When Gabriel Day-Lewis picks up the phone, he seems ... frazzled. Mainly, the 22-year-old musician explains, because while strolling through New York City’s West Village, he was invited into the famed Stonewall Inn by a man in cowboy getup who turned out to be none other than Randy Jones of Village People fame.
"So I'm just out here, hanging with Randy Jones!" Day-Lewis exclaims, half-singing "YMCA" to make sure I know who he's talking about. Known best for his pedigree as the son of Daniel Day-Lewis and French actress Isabelle Adjani, Gabriel Kane, as he's known among his fans, is used to being surrounded by famous people. Yet pacing on the sidewalk outside of the Stonewall, he sounds charmingly star-struck. "I'm kind of buzzing!"
Today, Day-Lewis debuted his Weeknd-reminiscent single "Lie to Me." It's the latest in a trickle of releases this summer, including the breakup ballad "Beautiful Failures" and the upbeat earworm "Ink in My Veins," which was accompanied by a rather mesmerizing music video in which the singer smushes paint all over his hands and face. It's not the first time he has put out music; Day-Lewis posted a rap video online in 2013 while enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College, quickly removing it after it was ridiculed, but his latest stream of soulful, electro-infused R&B bears no relation.
If you haven't heard of Day-Lewis, the musician, you may have heard of Day-Lewis, the model, who recently posed alongside fellow Hollywood offspring Kaia Gerber in a Hudson Jeans campaign and walked the Fall 2015 Chanel couture runway after a chance run-in with Karl Lagerfeld on the street in Paris. He seems to have a lot of those. But we’ll let him tell you about it himself.
It sounds pretty rowdy—where am I reaching you right now?
You’re going to die; the funniest thing just happened. My boy and I were trying to meet up with one of our friends, and we ended up running into a cameraman and woman holding a mic that says “YMCA” on it. This guy comes over, dressed kind of like a cowboy. It turns out he’s Randy Jones from [Village People]! He’s telling us about the ‘70s, what it was like performing the “YMCA.”
I don’t know if you know [the bar] the Stonewall [Inn], but I know it played a big role in the gay community sort of taking a stand for their rights in the state of New York. So it’s pretty cool. I love the city so much.
That’s one for the ages. You’ve been dropping new music all summer, including your recent single "Ink In My Veins." What’s the meaning of that title?
A lot of people, I guess when they get a first look at me, they assume that the song is about my tattoos, which it’s not. Actually, it’s an inception song, in the sense that I get a sense of relief, and I find a lot of comfort in writing songs, and "Ink In My Veins" is basically a song that depicts my feelings [about] writing songs.
How many tattoos do you have?
I stopped counting! Definitely more than I can count on my fingers and toes. I got to a point where I got them so frequently. I didn’t have to overthink what I was getting—it would just get lost in the mix. But now, because of the amount of tattoos I have and the limited amount of space that comes with that, I have to be more selective about what I get.
You told me you wrote your first song when you were 12. Did you know you wanted to be a professional musician back then?
I can't remember what I wanted to be back then. I actually, when I was living in Ireland, when I was 14 or 15 years old, I was toying with the idea of joining the NYPD because I knew I was going to move to New York with my dad's side of the family. And I was thinking of being one of the blue bloods, you know? I decided not to ... Well, maybe I'll take a sabbatical.
You’ve released a number of singles this summer, all with very different influences. Do you feel like you're still finding your sound?
That's a great question. I do feel like I have been searching for my sound, and I haven't quite yet found my niche. That's also, essentially, why I decided not to release my songs as an EP and just release them as individual singles until I record my first album. Some songs have very contrasting styles and are borderline different genres.
What about rap? Are you solidly done with that genre?
Yeah, for sure. I had never really planned on pursuing a career in that. It was never serious. People thought I was serious, but the whole thing was kind of funny for me. That's all about finding your sound and moving forward in your career as an artist. It's like, you try different things. That was one thing I tried, and it wasn't for me. I'm probably eventually going to go back to my music roots, which is singer-songwriter acoustic stuff, closer to Hozier, Ed Sheeran, John Legend, those guys. That's what I love doing, just sitting down with a guitar and writing a song without being at a computer.
Do you fee like growing up in the spotlight makes it difficult to experiment since everyone is paying attention while you figure it out?
Yeah. People labeled me as a rapper the second that video came out years ago. And I think that that's just because they had no idea what kind of music background I had. I never though that video was going to go viral! So it has been a little trickier, I guess, on occasion to find my voice in music because it's been in the spotlight. But it's all about being persistent.
In addition to being a musician, you also model, which began when Karl Lagerfeld personally asked you to walk on the Chanel runway, right?
Yeah, I was on my Vespa in Paris, and I was dating this girl who had an internship with Chanel at the time, two years ago. I picked her up, and Karl was leaving. I'd met him when I was a kid, and I flagged him down. He was like, kind of ambiguous about walking up to me because he had no idea who I was, and then I reminded him that I had spent a couple weeks at his villa. That's when I was a kid, and he remembered because he knows my mom. And he was like, “Can you walk for Chanel?” And I was like, “I most probably could clear my schedule. Let me check my iCal…” [laughs]
Is that your career move—just stop people on the street?
That's how you start hustling! You gotta just shake people down and sell them your product, whether they want it or not.
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Speaking of career moves, you posted an Instagram shot with Kate Moss, captioned “Kate told me her secret to success.” Spill!
[laughs] Well, she didn’t really tell me her secrets. Meeting her that day was an experience. It was hilarious—I was [on the set of a photo shoot]. Kate Moss had just wrapped her shoot. She’s a little tipsy, you know drinking her spritzer on the couch—I think she was a few in at this point by the time I get there. I’m talking to Mario [Testino, the photographer] and Kate, and Mario’s asking me about the tattoos on my chest, and I asked, “Do you want to see them?” They’re like “Yeah, yeah yeah!” And, Kate’s like, “Do you have tattoos on your legs?” So I ended up striping down to my underwear, giving them a half-naked show of all my tattoos.
Just a regular Tuesday!
Right, exactly, I guess Kate was like, “Be yourself and enjoy yourself.”
You must have been exposed to a lot of inspiring figures growing up. Have you always been confident in approaching them like you did Karl?
I think I’m a little more reserved now. But it’s funny, when I was 6 or 7 years old, I was fascinated by the value of things. We get in front of my mom’s car or something, and I’m like, “How much did this car cost you?” What I’m trying to get at is that I was outgoing and I didn’t feel weird about asking people things like that—about their work, how much they make, how much what they had cost, and was worth!
Did that get you into trouble?
Yeah! Especially if ether one of my parents were around. But it was genuine curiosity. I was really curious about money, success, value. I tend not to ask people questions like that anymore though. [laughs]
Other than not to ask people how much they make, what’s the best career advice your father has given you?
I guess just like, he’s trying to discourage me [from acting]. He’s like “You don’t want to be an actor.” But he’s not giving me advice about that—he’s giving me advice to be a good person. And he’s always told me to be cautious, especially when doing interviews, engaging with the press. Even though it’s a generational thing, I can understand his views on the press and social media—though they’re different to mine, being born in a different time.
You’re known to post quite a few shirtless selfies on your Instagram. Let’s talk posing strategy. What’s the key?
It’s got to be in the gym or at the beach or in the morning, in the mirror. [laughs] It’s kind of those spaces where it’s at least half acceptable to do that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.