It all starts with an acoustic guitar, a soft and charming voice and sincere lyrics... With a heartfelt and truthful folk music, Anne Davis shares her own stories and inner thoughts. Her first album, Letters, Prayers and Journal Entries, reminds us why we all love music in the first place: for the emotions that it can arouse and the feelings that it can convey.
Hello Anne ! First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your story and your relationship with music?
Hi…sure…I’m a folk-alternative singer/songwriter who has actually been writing songs since before I could even write…. As a little girl, songs would just come to me and I would sing and play my tennis racket guitar and give concerts to my Siamese cat, Feather, and our Greyhound, Zip… They always seemed happy to listen and I was sure glad to have an audience. Sometimes, I would get behind the piano (before I took any lessons) and would bang away and come up with songs… I’m not sure, at that time, that my family appreciated my songwriting pullings because they couldn’t hear what I heard in my head. Later, I did actually take piano lessons for five years, but I just couldn’t finish any songs sitting behind the piano… It just wasn’t a natural fit like the guitar was… As soon as I picked up the guitar that my aunt bought for me as a graduation present from high school, and I began really teaching myself chords and how to play from a Mel Bay guitar book, immediately songs began to flow… And even as a small child, music could move me to tears. There’s always been a really deep connection to music for me early on.
You're a female folk artist. While listening to your music, one can't help but think about other female acts such as Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrissette or Jewel. Are these kind of artists part of your influences? What other types of music do you get your inspiration from?
Sheryl Crow is definitely a favorite for me…. I’ve been listening to her since she released her first big album “Tuesday Night Music Club”... I’ve been listening to Amy Grant since I was in 7th grade and her music has had quite an impact on me... She’s always been so authentic in her writing and I really connected with her instantly. I remember when the Indigo Girls came onto the music scene when I was a junior in high school and I was completely blown away by their harmonies and brilliant songwriting. When I was in college, I remember discovering Mary Chapin Carpenter when her album “Come On, Come On” came out and I was so blown away by her lyrics…still to this day, there are songs of hers that always make me tear up like “I Am A Town” or “Only A Dream”… Now, for me personally…that is songwriting at its best. And of course, I can make a little (or long) list of other artists/bands that I’m into…or been into…like…Sam Phillips, Patty Griffin, Peter Bradley Adams, Lifehouse, Mindy Smith, The Fray, Vertical Horizon, Damien Rice, Julie Miller, Shawn Colvin, David Wilcox, James Taylor, Garrison Starr, Lisa Marie Presley, Jars of Clay, K’s Choice, Sarah Bettens, Jesus Culture, Fernando Ortega, Gillian Welch, Anthony Skinner, Nanci Griffith, early Tracy Chapman, early Counting Crows, Emmylou Harris’s “Wrecking Ball” CD, Goo Goo Dolls, Martin Smith, Maura O’Connell, Daughtry, some Coldplay… and the list goes on and on. What usually sucks me in is a strong melody, well-crafted lyrics, and unique vocals… I like raspy vocals when I can find them. The lead singer of K’s Choice, Sarah Bettens, completely blows me away vocally and I think she and her brother are great songwriters as well… I’m sure I’ve left out other meaningful artists… but, these just happen to come to mind as I type.
What is your current favorite tune/album?
Hmmm… that’s tricky… I’m currently listening to Jars of Clay’s latest release “Inland” and a mixed CD of Pink (just recently saw her in concert)… Before that, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s CD “Songs From The Movie”… Listening to that CD is literally an experience… and before that I was replaying Lisa Marie Presley’s release “Storm And Grace”… Next will probably be Sheryl Crow’s latest release that I can’t believe I’ve not gotten yet.
Your first album is called "Letters, Prayers, and Journal Entries". Just by reading the title, we have the feeling that this is a very personal project. So, do we really travel through your thoughts and your journal entries while listening to this piece?
