Shenandoah Davis
Gig Seeker Pro

Shenandoah Davis

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Avant-garde

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


"May we all be so blessed with a work ethic as Shenandoah Davis"

Shenandoah Davis is not messing around. She and her two-man backing band started touring August 14, toured through September, will keep going through October, then will close out the run with 20+ shows in November. By the end, she will have played a self-booked show almost every day for four. solid. months.

The new music industry takes work ethic, but that’s far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I would write about that insane tour schedule even if I didn’t like her music. That is worthy.

The Company We Keep, however, is also worthy. Her album features distinctive, precise piano-based songwriting. Davis has a high, affected, trilling voice that calls up Joanna Newsom comparisons, and it’s the centerpiece of the album. The songwriting is accompanied by stark arrangements that play up the wintry tones that she invokes. Tunes like “Sewn Up Tight” and “Oh Way Oh” use strings to condense the sound, making it even more claustrophobic than her songwriting would otherwise make it.

She strikes an odd and mesmerizing balance in The Company We Keep; she and Newsom have the weird songwriter vibe in common, but there’s also a distinct element of Bon Iver-esque beauty encompassed in the tunes (“White Wind”). Regina Spektor’s more brusque and brittle moments are called up as well (“Duet,” “Proof”). “Proof” is an especially interesting case, as it funnels all of her borrowed idiosyncrasies through a jaunty saloon-style piano. It’s easily the most distinctive and unique tune here. You’ll be humming it at the end, most likely.

The Company We Keep is a beautiful, unique collection of tunes. And since songs only get more broken in when you play them repeatedly, Davis is probably sporting even better renditions of these on the road (today: Providence, RI). Even so, picking up a Bandcamp copy of The Company We Keep is recommended.

You need to go to Shenandoah Davis’ show when she comes through your town. Because she probably is coming through your town. Heck, she might even come to my small town. I am not kidding. This is how dedicated she is. - Independent Clauses


"Interview: Shenandoah Davis"

Shenandoah Davis Interview

by Teshima Satoru



??Shenandoah Davis???????????Daytrotter?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????!???????!????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Shenandoah Davis?????????????SSW???????????????????????????????Grand Hallway????????????????12?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The Company We Keep????Daytrotter????????????????????

T)??????????????????????????”The Company We Keep"????????????

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

S)??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

T)?????????Joanna Newsom??Feist????Owen Pallett???????????????????????????????????????????????????

S)??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????20??30??????????????????????????????????????????????

?????????????????·????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????... ???????????

T)????The Company We Keep??????????????????????????????????????????????????(?????????????????)???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????("Keeping The Company")???????????????????

S)”The Company We Keep"????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????"The Company We Keep"??????????????????????????????????????????????(?????)???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

T)???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

S)??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????



T)???Daytrotter???????????????????????????????(Daytrotter?????)????????????????????????????????????????????????

S)Daytrotter????????????????!??????????????????????(?????????)???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????(????????)???????????????????????????????????????????????...????????????????????????????????!????????????????????????????????????(Daytrotter?????????????)????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

T)?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????????PWFL POWER(?????????????????????????????????)??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????!(?)
- Private Dub (JPN)


"Shenandoah Davis - Proof"

It's been a good while since I heard a piano song as satisfying as Shenandoah Davis's "Proof". It sounds like fat raindrops hitting the scalding hot pavement, a happy kind of rain. Her voice is like a tightrope walker wobbling on the wire just to make the audience gasp. Not that your Grandma would necessarily listen to this, there's an old timey feel to it, like you should be sitting in a rocking chair listening to the cracks and pops of the vinyl coming from a phonograph. I was excited it was one of the songs chosen for the daytrotter session that came out today. You can stream/buy the full album at bandcamp. - New Music Collaborative


"Game-Changer: Kaylee Cole and Shenandoah Davis at the Triple Door"

Yes, you're reading that correctly. Kaylee Cole and Shenandoah Davis will be performing on the main stage at the Triple Door with the Seattle Rock Orchestra. We are not kidding, and this is not an April Fool's joke -- thought it sounds too good to be true, this is the real deal. And it's going on this Saturday night, April 2nd, at 8pm (with doors at 6 for dinner).

In case you need a refresher on why this is going to be so ridiculously blissful, here's some clips from this year's BARE at the Fremont Abbey:

And of course, who could forget the little ditty that made us fall in love with Shenandoah in the first place two winters ago?

Feast your eyes and ears, and while you're at it, let your fingers do the walking over to the Triple Door's site to pick up your tickets.

We'll see you at the show! - Three Imaginary Girls


"Seattle IN Chicago: Shenandoah Davis"

It’s a long-ass way from Seattle to Chicago with not a whole lot of major cities in between. So it can be tough for independent musicians to brave the long drives that come with branching out from the West Coast into the mighty Midwest. We should support and celebrate them thoroughly when they take the plunge.

This weekend, one of Seattle’s busiest artists – Shenandoah Davis – will be gracing Chicago with her presence. Davis is a beautiful singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a prolific collaborator (see Grand Hallway, Seattle Rock Orchestra, to name two). She has been one of those people I see at every show I attend – she tends to be on stage. Enjoy this fun, quirky music video, connect with her on Facebook and Twitter, and most of all tell your friends in Chicago to check her out April 16 @ The Observatory Loft and April 20 @ The Whistler! - Mid-By-Northwest


"Renderings of Bygones"

The one and - it seemed to us at the time - only thing that Shenandoah Davis wanted to do at the completion of this session, was find a bowling alley. It was early in the day, still just after the noontime hour - a time of day when no one would be in such a place - and she was hankering to roll some frames. We're not going to say that it's the last thing that you'd think the Seattle, Washington, songwriter would be wanting to do - after hearing her antique-y music, but it's damned close. You'd hear "Separate Houses" or "We; Camera" and you'd bet the farm on her being a crafter, someone who would just retreat somewhere to get some crocheting in before the show that night, or someone who would be seeking out a farmer's market or a health food store for some vegan options. These are such easy and trite things to think that you hear about something, just based on the music they play, but they are the things that float into the mind nonetheless. There's such a nice botanical garden just across the river from us. It seems like that would have been a nice place for her to visit, but she wanted to go bowling and that's what she did. Then she got to the coffeehouse/club and drank a thousand cups, planning for the lack of sleep that she was going to get that night getting to the next city.

