Mikaela Davis is a young harpist, pianist, singer and songwriter who crafts sweet and salty songs that straddle the lines of folk and funk, AM rock and 80s pop experimentation. Mikaela hails from Rochester, NY and after a brief sojourn to Brooklyn resettled there, falling in with a thriving artistic community that helped to create the environment she needed to make this album. She has been the special guest on tours with the likes of Bon Iver and The Staves.
I was fortunate to catch up with her as she prepares to visit the south coast as part of The Great Escape which takes place in Brighton about two weeks.
Could you tell me about how you initially got involved with music and who influenced you most?
I was introduced to music at an early age spending years listening to my uncle Franky play guitar and sing his songs at family events. Surprisingly enough, I never picked up a guitar. I remember the exact moment I was drawn to the harp. It was the end of second grade and my class was taken to the music room. Teachers presented different string instruments; among those instruments was the harp. I immediately knew I wanted to be a harpist. I even knew where I wanted to place my future harp in the living room. I studied classical music through grade school and have a degree in Harp Performance, but I decided I enjoyed being a songwriter more than anything.
Could you tell me about how you came to choose the harp as your weapon of choice?
Now that you know how I chose harp, you should also know I started writing songs on the piano. I liked how everything was laid out in front of me and no pedals were involved to change pitch. Eventually, I realized I was a better harpist than a pianist, and with encouragement from my close friend and bandmate Alex I switched over to writing songs on harp full time. Recently I have been getting back into playing the piano. 2018 will be my first year touring with both instruments! I’m excited!
For those who are new to your music which three tracks would you encourage them to check out first and why?
‘Delivery‘ besides being the title track of my new album, ‘Delivery’ sums up what the album is all about. ‘In My Groove’ I feel this song captures my overall vibe as a songwriter so far, and it’s the first song that was written for the album! ‘All I Do Is Disappear’ This song almost didn’t make the cut because I didn’t think it was good enough. I’m happy I changed my mind because it’s now my favourite song on the record.
Recently I have been getting back into playing the piano. 2018 will be my first year touring with both instruments! I’m excited!
How do you feel when you share your music for the first time? Do you prefer to share new music live where you can see the crowd’s reaction first hand or online perhaps?
Hmm, I haven’t really thought much about this! I really enjoy playing live and seeing how songs evolve over time… so I guess I prefer sharing music live first! From a fans perspective, I feel special when I’m at a concert and the artist introduces an unreleased song. Magic!
You blend rock and classical together superbly but what artists are you currently listening to and how are they inspiring you to explore and implement new ideas within your music?
Recently I went to a concert on a whim without knowing the artist’s music very well… I was blown away by Natalie Prass! Everyone needs to go listen to “Short Court Style” before continuing with this interview. I *slightly* toyed with funk on my album, but she has encouraged me to dive deeper the future! Alex Cameron is another artist I’ve been digging. I generally write about personal situations but his music reminds me that Bob Dylan isn’t the only one who can write stories into songs and kick ass. Gotta get on that…
On a normal day you will find me listening to Angel – Gram Parsons or Wilco (the album) – Wilco on repeat. These are just two of the artists that have been pushing me to keep reaching higher for a long time.
Will you get a chance to hang around The Great Escape and enjoy it after you’ve played?
Definitely! Pumped to hear other artists. I would strongly advise catching Katie Von Schleicher’s set. She’s another artist who has raised the bar for me. We are playing the same night at different venues but if I can’t see her set, you’ll have to bounce around and see it for me.
What can those fortunate enough to have tickets expect from your live show?
You can expect to watch four friends having a good one. Maybe some cat jokes.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
It’s a big year… releasing my debut record July 13th, the rest is a mystery! Keep in touch! xo M
As Mikaela said, her full-length debut with Delivery released via Rounder Records on 13th July, produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Future Islands, Angel Olsen, Alvvays). Delivery is a thrilling adventure over 10 tracks: a sonic exploration that challenges what the harp can do, and one that details the sometimes arduous path to self-acceptance and feeling comfortable in your own skin.
If you would like to catch Mikaela at The Great Escape as well as many other talented artists across a host of genres then more information can be found here.