Yes. There was someone who reviewed my CD when it came out and sort of laughed a little at the title I gave it…. which was fine—I’ve got a good sense of humor and can easily laugh at myself… but, you know, when I was coming up with a title, I kept thinking… people should know just what they’re getting…. that’s literally exactly what these songs are…most of them literally came right out of my journal entries where I was pouring my heart out…some are prayers…2 are wedding songs I wrote for friends...I have a song called “Dear Nanny” that is literally a letter I wrote… not sure if I uploaded that song or not to Jamendo… but, it’s some of what I wished I could have said to my dear Nanny, heartbroken from missing her so much…. just real life experiences that I’ve tried to put words to and articulate the best way I’ve known how.
Can you tell us more about the experience of crafting your first album? Was it a long journey, did you meet new people etc...
The putting together and pulling together of this CD was a really long journey… When I started, I could have never dreamed that it would take me as long as it did… It took 7 years… and when I think about it, it’s almost a miracle that it actually came to be. So many obstacles to overcome… and of course, working around people’s schedules who I really wanted to work with came into play… The biggest challenge though was that I came down with Mono/Epstein Barr Virus and could never get over it and finally learned that Lyme disease had been behind my being unable to recover… So, for so many of the vocals, had someone had a video camera of me in the studio, they would have seen me often propped up and struggling through low breath support because of the illness, often running fever… Sometimes I would schedule studio time to go in and do vocals and would have to cancel that day because I was too sick… Thankfully, I worked with a lot of really patient people who believed in me and stood by me… I had the honor to work with some really fantastic musicians… For this to be my debut CD and to get to work with some of the people I had the privilege to, it was just pretty amazing… a real blessing. And, gratefully, many were good friends of mine. For starters, I got to work with J.R. McNeeley who has won several Grammy’s for his excellence in mixing projects for many artists/bands… I felt he did an excellent job and had some great suggestions along the way… The only thing that made him cringe was that I insisted my vocals be pushed up to the front so that they could be front and center… He didn’t love that idea at all, being a true pro in his field, and knowing where things should really sit in the mix… but, he agreed to let me do my thing. My dear friend, Shane Martin, who played most of the guitar work was like the backbone of the project since he played on all but 3 songs…he’s been a studio musician for years and we go way back and I was really grateful to him for being committed to helping me pull this CD off… Sometimes he went without a paycheck and he made me believe it was because he believed in me… and has always been like a brother. Also, it was a true privilege to get to work with Ron de la Vega, who has played with Nanci Griffith for many years. I was so impressed with his ability to read a song and know what it wanted played on it and when and where… He contributed to the project playing upright acoustic bass and cello. That was really a highlight for me to get to work with him. I remember that I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to. And, another musician that comes to mind and pulls hard on my heart is Hunter Lee who played uilleann pipes on “The Crucible Song.” It was such an emotional studio experience for both of us, actually… He ended up tearing up and I literally quietly wept the whole time he was laying down his tracks… He really was able to connect to the song and gave me more than I even knew could be brought to the song. He really played from a deep place in his heart and it saddens me that he never got to hear the final mix of the song… When I was trying to locate him after my CD was released, it was then that I learned he had just prematurely passed away. It really broke my heart…such an amazing talent and gift he possessed…gone much too soon. Anyway, of course my CD liner notes include all the musicians who played on the project and I really feel indebted to them all… All brilliant musicians in their own right who gave 100 percent and then some.
The sound of this project is very pure, as if the whole recording was made with an acoustic and unplugged set. Was it important for you to keep this "raw" aspect?
Musically, my goal was to ONLY use real, live instruments and my rule was no fabricated sounds whatsoever… I wanted to give a true organic experience from beginning to end, while recording it all with professional studio musicians and in top studios in Nashville, TN… I even used a little out of tune baby grand piano on “Until That Day” because I wanted it to be authentic and that’s what we had at the time to use... Though it was definitely more expensive to go this route and probably contributed to the long amount of time it took me to finish my CD, I felt it was worth it. I really felt the music needed to match the lyrics… and they were vulnerable, raw, “stripped back for all to see” type of lyrics… I was baring my soul, so I felt the music needed to be as real as I was being willing to be as an artist and human being.