Davis marks her songs with old-time sounds and giving us the kinds of stories that are found tucked into yellowed books, on folded notes or out of black and white cinematic relics. Many times, in listening, you think that she's brought to audibility the tales that were perhaps written into the silent pictures of bygone years. Instead of reading the subtitles about the bank robbers, the lusty dame or the hero as he'll be in the final scene, you're getting a richer story, full of the bric-a-brac of daily lives and the morsels of specifics that wouldn't have had any place in that bare language on the screen. We hear these songs as old music boxes that have sprung back to life, offering these forgotten stories of people long ago dead, though there's no evidence that they're gone or ever really did exist. They are just the operatic moments, when we blurt something pretty out, when we realize that we might have a prettier voice than we thought, when we just might be living something good, or fascinating. Of course, this is really just the bowler, the delicate songstress of Davis, opening our ears to the trees, the blossoms and so much more.
- Daytrotter


"Tonight in Music: Dimmu Borgir, Shenandoah Davis"

Shenandoah Davis' voice tends to linger in the room long after her recordings have stopped. She's bound to leave you longing for more of the drama she creates when her otherwise demure croon scales the cliff face of the higher registers, and then rappels back down with a stunning restraint. In fact, the Seattleite's first full-length, We; Camera, is teeming with these dangerous-but-beautiful moments that suck the breath right out of you. Clearly a classically trained pianist, effortlessly blending ragtime and blues with the frantic trills of Chopin compositions, Davis could easily garner comparisons to Joanna Newsom and Regina Spektor, but that just seems outright lazy. Instead, we'll say it's best to go and see for yourself, for talent like hers is meant to be experienced head-on. - Portland Mercury


"Seismic-Sounds Interviews Shenandoah Davis"

Last year I put her on my list of one of the top 10 bands to watch in 2010, and those sentiments are still intact. She is a marvel, she is a chip off the late vaudeville movement gone by; and in the first part of August her new full length LP “The Company We Keep” drops, and you would be a fool not to pick this piece of musical mastery up at your local record store( inSeattle), Itunes, or at one of her shows coming up at a city near you this summer and fall…because you guessed it, she’s doing an extensive tour of the U.S.

I was able to sit with Shenandoah and a nice bottle of French red wine, and discuss the past, the current and possibility of whats to come for this incredible artist.

So where are you originally from, and are you from a family of musicians or artists? Born on the East coast and we moved to Colorado when I was 13, where I was home-schooled with three younger siblings. My parents weren’t really into music, but I got a toy keyboard for Christmas when I was 2-or-3, and I really liked it, and then when I was about 6, we finally got a piano and they were always supportive of me playing it, so then I started going to high school in Colorado and that’s where I got involved with choir there and that was really fun, cause I had never sang before. Then I went to college there and studied opera performance and started playing piano for the other opera majors, which was a really sweet job.

So no musical influences in your family so to speak? Not really…I mean one of my dad’s sisters grew up playing the French horn.

And what was the gravitational pull to Seattle? How did that come about? Summer before my last year of college I moved to Portland for the summer and I had never been to the PNW before. But I had the best time in Portland and really loved it. Portland is similar to Colorado in attitude and all, and I love it, but I wanted something bigger. I had gone to Seattle a few times while living in Portland and really liked the city.

Once you got to Seattle, were you already in the music scene, gigging and what not? No!…I hadn’t gigged at all or even written a song yet. I was living in a loft in Pioneer Square, and working at Zeitgeist coffee shop about 40 hours a week;and then started writing songs and casually putting them up on a MySpace page, and my friends were like “oh cool you wrote a song…cute”, then Megan Selig wrote in the Stranger when they had the column for bands of the week and she randomly wrote the column about me, and my picture was in there and I had no idea, and all of a sudden people started emailing me and asking me to play shows, and I had never played a show.

So obviously your first shows were just you and a keyboard? It was obviously a nerve-wracking time for at least my first 50 shows.

So it was just a natural progression for you to gradually get a backing band instead remaining solo? I played with a cellist for a whole year now, but before I met her, there was only the occasional show, when there was a guitar player, or a drummer or violin player, but it never really gelled right and I am a super crazy control freak, so just the idea of having another element on stage, I was always worried what they might mess up and it made me really nervous.

So how is the process different, now that your “seasoned”, you must have some sort of comfort? It works well with my cellist Danah for instance is because she’s extremely talented and can quickly come up with cello parts that compliments my music. So working with her has given me more confidence in working with other people.

Well given all the talent out there in Seattle, are you ever tempted to go out on a limb and work with people who may do stuff that sounds very different from what you do? I am interested in experimenting with other sounds, but I can’t imagine like having a space rock band, back me up or anything, but I would love to play keyboards in a space rock band *both laugh*, that would be awesome. Its kind of funny you ask me that because I am producing a record right now with a girl named Zoe Boekbinder, and we will be recording every day for the next week and a half, but her record is going to be full synths and beats and strings, so it’s giving me an opportunity to experiment with more electronics and stuff.

So is this your first producing project? and is it something you always want to do, how did it come about? We have known eachother for a few years and have played shows together here and in California and she really liked my first record that I made three years ago, and was also up here listening in on my new record while recording and was blown away by all my string arrangements and the instrumentation of everything; so I think she just picked me as a trusted friend that she had a relationship with.

Is that a lot of pressure? Ummm…when I agreed to do it, it was a lot of pressure, but now I am not so worried about ruining it. *giggles*, cause she definitely does a different style of music that I do.

Speaking of styles of music…where do you see yourself in this local Seattle scene, I certainly don’t lump you in with the whole local folky-americana thing that’s happening, you really have a style all your own. I personally do hear sounds of like Edith Piaf, have you ever been told that? No, but I love Edith Piaf and I thank you for that.

So speaking of possible musical inspirational figures, where do yours come from? Certainly performing in the operatic style, and singing as an opera singer has been a great influence, but once you learn to sing like a opera singer, and you have that bigger sound and warble in your voice and vibrato, it’s really hard to get rid of it, unless your going to be singing in the musical “Rent” or something. So what I saying is that the only way to not sing like an opera singer, is sing like you’re in a musical.

You must pride yourself on the fact that you don’t sound like anyone else, and not even just that, your musical arrangements and so on, are very unique, but are there any modern artists that you can draw inspiration off of? I really do love like Edith Piaf and like the ladies of the 1940's, and all of those like cheesy but beautiful like World War II, “come home soldiers” kind of songs are my inspiration for a lot of the sounds that are on my new record. You know very melodramatic, romantic and over the top with some lushness and a little bit cheesy.

Did you go into making a record with other people’s input nagging at your psyche? No, I just go in and make the record I want to make. I feel like my music is a bit different, so I don’t go into the process hoping to come out with something like The Head and The Heart achieved, that’s just never going to happen.

Why would you say that? the genre or I am not even sure what to call it, of classical or art-pop isn’t a hot commodity. People like Joanna Newsom or Zoe Keating or someone who is doing truly different doesn’t really appeal to what the general public likes, they are in their own category.

But they have made it:Yes, but they haven’t made it by the standards of mainstream success.

