Considering Temple’s departments of English and Intellectual Heritage pay my bills (well, almost) and the word on the street is that the humanities are on their way out of higher education, I was very happy (and a bit charmed) to find out upon calling Providence, Rhode Island-based singer/songwriter Lizzie Davis, that she was currently sitting on her bed, reading Hegel… and I later went on to find out that she’s a Comparative Lit. major… but, that was not the point of the interview…
Lizzie Davis tells me that the most important thing to know about her as a musician is that, “I’m drawn to it because I love telling stories.” Davis recently released her sophomore LP, Latitudes, the follow-up to her self-released debut that dropped in 2011, when she was just 17. The album boasts an intensely soulful brand of folk that could resonate with both those who appreciate the popular and those who stick to the classics (She’s actually not too far off from recently profiled Lily Kershaw… in sound or attitude toward music… the two of them should maybe get together…) Her sound is also reminiscent of some of the 90s’ strongest female singers and songwriters and would’ve been perfectly suited for the stages of Lilith Fair. Of her influences, she tells me, “I grew up listening to a lot of Billie Holiday and Otis Redding… which you probably wouldn’t have guessed,” but tells me that, more recently, she’s been inspired by contemporary songwriters like (recently profiled) Caroline Smith, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst (and apparently, Priscilla Ahn as well, who she eloquently covers below).
The process of writing and recording Latitudes was apparently quite different from that of Davis’ debut. The album was recorded over a week at Mike Mogis’ Another Recording Company in Omaha, Nebraska (her hometown) where, it was mixed by Ben Brodin, who can be noted for his work with First Aid Kit and Azure Ray. Davis tells me, “There was a really different approach to this album, compared to the first one. When I went in, I had these skeletons of each song and focused on what each song demanded. I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted when I went into it.” In terms of the actual finished product, Davis says, “My voice is a lot stronger on this one and there’s a more full-band sound.” She also adds, “I got to spend a semester in Scotland earlier this year and I think that’s something that’s visible on the record, this feeling of being away from home.”
This Sunday, October 13th, Lizzie Davis is having a CD release Party for Latitudes at AS220 in Providence. When I ask her what can be expected of her set, she admits, “It will definitely be a lot different from the album. I will be playing with just one other person, not a full band, so it will be more intimate.” And while Davis has no tour dates scheduled beyond this show, she does tell me that she plans to do a Spring tour around New England. However, there’s also a chance that she’ll be playing a hyper-intimate show in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. I offered Lizzie the opportunity to play one of my classrooms at Temple for a small collection of students (and perhaps give a guest lecture) and she seemed to jump at the opportunity: “I think that would be awesome.”