This album is also very soothing, relaxing, almost as if the listening session was some sort of therapy. Also, the lyrics you write are very relatable. Is this the kind of experience you're looking for your audience to have with your music?
Well, I suppose journaling is therapeutic in many ways… It helps me process life going on around me… and most of my songs did come from my journal entries… So, there’s that aspect. And, I’ve always felt like my songwriting and music has been my own outlet to respond to life and one of my ways to work it out… I think I have long felt that if I would be willing to be transparent and authentic with my lyric writing, then others would also feel that same freedom. You know, life’s hard… and it can get really difficult… and I think it helps to just know you’re not alone… I’ve said this before, but I feel we’re all waiting on someone to play our song…. a song that we feel we could have written ourselves because it’s right where we’re at in our lives at that moment… and we want to know there’s someone else out there who gets what we’re going through… Until I got sick and went through a really long chronic illness that just took over my life, I did not know just how dark dark can get… When you’re living out the “dark night of the soul” it helps to know someone else knows and understands what that feels like… so…yeah, I pretty much laid it all bare for whoever wanted to see… or listen. And, as a songwriter, you can only hope that your songs connect with listeners somewhere out there, after you’ve put your blood and guts into a song.
Have you already taken this material on the road, performed it live? How would you describe the live experience you've had so far?
Yes and no… I got to take a little mini tour only one time with just me and my guitar and was really touched by the response and really felt like I was connecting. Of course, after the CD was released, I played locally as much as I could and was always pleased by people’s reactions… but, I had planned it out in my head to do a full blown tour throughout the entire country and play in every coffeehouse… listening room… bar/pub… that I could find that would listen to me play… Unfortunately, because of my health, I had to lay that dream to rest… for now. That aspect has been heartwrenching because I just never dreamed I wouldn’t get to do some touring after the CD was released. I had big plans on doing so that I’ve never gotten to yet live out. So, we’ll see what the future holds.
I know it's hard but if you had to choose one song from this album, which one would it be? Why?
Gosh… that really is a tough question for me… because each song comes with a story and a certain set of memories attached to it… So, if I had to choose, maybe it would be between “Where The Roads Cross” and “No, I’m Not Going Anywhere”… Perhaps, since I’ve gotten more feedback on “Where The Roads Cross” I might choose it… It took me years to write that song… And I remember feeling a sense of relief once the song was written and finished… and I felt like I had not failed the song and felt I had written it like it wanted to be written, if that makes any sense… And there have been many people who’ve written to me about this one song… how it got them through a challenging time or how they really related to the lyrics at that moment in their lives… And the most meaningful story in relation to this song is when a girl (who I still stay in touch with) shared with me that that one song got her through an entire semester of college and she believes kept her from killing herself… that some days, that was the only thing that got her through…was listening to “Where The Roads Cross”… So, I think meaningful stories like that where the song has really made a difference for someone makes me lean towards choosing that one. It’s really humbling to hear stories like that, because I know I had little to do with people just happening to stumble across that song right when they needed to hear it… I think Providence may come into play here…I sure don’t believe in accidents.
What are your future musical plans?
Well, this is sort of a tricky question since I’m still in the recovery process with my health… but… with that said… my hopes are that I will get to begin playing out more and eventually finally get to take my music on the road and actually tour with it… And I have SO many unfinished songs just waiting for me to return to them to finish what I once started… So, my hope is to finish a lot of half written songs and begin new ones and at long last, return to the studio to record my second CD release. These things are at the very top of my “to do” list…. Music has always been such a huge part of my life, so I can’t imagine it not always being so…. it’s just a part of who I am. And, it’s what I’ve always done for as far back as I can remember…so, I’m hopeful about the future.