Have you ever thought about working in film, short film or just scoring? Yes it’s something I have thought about. I would love to write a musical. Things like that really interest me. And as far as not thinking that I will never have mainstream success. I’m certainly not trying to sell myself short. I am glad that people enjoy me and I do respect what I am doing.

When did you start respecting what you’re doing? I suppose it was about a year and a half ago. After the first year and a half I had first written songs that I really wasn’t embarrassed about.

Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were proud of? I think the song “We Camera” was the first song that I really thought was good. I remember I had just finished recording it at my house and I had put it on my Ipod, and I was just going to take a walk around and listen to it, and I ran into Jack Wilson, and he was sitting outside of Victrola and we didn’t know each other well at the time, but we were talking and I mentioned that I had just finished a song, so I gave him one of my ear buds and we sat there and listened to it; and he was like “this is great.”

So you’re going on tour for 8 months? Now that’s a tour. Well its broken up. The first part of the tour starts on August 14th, and it’s for 3 and a half months, and that’s a full U.S. tour, with exception of like 4 cities. Then we come back and I go to Japan for 3 weeks by myself, but I am going to meet Tomo there (who just moved back), then off to New Zealand and I am going to be visiting my family for a short time on the east coast, so it’s going to be a busy 8 months of touring.

You going to be using the road to write new material, or have you started that process already? yeah I have one song done already, but we are spending most of our time rehearsing getting ready for the tour.

And what cities do you like playing most? I mean there are some weird small towns along the way that are great, but the bigger ones right now are like San Francisco, Chicago as well as Colorado which is where a lot of my friends are, so that’s great. I also love New York, I seem to do well there.

What two songs are the dearest to you? Dearest? wow that’s so different than favorite…. I like that so much. Well I would have to say the last two songs that I finished writing, which are also the most sparse … but the “The Loudest” and “Anywhere”. I had struggled with both of them for a really long time. But the whole record is pretty emotional for me.

I would think picking the order of the songs on the album is pretty important. Do you go by emotional flow or a story? This record was really about emotional flow, but since I have done classical, sometimes I like certain keys next to each other. But every song is individual, and its like hanging an art show. You want to hang the right ones next to each other.

What can we expect for your album release show on Friday at The Fremont Abbey? Well fantastic for one…huge band, and Mike and Matt Gervais from Curtains For You will be singing a couple of songs with me, and playing clarinet and guitar as well, I will have my cello player and a violinist as well as my backing band and a few friends from out-of-town will be coming and playing. Led To Sea is amazing and of course Paleo who is one of my favorite artists from Chicago and I feel so lucky to play with him. I encourage people to come and check it out, its going to be a lot of fun.

What’s the future of Shenandoah Davis? I love producing, I would love the opportunity to work on a film or collaborate on a couple of projects, but I also really like what I am doing….I love touring. If I could tour all the time, I would.

Here are 2 special impromptu performances that Shenandoah Davis provided us with below, so please enjoy. Her album release show is on Friday July 29th,2011 at Fremont Abbey at 7pm. - Seismic-Sounds


"Shenandoah Davis - Orchestral Bliss!"


Shenandoah Davis- Orchestral Bliss!

Shenandoah Davis is very talented. Her vocals are reminiscent of the quavering, fragile, about-to-break delivery of Joanna Newsom, and the compositions of her pieces are no less complex. This is orchestral pop at its finest. When Shenandoah allows her music to breathe a bit, when she's not taking the direct path of pop and instead flirting with beautiful fills, arpeggiated piano and violin trills, she is perfect. "Sewn up Tight" is an absolute gem. If it sounds like I'm raving, it's because I am. Her music is full of cheese-free longing and a precious sort of nostalgia, and these are the moments I am in awe of- her ability to inject these genuine floating/hanging moments often and without a tinge of artifice, demonstrates her deft skills. I'll let you know when she's in Seattle again, because damn, I really want to see her live! - The Deli Magazine


"Shenandoah Davis returns to Colorado to preview 'The Company We Keep'"

Colorado native singer-songwriter Shenandoah Davis has been a Seattle resident since 2006, and it was there that her musical career took off—but she still has a soft spot for the state where she grew up. Now, at least once a year, Davis returns to Colorado to visit her old haunts and play her lovely, piano-driven songs.

Davis usually coordinates her visits to Colorado with a larger tour. This time around, she’s been moving throughout the Midwest with her longtime friend, cellist Danah Olivetree, playing a slew of shows in support of Davis’ upcoming album, The Company We Keep.

Like Davis’ 2008 album, We; Camera, this newest effort brims with great arrangements. A couple of songs have lively drums, and others feature Stealth Ulvang and Griff Snyder of the Denver-based band Dovekins on bass clarinet and trombone, respectively. Most of the songs highlight Davis’ knack for the keyboard, as well as her unique voice.

On the album’s opening track, “So Many,” Davis’ voice flutters gracefully around a sea of swelling strings and guitar. On “Separate Houses,” Ulvang’s bass clarinet wanders playfully around Davis’ electric piano; “Proof” has a strong, memorable melody; and the album’s closer, “Anywhere,” meditates endearingly on love and perhaps wanderlust.

Last week, the duo hit Chicago, where they recorded an upcoming Daytrotter session. Denver fans can preview the album’s songs tonight, April 26, when Davis plays at the Hi-Dive, with The Lumineers, Dovekins, and Chimney Choir. If you miss it, Davis will return May 14 to play the Dikeou art gallery with singer-songwriter Zoe Boekbinder.

After The Company We Keep is officially released on September 10, Davis will start a nationwide tour before heading to New Zealand and Australia for a winter 2012 tour. - The AV Club - Denver


"Shenandoah Davis - The Company We Keep"

Seattle-based songwriter Shenandoah Davis made her debut in 2008 with the full-length album We; Camera. Since then, she’s toured in the US, Japan, and Western Europe, performed at major music and arts festivals including SXSW, collaborated with Seattle Rock Orchestra and Portland Cello Project, toured with fellow Seattle-ites Grand Hallway, and was a resident musician at the Art Monastery in Umbria, Italy (Whew, just re-reading that list makes me tired). Most recently, though, Davis has released a new album, fan-funded through Kickstarter, entitled The Company We Keep.

Davis has been compared to the likes of Joanna Newsom and Regina Spektor for her singing, piano instrumentation, and introspective lyrics. Unlike her warbly contemporaries, though, Davis has an undergraduate degree in opera performance. I wasn’t really sure what to expect of an indie folk album from a former opera singer. I could imagine those warbles getting really … warbly. And fast.

