There aren’t many better ways to spend February 15th than with a great, pro-tequila, Americana singer/songwriter… And, luckily for us in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, this Friday Nashville-based songstress Elise Davis will be headlining upstairs at World Café Live. Davis is currently touring behind her second LP, Cactus, an album reminiscent of the best of ‘90s alt-country, sentimentally a bit morose, but also more than ready to serve as your favorite existential summertime jams of 2019. I recently got a chance to chat with Elise Davis, who is not only all about the smiles but, to my surprise, is actually quite the fan of Valentine’s Day…
Izzy Cihak: So, your second full-length, Cactus, received a ton of really cool critical acclaim and had you on the road with a lot of other really amazing acts. What have been some of the highlights of the past year or so, leading up the release of the record and then getting to promote it? Any favorite experiences or reactions to the album?
Elise Davis: Cactus has been a really fun album release. There are a few things that come to mind first when I read this question. After landing on the album title Cactus, I decided I wanted to go out to the desert to mess around taking pictures/video and see what happened. I hadn’t ever been to the desert before. I got in the car and drove to Terlingua, TX, where I spent days wandering around Big Bend National Park. Looking up into the sky at night in a place where there is no light pollution was one of the most amazing things I’d ever experienced. Also, the quiet. We took lots of pictures, one of which is the cover of Cactus. And video footage from that time appears in music videos for “Lone Wolf” and “Hold Me Like A Gun.” 🙂
The second highlight is touring with Ray LaMontagne. I’ve been a fan of his since I was in college and to play a few sold out shows with him was such a blast. Really attentive crowds.
The third highlight has been the comments from people at shows. People talking with me about songs as they relate in their own life. That is one of the most beautiful things about songwriting, how you can write something from your own experience that others can connect to in their own way. I think I’ve heard that the most about “Married Young” and “Lone Wolf” off this album.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the biggest influences behind Cactus, both musical and otherwise?
Elise: As far as the songs go, I am always writing from my life experiences. So, the influences there are always the people I’ve been around or had experiences with in the time before making the album. As well as growing older and noticing perspective shifts within myself is a big influence to the songs.
Musically, around the time I was about to make Cactus I was obsessively listening to Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness and Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. I brought this up to my producer, as there were elements from each I was inspired to bring into Cactus. The sound of the acoustics on Wildflowers, and the heavy usage of backing vocals and strings on Mental Illness.
Izzy: Have you noticed patterns in the kinds of people who seem to most like, or best “get,” your sounds, or is it still kind of a wide array.
Elise: I am often pleasantly surprised by all different kinds of people who have expressed interest in my music, different ages and genders. I can’t really say it’s been a pattern that I can tell yet. There are some songs in particular I think women relate to more as a result of a female perspective — on songs like “Man” or “33.”
Izzy: I have to ask, how is Nashville’s scene at the moment? I feel like for the longest time most of my favorite artists were from there (Those Darlins, Nikki Lane, Tristen, Lindi Ortega, etc.), but I haven’t been hearing quite as much about the city recently.
Elise: That is an interesting question. Living there, I still feel like there is a thriving music scene, but at the same time most music I listen to isn’t out of Nashville.
Based on the acts you listed above — some local Nashvillians I would check out are Kelsey Kopecky, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Erin Rae, Caroline Spence, and Birdcloud. I’ll keep thinking on more suggestions. 🙂
Izzy: I hate to be so hokey, but because it’s so topical, Valentine’s Day is this week, so I’m curious if you have any thoughts or feelings on the holiday, or just favorite songs to get you through it… for better or worse?
Elise: Although it might be surprising given my lyrical content [laughs], I love Valentine’s Day. It’s always been one of my favorites. Single or in a relationship. Because it’s a day about celebrating love. To me that can be anyone from your friends, a lover, family, a new fling. It’s a holiday that has nothing to do with religion and you don’t have the pressure of buying gifts for a ton of people. Many years I’ve had parties on Valentine’s Day where I gather whoever is up for it to get drunk, eat junk, and have a dance party in my living room. (“Get drunk, eat junk” just made me chuckle after typing.)
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you’re here this Friday at World Café Live? My little sister and I are both quite excited to celebrate the passing of Valentine’s Day with you and alcohol [laughs].
Elise: I am excited y’all can come out to the show!
You can expect us to play most every track off Cactus, a couple of my last album, The Token, and possibly one or two brand new ones. And some tequila-buzzed story telling.
Izzy: Finally, what are you most excited about in the rest of 2019? I know you’re playing a bunch of shows with Donovan Woods. What do you have planned after that?
Elise: I am excited to be recording some new music when I get off tour this spring. I plan to release new music early summer. My writing has taken some shifts in the past year and I’m really excited to record the new material. Then this summer I will be back on the road again touring and playing some festivals, sharing the new music. 🙂