Andra Day says that ESSENCE Festival—where she will return to perform for the second year—is the perfect place to rise up this July 4th weekend. “The feeling of community and camaraderie that you experience when you’re there…there ain’t no hateration or holleration in this dancerie!” says the retro-soul chanteuse and current ESSENCE cover girl.

“People are really supporting each other and what they’ve got going on. It’s empowering. I tell people—women, men of all races—if you experience this, you leave there feeling like, ‘Okay, I can accomplish anything.’”

Buy Your Tickets to the 2016 ESSENCE Festival now!

Day had never been to the Festival—or even New Orleans—before performing last year. “You get a sense when you’re there that the festival has done so much for the city of New Orleans,” she says, “especially after [Hurricane] Katrina and everything it went through. It’s such a special time. There’s really just so much to see and so much to do, so much shopping with all these up-and-coming businesses. It’s amazing.”

Loading the player...

Puff Daddy, Common and Kendrick Rock the Mic on Our ESSENCE Fest Playlist

This year Day steps up from the Superlounge to the Mainstage. “Coming back this year and being on the MainStage is exciting,” she says. “I don’t exactly know what to expect. I’ve never played an arena of this size. It’s huge. But I just got a great piece of advice from Steve Harvey. He said, ‘Don’t change anything, but just play to the back of the room.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, got it.’”

Who is Day excited to see perform herself? “First I’m excited to see Judith Hill, because she’s actually a good friend of mine. She’s like a sister. Of course I’m excited to see Mariah [Carey]. I am so excited to see Maxwell. Kendrick is always amazing; I can’t wait to see him as well.”

Buy your tickets to the 2016 ESSENCE Festival here and make sure to check back for more updates!