But, I’m happy to say, The Company We Keep wildly exceeded my expectations. The operaticness just adds to the richness and versatility of Shenandoah Davis’ voice. I loved the twinkly xylophone-y keyboard (technical term) juxtaposed with her folksy crooning in Separate Houses; the brooding “White Wind“; even the catchy refrain in “Anywhere” (‘don’t go anywhere without me, now’) that reminded me of those old amex commercials. The 12 songs are cohesively emotional in an artistic way.

Shenandoah Davis will be embarking on an extensive four-month US tour, including our very own Washington, DC on 10/30 (venue TBA). You can hear The Company We Keep for yourself here, and her recent Daytrotter session here. - Georgetown Radio


"Growing Comfortable With Vulnerability"

In April 2008, Seattle alternative-weekly paper The Stranger dubbed Shenandoah Davis its artist of the week, writing that “fans of Joanna Newsom have a local act to love.” The comparison to the idiosyncratic harpist/singer/songwriter was flattering, but there was one problem: Davis had never played in public as a solo artist.

She began to get inquiries about shows, but she was unseasoned as both a songwriter and performer. “I remember very distinctly that there was one show that I was so nervous about I canceled it maybe half an hour before – the second show I was ever supposed to play,” the 26-year-old Davis said in a phone interview promoting her September 16 show at Rozz-Tox.

So started a steep learning curve for Davis, who began playing piano as a toddler and has a degree in opera performance but has been writing her own songs for less than four years.

She released her debut, We; Camera, in summer 2008, and Seattle Weekly called it “artful, harmonic music” blending “classical sounds and modern pop.” She toured over the past three years and last month unveiled The Company We Keep. “With piano, horns, and her slightly quirky – and gorgeous – voice, Davis flirts with whimsy and vaudeville, but her songs still remain more thoughtful than theatrical,” The Stranger wrote of her new album.

“I think the songs on The Company We Keep are much more specific, and when I was writing them I felt much more comfortable with my own experiences and the idea of sharing my experiences with other people ... ,” Davis said. “When I was writing the lyrics for We; Camera three years ago, ... that kind of vulnerability was really frightening to me – that anyone who wanted to could go download a song off of iTunes and hear a story from my life.” She called her first record “a lot more vague, and the experiences that those songs were written about were kind of blown out to the more universal kind of idea, because I was afraid of directly communicating what I wanted the songs to communicate.”

The fear, she said, dissipated as she performed more. “That moment came just from being on tour a lot and playing a lot of shows in front of strangers and hearing feedback from a lot of audience members ... ,” she said. Courage, she added, came from people telling her that their favorite moments came in slower, unguarded songs.

She called The Company We Keep a collection of a dozen “snapshots”: “It’s the idea that when a relationship ends, regardless of the way that it ends, you take away from it the memories and shared experiences that are impossible to re-create.”

Reviewing the album, Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly said that Davis is “one of Seattle’s most talented singers, and she’s also one of our best songwriters.” But it started with the same comparison as The Stranger, saying Davis “sounds like Joanna Newsom without the cringe.”

For those who like Newsom, I’d say that Davis shares her thin, agile warble but generally chooses to restrain her vocals. And, crucially, Davis’ musical settings – often anchored by cello, keyboards, or piano, a contrast to Newsom’s harp – tend to be earthier and more grounded, and reference the classical and early-20th-Century-popular-music traditions. That makes them more accessible but still unlike just about anything in the contemporary music landscape.

Despite her degree, Davis’ voice doesn’t sound particularly operatic, which she explained simply: “I don’t feel like I’m naturally an opera singer.” She had no formal vocal training prior to college and hadn’t taken piano lessons since she was 11 or 12. “I knew that I wanted to study music in college but ... I just felt like I wouldn’t be able to get into a music school with a piano audition,” she said. “But there are so many components to singing other than what your voice sounds like ... that I thought there was a better chance that they might let me skate by on the singing ... .” She was correct.

Still, she said, opera informs her songs. “One of the things that I like the most about opera music is how big it is and how melodramatic it is,” she said. “And that’s something I do try to adopt a little bit when I’m writing songs. But I feel like that does not need to be carried over into the vocal side.” - River City Reader


"Mountain Girl"

Shenandoah Davis’ biography could be mistaken for a parody. “After a childhood spent being homeschooled by her mother at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains,” as the bio on her label’s website explains, “Shenandoah Davis began teaching herself piano at the age of 3. …While she studied classical voice, piano, jazz guitar and harp during college, it was not until after graduation that she began composing on her own.”

It’s the stuff singer-songwriter fables are made of, yet in Davis’s case it’s simply the truth. The Seattle-based musician writes songs that sound like what you might expect from reading her bio: over-jangly piano, off-kilter strings. Davis warbles multi-part harmonies in a voice like that of a showgirl in a 1920s speakeasy. Her distinctive voice and quirky arrangements have garnered comparisons to Joanna Newsom and Alela Diane. You won’t hear echoes of Van Halen — even the Beatles — in her music.

“I grew up with only classical. I didn’t have exposure to any of that stuff,” she says. “I’m not trying to write classical music but it’s so much of what I know, in how I play the piano. That style of music is just kind of ingrained in my brain.”

It’s clear that despite her classical training, though, Davis now enjoys exploring the intersection between classical and popular music. In the past year she’s collaborated with the Portland Cello Project (whose repertoire ranges from Beethoven to Kanye West) and performed the Arcade Fire’s Funeral with the Seattle Rock Orchestra (and Spokane’s own Kaylee Cole) at Sasquatch!

“It amazed me to go from a listener to figuring out what part the piano came in, like ‘At 18 seconds the piano plays two B flats,’” she says of the experience. “It’s such an emotional record. You listen to it and conjure all the images it creates, or the memories of when you first heard the song. To go from that and dissect all of it changes the way that you listen to it forever.”

Though Davis’ recordings feature elaborate instrumentation, on tour she is accompanied only by long-time cellist Danah Olivetree. When we caught up with her, they had braved North Dakotan blizzards in their Honda Civic (“We slid off the road a few times”) and survived an “apocalyptic” Midwest thunderstorm to embark on a tour that would carry them from Minnesota to Portland. This trip and a subsequent jaunt through the south are a sort of reconnaissance mission, Davis says, mapping out the country and meeting people in advance of the July release of Davis’ second album, called The Company We Keep, and the four-month-long tour that will follow.

Davis has spoken in the past about her reluctance to have music become “work,” as in something you have to force yourself to do. In the middle of a grueling, driving-intensive tour, and with months of time on the road ahead, how is she feeling about her decision to pursue music full-time?

”On paper, music does look like my job. The playing, performing, writing aspect I still greatly enjoy.

It doesn’t feel like work at all,” she says, the enthusiasm clear in her voice.

