VIDEO PREMIERE: MIKAELA DAVIS “OTHER LOVER”
When harpist Mikaela Davis broke away from her classical roots, she broke hard. Blending ethereal, acid-soaked Polaroid images of the 1970s with a David Lynch-ian dreamscape, the Rochester, NY native went on a journey of self-discovery following a lifetime of classical training, a move to Brooklyn, and an eventual return to her hometown. Her first full-length record, Delivery, which she describes as being “kind of about writing a record,” was written after the retreat that felt like the ultimate act of surrender became a blessing in disguise. Now, with a ten-track autobiography in her back pocket and tours with Bon Iver and Lake Street Dive under her belt, the future symphonic harpist has reimagined herself as effortlessly as she sets herself apart.
Now, with the highly anticipated, exclusive release of her “Other Lover” music video, Mikaela sits down to talk releases, rebellions, and delivery.
Your musical journey began in the classical realm. How did you make the transition from an aspiring symphonic harpist to a singer-songwriter delving into genres of pop, folk-rock, and funk, and how have your classical roots influenced your songwriting?
I’ve been writing music since I was 12. I was trying to figure out my favorite songs on the radio, and when I didn’t get it right, I wrote what I had into my own song. Studying classical music honestly made me think too carefully about songwriting. I am grateful for everything music school taught me, but I’ve been learning that less is more.
What has been the biggest challenge in writing and creating music of your own after playing classical compositions since you were eight years old?
Learning to improvise in a group instead of being on the edge of my seat in the orchestra, praying that I don’t miss a note, ha! I love playing in a band setting because mistakes are quirks and I don’t have to play what’s on the page. Don’t be mistaken; studying harp performance gave me the skills I need to play with power and use my muscles correctly, though I’m still learning every day.
You cite a range of influences — Joni Mitchell, Elliot Smith, Neil Young, Plastic Ono Band – and blend the dreamy psychedelia of the 70s with synth sounds from the 80s to create a sound that’s undeniably yours. How did you draw from these influences while blending the elements that are uniquely yours?
By accident. I believe every musician takes from their influences, yet every person is an individual, so their music will usually ring true to themselves.
What life experiences brought you to the point of writing a song like “Other Lover”?
My first experience of co-writing. I brought the idea of the harp line to Konrad and Jeremy, and we went from there. The song came together pretty quickly; we only had a few hours until I had to leave Nashville since I was on a tour at the time. “Other Lover” was written four years ago. I’m excited it’s finally out.
You said that all you want was for your music to resonate with others. What do you think gives “Other Lover” such a universal theme?
The song is pretty much two chords, which makes it simple so anyone can get into it!
Your first full-length record, Delivery, is, in your words, a journey of self-discovery and feeling comfortable in your own skin. When you began writing the record, did you intend to write to this theme, or did you discover it as you were writing the record?
I didn’t know what the theme was until I had a large collection of songs. I was told to keep writing, keep writing, even when I thought I had enough material. I named the record after it was fully recorded, which is when I realized how the songs connected.
What do you hope listeners take away from Delivery?
It’s not for take away; it’s Delivery.
You’re nearing the release of your first full-length record, you’ve been on tour with Bon Over and Lake Street Dive, and have collaborated with producer John Congleton and sister-trio The Staves. What’s your next step?
Tour tour tour tour tour!!!
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