted around in the crystal-blue water.’
A place that lived up to the hype?
‘I am obsessed with South Korea. If you take every city in the world, mush them together and multiply it by 10, that’s Seoul. It’s massive. I liked Namdaemun food market; there are lots of Korean barbecues in Los Angeles where I live, but in Seoul, they’re divided into houses – so instead of going to one restaurant to get everything, you’d go to the beef house or the chicken house. And they’re mainly outdoors; each one was so different to anything I’d experienced before. Oh, and the shopping! I’ve been to South Korea three times. On the first trip I discovered how excellent the skincare is – you can even get snail facials there – so on my second and third visits I brought an extra suitcase for all the stuff I was going to carry back. I always stock up on this line called Prestige by It’s Skin.’
I lost my heart in…
‘Germany. I’ve been to Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne and what I really love is the people. Everyone is super-nice but frank too. I’ve done a lot of work with Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and one of the examples he uses when he speaks about the USA reconciling its racial history is Germany; they still talk about Nazism, they teach about it on their curriculum, they don’t build monuments to Nazis or treat them as war heroes. They’ve been open about gutting their bad history and that is something I would like to see happen here. They’ve built museums dedicated to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. It’s beautiful that it’s represented in the right way.’
‘The United States vs Billie Holiday’ is available to watch on Sky Cinema. Andra’s new album is out this summer on arner Records.
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