“The emailing, booking, and driving part is starting to feel like work. But by 8 pm I’m so excited about the show we’re about play that night.” - Spokane Inlander


"Shenandoah Davis - The Company We Keep"

The first thing most will notice when listening to this album--or indeed any of Shenandoah Davis' elegant and engaging body of folk music--is that she sounds remarkably like indie-folk's current leading lady, Joanna Newsom (who is, of Davis' own admission, a large influence on her music). For fans of the harp-wielding musician (myself included), this is an immediate plus and an excellent reason to listen to the whole album. The second thing most will notice, however, as you give the album its deserving complete listen, in many ways Shenandoah Davis' music doesn't simply resemble Newsom's, but surpasses it.

It shows in the intense classical operatic training that shaped Davis' voice. A voice that, while operating in the same warbly contralto (almost, at times falsetto-sounding) range, is more tightly-reined in. A voice that began its honing in the homespun style of Newsom's own, albeit at the base of the Adirondack Mountains rather than Nevada City. The voice was then supplemented by her tenure as a classical vocal major in college--a major she was admitted to after auditioning for the position using only the vocal training she had given herself while being homeschooled by her mother. A voice in short, while similar to Newsom's in timbre, is more refined in many ways; A cloth of a finer weave (if only by the virtue of her education in the subject).

Her potential usurping of Newsom shows, as well, in the orchestral scope and variety of Davis' music on The Company We Keep. While baroque expressions are something Newsom doesn't lack in her own music, it is nevertheless impressive from such a comparably fresh-faced artist. Davis' piano, which she started playing at the age of three, makes an appearance in every song in various forms. At times, it's a dark, swelling march of minor chords played on an acoustic, dominating songs like "Anywhere" and "Sewn Up Tight." Other times, it's bubbly, off-kilter synthesizer accompaniment, like on "Separate Houses." The piano is always, however, beautifully textured and produced. There are also a host of other instruments on the album, such as violin, guitar, and banjo--the latter two of which are, strangely enough, called by Shenandoah Davis "Played-alone-in-the-bedroom-kind-of-instruments," despite her obvious skills with each.

But enough comparisons, because Davis can perfectly stand on her own merits. She's no Newsom clone, nor is she a Newsom killer. She's Shenandoah Davis, whose second album The Company We Keep, is a tightly-woven, gorgeous indie-folk package you're gonna want to keep in your back pocket for a special occasion, because of songs like this:

"Oh, Captain," the second track on the album, which while not showcasing her prolific piano talent, does exhibit better than many other tracks on The Company We Keep, Davis' ability to really weave together different instruments to create a cohesive whole. It's a track not overly dependent on a single instrument or hook, refreshing in its culminate nature. The result is at first a lilting, melancholy track buoyed upwards by a strong strings section and pushed forward by Davis' voice which laments, "Oh, what are we to do / What are we to do with you now," until about halfway through the song, at which point the strings section switches roles and becomes the engine for the song, rather than the suspension, driving the song forward along the top of steady tom fills, in a sort of bastardized Eastern European swinging rhythm.

Or "Proof," as opposed to "Oh, Captain," is reliant completely on Davis' piano, which is played in a sort of quasi-ragtime, upbeat style, sure to have you smiling as you listen to it as you drive, windows down in the last couple of summer months.

Whatever song you choose though, it will be good, pure indie-folk. Which, unfortunately, is where her one problem lies.

Although all of The Company We Keep is great indie-folk, it all sounds, to the casual observer, the same. Her songs, while well crafted and varying in instrumentation, often time share the same tempo or mood, which to some can be kind of a turn off. Essentially, what Shenandoah Davis has done with this album is found something she's damn good at, and stuck with it quite strictly. In fact, I'd say The Company We Keep is some of the best music out of the indie-folk genre I've heard released recently; you just need to pay close attention to appreciate each song. Otherwise, it can become a semi-sad blur of well played piano and a high voice cooing.

In other words, what you get out of this album is what you put in. The more you pay attention, the better it gets. The catch being it's easy to drift off to her dreamy melodies and sometimes repetitive lyrics. After all's said and done, though, the same can be said about most music, and for dedicated listeners, I would recommend this album one hundred percent--I'm certain you'll enjoy. It's hard not to. - In Your Speakers


"Shenandoah Davis - The Company We Keep"


July 29, 2011
Shenandoah Davis - The Company We Keep
2580011105-1

Shenandoah Davis is intimidatingly talented.

Classicaly trained with a background in opera, but gifted in a way that evokes more nature than nurture, Shenandoah’s skill is the kind that intimidates not just music writers, but fellow musicians. I will never forget seeing Shenandoah perform at the first BARE event at the Fremont Abbey. Shenandoah opened the show, standing there with perfect poise, hands clasped in front of her as if she were about to sing an aria at The Met. She performed a traditional Greek song; the room fell silent and enraptured, jaws dropped. Around me, musicians scheduled to perform a cappella that evening and already nervous, began wiping sweat off their brows. As the aria ended and Shenandoah’s bow was met with thunderous applause, a musician sitting in front of me summed it up, “Well, the rest of us are fucked.”

Luckily for the other artists performing at The Fremont Abbey tonight, they won’t have the unenviable task of following Shenandoah. Tonight is her show, the celebration of her lovely full-length, the Kick-Starter funded The Company We Keep. When listening to the record one word rises above all else: accomplished. Shenandoah isn’t just a gifted vocalist, but pianist, song-writer and composer. The Company We Keep is achingly lovely in every way: the words, the instrumentation, the emotion held in her falsetto trill enough to make you reach for a handkerchief. The complexity of instrumentation and Shenandoah’s voice, makes the words themselves seem like a supporting role to a listener, but if you peel through the layers of strings, wind instruments and operatic vocals, there is poetry.

But The Company We Keep isn’t just an intellectual exercise, and one of Shenandoah’s truest talents is her restraint. She could compose songs like bebop jazz solos, an exercise solely in skill, to see who can play the most complicated notes the fastest, but she doesn’t. As accomplished as The Company We Keep is, it is also accessible. These are still songs that will get stuck in your head, that you’ll find your toe tapping along to. These are still songs you’ll want to sing along to, but unless you also happen to be a brilliant opera singer, you should probably just listen. These aren’t participatory songs, as so much of what’s happening in local music is. These are more sit back in your chair and prepare to be wowed, as you would a symphony.

She’s one of a kind, Shenandoah. The Company We Keep puts both what elevates Shenandoah above us all, a rare talent, and what makes her just like us, the characters that inhabit all our lives and how our hearts open and break because of them, on display. And it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Shenandoah Davis celebrates the release of The Company We Keep tonight at The Fremont Abbey with Paleo and Led to the Sea opening. Tickets are $12 at the door, but get there early to get them. The show starts at 8pm sharp and the doors are at 7pm.

