Interview: Emily Davis

Acclaimed Adelaide singer songwriter, Emily Davis is no newbie to the music scene. This weekend she is releasing her third album, ‘You, Me and the Velvet Sea’. Although the album didn’t set out to be a concept album, many of the songs take inspiration from the sea. Davis’ way of song writing is insightful and elegant, and you could categorise her sound as somewhere in between folk and rock. She’s heading off on a tour along the East Coast of Australia to launch her album, but before setting sail she’s performing live at Adelaide institution, Jive this Saturday night. We caught up with her for a chat.

So this is your third studio album, congratulations!

Thank you!

It’s set to be released this Friday, are you excited to finally have it out for the public?

To say that I’m excited is an understatement, I woke up at 3am this morning…it’s like Christmas. It’s a bit silly at the age of 35 that I’m that excited. But it’s true.

You’ll be at Jive this Saturday night for the launch, it’s such a great venue isn’t it?

Jive just has a great party vibe to it; the stage is beautiful to play on. It’s a big room, and you can really go for it. The band is quite rocky, and we wanted to have a space that could really let us set sail, and Jive seems to be the perfect venue to do that in.

Speaking of setting sail, your album is called ‘You, Me and the Velvet Sea’, what is it about the sea which inspired you most?

The sea has always been a constant in my life, I grew up on the beaches of Eyre Peninsula. Just as I’ve grown, it’s always been the place I go to and always feel most comfortable in. So, quite subliminally and accidentally it influenced the album. The themes in the album are a lot about love, and in a way, there is a metaphorical, symbolic connection between love and the sea. Sometimes it’s calm, still and soothing and other times it’s quite dramatic and can put you on your arse. It’s material in that way and is constantly changing, in the same way that love kind of is, and that was the link.

It was accidental, we didn’t set out to make a concept album, but my bass player said to me during pre-production, “do you find it weird that every song makes mention in some way of the ocean?” I hadn’t realised at the time, but she was right. There’s a lyrical reference to the sea in almost everything. So, it sort of made sense to call the album You Me and the Velvet Sea, with that back story in mind.

Do you remember what your earliest memory of the sea is?

 I do actually. My whole extended family and I would go to the beach for the whole day, pretty much every day. There’s one particular day, it was beautiful and we were playing in the water – I probably would have been maybe 3 or 4. And this massive storm rolled in, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Like you know when you’re little, you probably embellish a little bit in your memory, but everyone was freaking out, running around grabbing things. These huge thunder clouds rolled in, and there was lightning. I just remember standing in the shallows and feeling really overwhelmed, but really compelled to watch the storm. I actually remember getting whisked away from the water by my dad. He was kind of rushing me back to the car, but I just wanted to stand there and watch the drama unfold. The way the waves were moving was just stunning. It’s stayed with me all my life.

Is it experiences and memories like these which inspire your song writing, and play a role in the lyrics and story’s you tell through your music?

 Yeah, well in this album, it accidentally inspired the song writing. Even in the sonic presentation of some of the guitar lines that we have. There’s a song called Bled for you, which features this beautiful tremolo electric guitar which Emily Smith plays, and it just sounds like you’re sinking under water. It kind of is a very big influence on me in that way. I’ve learned as songwriter who is now in their 30’s that sometimes it’s best not to fight those inbuilt intuitive places that you go with song writing. Sometimes you get your best work when you don’t fight it, and that’s what I did in this album. I just went for it.

You mentioned your guitar player, Emily Smith, and you had a great band behind you who helped you out on this album. What was it like working all together?

 It’s so brilliant. We’re basically family. We’re a bunch of women who love playing music, we love to rock out, we love to get really emotional and sensitive. And we also really love to eat hummus while drinking wine on my porch. It’s kind of a real family vibe, we all feel like sisters. It’s something really rare to find in music, it’s so rare to have that deep connection above and beyond the work that you want to do together. They took the songs and ran with them. When you write music, you can kind of hear how you want it to go in your head. The girls just got it, they heard the stripped back acoustic version and then they played along and it just felt exactly how I heard it in my head. It’s something you can’t ignore, when you get some many signs like that. They’ve given so much time and creativity and they’ve been so generous with that, and that’s why Saturday night is such a huge celebration for us.

Yeah, and it must be so much fun going out there and playing all these songs that you guys have worked so hard on, live in front of an audience…

Well, the studio experience is very different to a live performance experience. There is a magical alchemy which happens when we all get on stage. That’s the thing we’ve known to be true with this kind of outfits. Bringing the songs to life, the next level, live, is really a thrill.

Adding to your live shows, you guys have some wonderful support acts. Tell us about them.

 We have the wonderful Fleur Green who is a fabulous innovative, creative songwriter who is going to start the night off. She is a virtuosic percussionist and has turned her hand at song writing, and I’m so glad that she has. She’s a really captivating songwriter. Then second, we have Aaron Thomas, is a sublime songwriter and his voice is incredible. His approach is really unique and he’s just a real showman. We’re all buddies, we all hang out on the weekends and share songs that we’ve written with each other and take each other’s opinions. We’re kind of in this little creative incubator as well, which again happened quite accidentally, but we all adore each other’s company. I’m really thrilled and honoured that they can open the show for me.

It doesn’t stop at Jive, you are heading out on a tour of the East Coast…

 Yeah! We’re going to do some shows in Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney with the full band. So, anyone who has toured with a full band knows it’s quite an undertaking. The girls are all really keen to pack the car up and head off, and we’re playing in some great venues around the city. We’re also pretty excited to just go away and hang out together for that amount of time. It’s kind of the next stage in the process, once you launch you’ve got to bring it to people and show them why they should listen to it. I’m really confident in the trip and I’m confident about my bands ability to play to a Tetris.

A Tetris?

When try to pack a drum kit, two guitar amps, lots of instruments in a car…there’s quite a fine art to it.

Emily Davis will launch her album ‘You, Me and the Velvet Sea’ this Saturday the 14th of April at Jive. You can get your tickets here.




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