Coming off one of the last shows before the release of her new 7" and her first video, a gig at intimate but popular space Bardot, Zella Day seemed anything but anxious. An artist on the rise in Los Angeles, Day is just taking it all in and learning from every step. "Each time I've got I've seen bands I really admire and respect, I was flattered to be able to play last night," she gushes.

Zella Day was always a solo act, dating back to her childhood days on acoustic guitar covering Dylan and Elvis tunes in the small ranch town in Arizona where she grew up. They band only came together in the last six months, and as you might expect, there was a learning curve. "Previous to that, it was just me and my guitar for my whole life, so the band has been kind of new," Day recalls. "You know, the first time we started playing together it was a little uncomfortable for me. I'd never had that experience before. But now, we're getting used to each other, we can read each other. It's definitely comforting to have them behind me." The move from Arizona to Los Angeles took some adjustment too, but Day notes that, after a stint in Nashville, family history and presence in Southern California largely drew her there. Like any good Cali girl, ("it is SO BEAUTIFUL here,") you can find her roaming the streets of Long Beach on her new longboard.

But the new experiences and people involved haven't diluted her music or her message. On '1965', a song Day describes as a ballad, Day's vocals and instrumentation have a kind of energy, a forward movement. '1965' is a song about nostalgia and "[how to get back there]", but Day isn't weeping; she just observing. And 'Sweet Ophelia', the song for which she is releasing her video, is a sweet, minor-tinged stomper for summer joyrides with just an ounce of regret. Day calls the video "simple and raw". Shot in an LA studio, the aesthetic was inspired by Day's style icons: Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot, Bianca Jagger.

Zella has been hard at work in the studio on her next project, a new EP, which she hopes to release in May. The EP, Day explains, is a hybrid between the styles of '1965' and 'Sweet Ophelia': one part sugar, one part spice, all parts lush, hooky summertime pop. "I'm in the studio every day with my producers," she notes. Listening to either of these songs, you might imagine that Day is often compared to another young songstress, Lana Del Rey. That could be a very polarizing touchstone, but Day wears the comparison proudly. "People like to say I'm the 'happier' version of Lana Del Rey. I love her. Lyrically, she's definitely inspiring. She's witty and smart, I definitely look up to her as an artist."

In March, Zella and her band navigated another milestone: their first festival experience. Day played six shows at SXSW this year. She embraced the hectic schedule and atmosphere, and even embraced the lack of soundcheck or shaky starts to shows as a good thing. "Each show got progressively better. It was good for me to go through with my band, having it not be perfect." And when she wasn't on stage, she was hanging on the balcony of her hotel room, overlooking 6th Street and all the madness below. She also got to check out some of her peers, including label-mates Jungle, as well as personal favourite, Moses Sumney.

But when I asked her who her dream collaborator would be, her answer was immediate: Jack White. Day's 2011 cover of 'Seven Nation Army' was the first track that garnered Day attention, and for good reason. The sweetly haunting and sparse version was laid down totally organically. "When we were in the studio, Joe [my guitarist] started playing 'Seven Nation Army'. It was literally the second take, really off the cuff and spontaneous." Despite her intimate familiarity with White's material, Day maintains she's got a ways to go before she'd feel comfortable sharing a recording booth or stage with the likes of Jack White: "Right now I'm not ready. I feel like I need to learn my circle of fifths a bit better, be able to shred a little bit better on the guitar before I can collaborate with him. It's my goal to be respected by the artists I respect."

As intimidating an idea as a Jack White collaboration may be, there isn't much else that seems to scare Zella Day. Whether it's baring herself in her lyrics, or tirelessly working on all aspects of her new EP, it's clear how hard she works and how much it all means to her. She possesses a rare combination of self-awareness, likeability, and ambition. Circle of Fifths mastery or not, who knows - that Jack White collaboration may not be as far off as she imagines it.

Zella Day's Sweet Ophelia / 1965 7" is available for purchase via B3SCI Records. Watch the video for 'Sweet Ophelia'.