And if you live outside Seattle, you’re in luck. Shenandoah is about to embark on an extensive national tour this August. - Sound On The Sound


"Shenandoah Davis - The Company We Keep"

So, hands up who’s bored of me constantly banging on about ultra-lo-fi garage bands recently? Yep, me too! Honestly, I do listen to loads of other stuff, I promise – and having made that promise it seems like a good time to write about Shenandoah Davis’ new album, The Company We Keep.

I first wrote about Shenandoah back in early 2009, and her Toad Session was our landmark 100th podcast, and one of the best sessions we’ve ever done, so I am particularly pleased on a personal level to see this album released.

I don’t think of piano music as being ‘acoustic’ music, for some reason. I know that’s wrong, but there’s something grand and impressive about the piano which seems to transcend the hopeless, downtrodden troubadour image of someone fumbling away at an acoustic guitar. Having said that, the first Shenandoah Davis stuff I heard was very bare, in terms of arrangements, and this is a gorgeous, rich pop record.

Now, the idea of me loving an album which takes music from a minimal DIY aesthetic to something fuller, bigger and more involved may cause a few of you to splutter into your coffee, but that’s the case here. This is a lush and beautiful record, with a few of the characteristics of nice female singer-songwriters and all the lazy mental shortcuts that tag brings with it, but lifted at every turn by Shenandoah’s depth of arrangement and sheer idiosyncratic character.

It has real personality, this album, and real knack for building dramatic crescendoes of piano and strings, before dropping it altogether and delivering a song of restrained loveliness. Penultimate song, Duet, in particular builds to a thunderous pinnacle, before blowing itself out and collapsing into a gentle piano fadeout.

It’s such a lovely combination of the playful and the lovely, of the grandiose and the intimate, I liked this record from the first listen and it has only grown on me since. - Song, By Toad


"Shenandoah Davis to play at the Vault"

How many times have we heard, "We should be trying to get bigger and better music talent to play Buffalo." or "It's too bad that there are not different size music venues to attract the acts that we would like to have play here."

If you're still asking those questions, then chances are that you've not paying attention to the music talent that is making routine appearances here. Take Shenandoah Davis for example. The young indie pop, classical, ragtime and American roots pianist is playing at The Vault on October 1, and will be accompanied by cellist and drummer. Not only will you be able to catch this show in an intimate and inspiring Main Street venue, you will hear a voice that Sound on the Sound calls "achingly beautiful" and Ball of Wax describes as "jaw-dropping set against just about any other contemporary singer."

With the help of Kickstarter, the trio has set out on a nationwide tour to promote the release of The Company We Keep, which launched in their hometown of Seattle before setting out for San Diego, Chicago, New York, Montreal, New Orleans, Austin and Buffalo. If we want to continue to see these types of acts pass through town, while prompting others to do the same, then get yourself over to The Vault to see Shenandoah and experience up and coming talent that has already played the world by opening for such acts as Zoe Keating, Perfume Genius, Dark Dark Dark, and A Hawk And A Hacksaw. - Buffalo Rising


"Album Review: The Company We Keep"

Shenandoah Davis is a Ball of Wax alumnus (see volumes 16 and 18). In fact, she’s the first example I point to for the beauty of the concept of such a collection. Among songwriters whose reach often exceeds their grasp (I put myself proudly in that category) you hear this brilliant, soaring voice, hitting the notes that other singers hit with strain seemingly without effort. Assuming you don’t just hit repeat on her tracks, she blends with local songwriters, while kind of raising the rest of us up a little.

I’ll start with the obvious: Shenandoah has a voice that stands out in Seattle, and will stand out in any town, and it is jaw-dropping set against just about any other contemporary singer. I tell friends that she sounds like Joanna Newsom without the cringe. Shenandoah is one of Seattle’s most talented singers, and she’s also one of our best songwriters. She’s proven it with The Company We Keep, which she releases at the Fremont Abbey on July 29th.

This is a live version of the eighth track on the album. It is a favorite of mine– few voices can match so well with viola.

The songs on The Company We Keep have a structure reminiscent of ’20s American jazz– a theme is presented and then changed slightly and continued. It feels more fluid than the verse chorus verse notion of songwriting, obviously, and more subtle than using blues progressions. The vocals float on top and pianos hold down the middle. It does not drill a hook into your brain. Usually, the chords don’t quite resolve in the standard manner. The music doesn’t dip from the same ink most of us use, let’s just say.

As for the lyrics themselves: They are good. Not saccharine. There’s never a bad line. I point to the tune “Pellet Gun,” a come-on song, that uses the precarious opening “I’ve been shooting at stars with a pellet gun from the top of a wire / saw you marching off with a candle, light coming off” then continues to muse about, essentially, where things go when the lights go out. It’s not dirty. And even with the pellet gun, it’s not childish either.

That’s something I like altogether about this album, and all I’ve heard from Shenandoah. She’s a grown up among kids. She’s the one out here with the grown up voice that can hit all the notes. She’s also got a maturity in her songwriting. She’s playing a more timeless music, and she does it playfully, but she does it without the pose that can be so grating among many in the indie scene. The Company We Keep is another welcome addition to a genre that stands on its own.

Shenandoah Davis releases The Company We Keep July 29th at the Fremont Abbey, 4272 Fremont Ave N. I can guarantee it will be one of the best concerts of the year. - Ball of Wax


"Shenandoah Davis: We; Camera"

Don't let Shenandoah Davis's simplistic arrangements deceive you. With a voice like an old timey fiddle, she adds on contrapuntal guitar, piano and xylophone parts to round out the subtle symphony. "These Rocks" sounds like something Feist would come up with, only better. "Now We All All" shows off the sheer power of conviction present in her vocals, matched only by the powerful bang with which she hits the final low piano key. "Take Ourselves Out" plays like a Parisian cobble stone street dance. "Well Well Well" has an air of Vaudeville about it, if Vaudeville took place under water. In fact, it's here where the simplistic arrangements clear away like a pair of heavy velvet curtains to expose the true playful mastery of Davis's compositions. This happens just in time for the quick, trotting piano and castanet arrangement of "Milagros". "Skeletons" finishes it all off - a dark, lonely waltz that takes the album full circle, back to the simple basics of vocals and piano, as the heavy curtains close once again.
-Kim Ruehl - Seattle Sound Magazine


"Shenandoah Davis: Band of the Week"

Shenandoah Davis moved to Seattle about a year ago, bringing her solo music project that blends together "classical piano, folk, klezmer, and ragtime." Now, fans of Joanna Newsom have a local act to love (although Davis doesn't play the harp). As her description promises, the song "We, Camera" involves vintage, plinking piano pulled straight from what you'd expect to hear booming from an early-1900s-era bar. The piano takes a more classic and dramatic turn in "Our Favorite Idols," boasting a sweeping, beautiful tone. The star of every song, though, is Davis's unique voice that is as hard to like as Newsom's. But after a few listens, it's easier to embrace its "always on the verge of breaking" tone, especially when paired with music just as peculiar.
- Megan Seling - The Stranger


"Our Favorite Idol - Shenandoah Davis"

It begins as a plinking piano, almost too shy to carry on and is followed by a unique voice just on the verge of cracking, but hangs on the precipice - never quite falling off. The sound expands with new layerings of that voice, making it stronger, broadening the knife’s edge, and becoming a solid foundation when shored up by classical strings and further layerings of piano. Even with a solid footing, the music still teeters somewhere between folk, classical and ragtime.

