PHOTO CREDIT: Jacalyn Meyvis
THE brilliant Mikaela Davis has been discussing…
her album, Delivery, and what sort of themes inspired it. I ask about working with John Congleton and how she got into music; how she feels about coming to the U.K. to perform; what sort of music she is inspired by – Davis recommends some artists worth a follow.
I was eager to learn which musical memory stands in her mind; the three albums that mean the most to her; the advice she would give artists emerging – she tells me what the music scene is like in Rochester (New York) right now.
Hi, Mikaela. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! Doing well. My week has been just fine. How about you?!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I am Mikaela Davis - current musician and former baby.
Delivery is your new album. Can you talk about the sort of themes and stories that inspired the record?
Most of the record is very personal…songs about writing songs and being frustrated with myself. I don’t want to give away too much of course because I love hearing how other people connect these songs with their own life, which is what they are for!
You worked with producer John Congleton. What was that experience?! Did you learn a lot from him?
It was a great experience for my band and me. John works quickly (so quickly it scared me at times!) and is super-efficient. I was at this weird crossroad where I doubted myself too much and was worried no one would like my music. John taught me to go with what feels right to ME and not give a f*k (as best I can. Hehe).
How did you get into music? Were there particular artists who inspired you to get into the industry?
Well. I climbed out of the womb, screaming and got tangled in harp strings almost immediately. I’ve been a music lover all my life, but my uncle Franky inspired me to become a musician most of all. He brings his guitar to every family function and plays original songs and covers. I used to think he wrote Working Class Hero until sometime in high-school. Ha!
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacalyn Meyvi
The harp is your instrument of choice. What drew you to it?
I started taking harp lessons at my public elementary school and, soon after, was studying with Grace Wong. Later in life, I found out that my mom was listening to a lot of Andreas Vollenweider when she was pregnant with me, so maybe that’s why I was drawn to the harp (and Zelda).
You are a native of Rochester, New York. Is there a pretty good music scene there at the moment?
Yes! There’s a cool Rock ‘n’ Roll/Punk scene going on. Joywave is Rochester-based as well. Everyone is pretty supportive of each other here. I am in multiple Rochester bands - Ben Morey & the Eyes, August West and The Vinaigrettes.
Is there more material coming later in the year? What are you working on?
It’s anyone’s guess. I have a bunch of new songs that will most likely be saved for L.P. number-two.
Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?
I started writing songs when trying to figure out a Vanessa Carlton tunes on piano in middle school. Recently, I’ve been listening to Neil Young, every Beatle; Aretha Franklin, Melody’s Echo Chamber; Harry Nilsson, Lake Street Dive; Emmylou Harris…
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
How the heck to make a daily schedule and stick to it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Julia Drummond
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
While I was on tour with Bon Iver in Europe, Justin asked me to sit in on harp AND sing the second verse of Flume. That was pretty crazy.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Journey in Satchidananda - Alice Coltrane
This album with Pharaoh Sanders is amazing. I didn’t know the harp could have so much emotion and life. Alice inspired me to try improvising.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - John Lennon, Yoko Ono
I listened to this on-repeat before recording Delivery. It’s so raw and so real.
This Girl’s In Love with You - Aretha Franklin
Aretha’s voice is so transcendent and powerful. I wish my voice could do what hers does. The songs she chose for this record especially resonate with me.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacalyn Meyvis
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Easy. Neil Young!
My rider would include an eighth of the region’s finest weed to enjoy his set every night; a block of your finest sharp cheese; cutting board and knife. No crackers.
Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?
Yes! Touring Europe and North America this fall. Check mikaeladavis.com for details.
You are coming to the U.K. in October. Is this your first time here? Do you like British music?
I heard a pretty good band the other day; I think they’re called The Beatles. Saw Black Sabbath a few years back. Can’t hear a word Ozzy is saying but I’m sure it’s gold.
I’ve toured in the U.K. multiple times! First, with The Staves who are also an amazing British band! Again, with Bon Iver I’ve played Bushstock Festival, The Great Escape…excited to come back!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Some days, I wake up asking myself why I chose this path. I’m sure it happens to all the greats, though I can’t be sure. When you’re frustrated, remember why you started performing in the first place. Wake up and try harder.
IN THIS PHOTO: Adron/PHOTO CREDIT: Brock Scott
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
When I can I like to hang with my friends, my family and my cats.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Closer to God - Wilder Maker
Follow Mikaela Davis
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacalyn Meyvis