-
In spite of all this imbalance, Shenandoah Davis’ current release Our Favorite Idols (A home-recorded collection of gothic ballads, lackadaisical sea shanties and dreamy wanderings) is remarkably stable and confident. The album opens with a flittering song, Maligros, which -not surprisingly at this point - juxtaposes a story of last hope against a dancing piano melody. Davis then moves like rain into the title track, Our Favorite Idols, which takes on a much more dramatic and classical feel. Here among the piano, cello and punctuating click of finger cymbals, is where the strikingly haunting quality of her voice is most evident. Sneaking in behind your conscious thought like a slowly leaking window, and pooling itself there to later echo over and over. The album continues through peaks and valleys. Songs that sound like they should either be the soundtrack to a animated silent film or a VW commercial - (and I mean this in the highest regard - think Pink Moon by Nick Drake.)

Shenandoah is currently working on a new collection of songs and will be playing an album release show, July 17th at the Columbia City Theater, accompanied by a full band. Supporting Shenandoah will be Nick Jaina and Molly Rose. I’ve seen Davis play solo once before and it was captivating. I can’t wait to see what this night has in store.

-Kevin LeDoux, Seattle Subsonic, June 11, 2008 - Seattle Subsonic


"Parlour Music"

Every once in awhile, you’ll listen to something by an artist you’re completely unfamiliar with and suddenly, your ears perk up and you begin to listen a bit more closely, a bit more intently. And then suddenly, you’re in love.

Meet Shenandoah Davis.

Ms. Davis is a young and exciting songwriter who currently hails from Seattle, a home to many a talented musician. But what makes Davis so unique is her truly distinct, vintage sound, her parloresque piano and her incredibly fascinating vocal instrument.

During her years in college, Davis focused her studies on classical voice, but became disenchanted at what she refers to as the ‘tunnel vision’ in the academic community. So after graduation, she began her to create her own compositions.

In July of last year, Davis’ released her full-length debut, We; Camera, an unforgettable 13-song experience. Possessing a style that lives somewhere within the blurry boundaries of neo-classicism, Davis’ music has been likened to that of harpist Joanna Newsom, although Davis’ key instrument is the piano. At times sparse and thankfully gloss-free, Davis’ songs feel as if they’ve lived in another century and fought their way back to the present day in order to tell their amazing stories.

On the album’s opening track, “Our Favorite Idols,” Davis’ warbling voice is layered to create the effect of an invisible singing sister while deep cello and piano reverberate through the peaks and valleys.

Vibraphone adds softness to “These Rocks,” another highlight and possibly the album’s most accessible track, while “Up & Over” brightly floats with a message of encouragement complete with hand claps and fluttering piano keys.

Other gems include the dramatic piano and crescendos heard in “Hobos And Bulls” and the title track, which I also found immediately infectious.

I can honestly say that my only complaint with Shenandoah Davis is that I’ve just now discovered her.

We; Camera was originally limited to a release of only 200 copies, each hand-pressed with recyclable materials. Since its release, Davis has released another pressing. And with the help of friend Clyde Peterson, she’s also recently completed a beautiful stop-motion video for the title track which can be found on YouTube. - Womenfolk.net


"Happy To Sing For Her Supper"

After an article published about Seattle-based singer/songwriter Shenandoah Davis stated that she was a lesbian, Davis had to explain to her loved ones that she has dated girls and she likes them. A lot. But not solely.

The confusion likely came about because Davis' 2008 solo debut full-length We; Camera is distributed on San Francisco's Queer Control Records. QCR, a nonprofit organization, is known for supporting new LGBT artists--though not exclusively--offering them everything from yearlong residencies to distribution support to help get their careers off the ground.

About a year ago, after We; Camera had been out for a few months, Davis e-mailed QCR to see if they would be interested in distributing it for her. She promptly forgot about it.

"But then they e-mailed me back and we had a great conversation. We didn't know exactly how it was going to work out, but we knew we wanted to work together," Davis said. "At that point, they only had four other bands on their roster, all Riot Grrrl hardcore and they didn't have any other one-person acts." QCR didn't know where Davis would fit in, but didn't let that stand in the way and began distributing We; Camera. It's a relationship that has worked well for Davis, who is looking forward to QCR becoming more involved when she starts recording her follow-up album this spring.

Davis' seemingly, but not at all random connection with QCR is as dichotomous as her musical career. For someone who was homeschooled by her mother in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, her quiet, layered indie-folk music doesn't seem such a stretch, nor does her affinity for her adopted hometown of Seattle. But that kind of music is somewhat of an odd choice for a woman who graduated from college in Colorado with a bachelor's degree in opera performance. As a classically trained musician, it's not strange that she would join the ranks of Seattle's popular orchestral pop group, Grand Hallway. What is different is that Davis plays accordion and vibraphone with the group. The shift from pursuing a classical music career came as kind of a surprise, even for Davis.

"I [visited] Portland [Ore.] before my senior year in college, and I already knew that I didn't ever really want to have a career as an opera singer," Davis said.

She understood that opera is an extremely competitive field regardless of the level at which a performer enters, and she just didn't feel passionate enough about it to prosper.

"I'm a really hard worker," Davis said. "I've sucked up a lot of things I didn't enjoy just for the purpose of succeeding at them or completing them. I really didn't want being an opera performer to become one of those things that I would get tired of but would keep doing because I hadn't succeeded at it yet."

Though she may have renounced a career that would have seen her standing in a recital hall singing in German or Italian, that operatic training is nonetheless still there. And it's clear to anyone with half an ear that she's had it. When she reaches a high register, instead of going all whispery or conversely, yelling, she floats into it comfortably. The powerful vocal projection of an opera singer is there, but it's reigned in and softened as Davis wraps it around lyrics like those in the title track from We; Camera: "We spent the night on the railroad tracks / exchanging names / we had it all / we were the same" followed by old-fashioned player-piano plinking.

It's been two years since she tickled her way through her debut, and though she's working on a follow-up, she's not in a huge hurry.

"I feel all right about the length of time it's been since the last album," Davis said. "Recording that album was one of the first things I ever did. The first thing I did was call my friend who had recorded some friends and said I don't know what I'm doing but I have these things and they might be songs and they might sound good or maybe they won't. Please help me figure out if they're good or if they're bad and I should just forget about it."

Up to that point, all she'd done musically was sing opera, and she'd never written her own piano music before. All of her studying had been classical. She certainly hadn't performed alone and certainly not in bars or clubs.

"The record release show for that album was only the third or fourth show I ever did by myself," Davis said.

It didn't take long before she embraced the less competitive and less lucrative world of DIY indie music. Hauling a keyboard around the world, she played a few months in Europe last summer and in Japan during Christmas. And while piano is definitely Davis' instrument of choice, even that is subject to change.

"I'm much better at the piano than anything else. I picked up the accordion since moving to Seattle. I play guitar but that is only in my house by myself. I picked up the banjo a couple of months ago but that is also a alone-in-my-bedroom instrument. I'm hoping to spend more time improving upon that one. I'd like to have an instrument I can travel with that is not the piano. When I was touring in Japan and Europe, I had this 5-foot-tall cloth carrying case that was already 15 pounds, with my keyboard, clothes and CDs in it that I had to lug around everywhere. I was thinking, 'Why can't I play violin or flute or a medium-sized drum?'" - Boise Weekly


"Peaks And Valleys"

Four years ago, Shenandoah Davis had decided against a professional music career. She'd spent the summer living in Portland, and almost didn't return for her last year at the University of Northern Colorado, where she was studying opera and classical voice. "I knew I was just going to get my bachelor's degree," she says, "and work in a coffee shop or get a low-paying job so I can do whatever fun stuff I want."
Davis’ pensive pose.
Courtesy of Shenandoah Davis
Davis’ pensive pose.
Details

Shenandoah Davis 8:30 p.m., Hattie's Hat. All ages.

For all things REVERB—including art profiles, ticket info, and reviews—check out SeattleWeekly.com/reverbfestival
Related Content

* Tonight: Mini Mansions at the Comet, Dwele at the Triple Door, Portland Cello Project at Neumos
July 7, 2010
* J&M Cafe
February 15, 2006
* Six Offensive, Ill-Advised or Otherwise Laughably Dated Songs of Yesteryear
July 15, 2010
* Portland Cello Project
July 7, 2010
* Sasquatch Tip# 82: Check Out Seattle Rock Orchestra's Special Guests on Monday
May 28, 2010

More About

* Shenandoah Davis
* University of Northern Colorado
* John Denver
* James Taylor
* The Beatles

Share 0diggsdigg

Davis never expected to feel that way. For 20 years, classical music was all she knew. Homeschooled until high school, the piano lessons she started taking at age 4 were her primary musical outlet. Her parents listened to little pop music, aside from "the Beatles, James Taylor, and John Denver," Davis says. At 12, she bought her first CD—Hanson's Middle of Nowhere—and per house rules, her parents had to listen to the album before she could.

"[My parents] didn't really explain very many things to us growing up," says Davis, the oldest of four children.

But that close-knit family gave her respect for commitment. Even though her musical tastes shifted—a friend gave her a Smiths album, and Davis joined an eclectic, multi-instrumental band—she stayed on the classical path until graduation. Then, two and a half years ago, she moved to Seattle from Colorado, where she'd lived since high school. New to the big city and living alone in a Pioneer Square loft, Davis turned to songwriting. She posted home recordings to her MySpace page, and unexpectedly Seattle took notice: She didn't have enough material for a record, but she was being asked to play shows. Davis had to decide, again, if music was the right career for her.

This push and pull between obligation and freedom, and between classical sounds and modern pop, creates tension in Davis' artful, harmonic music. It shows up in the lyrics to "Proof" on her album We; Camera: "Don't want to tell you nothing/Till I am telling the truth." Davis warbles in high registers on the album's title track, but on "These Rocks," she sings the way you imagine she would alone in her car: relaxed and steady. Within a single song, her piano fluctuates between energetic verses and sparse refrains. She admits that her songwriting process is a struggle: "I'll get two-thirds of the way through [a song], and then you need to have this moment of analysis, where you doubt all of the work you've just done."

Davis, now 24, is sticking with pop music—writing her own songs and performing as a member of Grand Hallway—because, unlike opera, it just doesn't feel like work to her.

"I don't want it to become my job," she says. "Because everyone has days when they wake up and don't want to go to their job. Right now, I still want to write music all the time, and I really don't want to destroy that." - Seattle Weekly


""Last" Night: Shenandoah Davis, KHV, Your Heart Breaks"

aturday night's shindig was my first showgoing experience at 2020 Cycle, and I have nothing but good things to say about the space. 2020 Cycle is, as you may know, a bike shop by day, but they have shows on occasion, and I think the place serves well as a venue, with bikes on the walls and helmets hanging from the ceilings. It's the kind of cozy, intimate space where you can feel comfortable stashing your coat for the duration without worrying about it getting stolen. It also helps that most of the folks in the crowd know each other. This particular affair took place in celebration of Shenandoah Davis' adorable new music video for "we; camera", which you can watch here. The video was directed by Clyde Petersen, and Britta Johnson, who has also lent her skills to videos for artists such as Mirah, helped with the cute little fabric (at least I THINK it's fabric) birds.

Katharine Hepburn's Voice, aka KHV, opened-- they're a catchy little synth-pop outfit of drums, bass, keyboard and quirky lyrics. I found them quite charming, and fun to dance to. But what was really astounding about the whole evening was how quiet the whole room became as soon as Shenandoah started playing. She sings like a bird, and her piano playing is like a sort of whimsical, melancholy saloon piano. Less jangle, more trill.

Your Heart Breaks, Clyde Petersen's band, closed out the evening. And while the songs were sweet, I was ultimately more enamoured with Clyde's stage banter; the best story was one in which Clyde took on some jerkoff at a show who'd been calling that evening's burlesque performers "bitches" and generally acting like an enormous dildo. When Clyde took a stand, dude became irate and informed Clyde, who rocks a shaggy haircut and big Buddy Holly glasses, that he was not going to be told what to do (and I quote), "by a NERD!" Oh, Chuckles, don't you know that nerds always get the last laugh? - Seattle Weekly


"Wise Beyond Their Ears"

While it's not unusual to hear young musicians complaining about how difficult it can be to get their foot in the door of the local music scene, it's more common to see Seattle's small-town-within-a-big-city environment helping like-minded artists find each other.
Cole (left) and Davis became fast friends after REVERB.
Courtesy of Cole and Davis
Cole (left) and Davis became fast friends after REVERB.
Share 0diggsdigg

For 23-year-old Kaylee Cole and 24-year-old Shenandoah Davis, it was Seattle Weekly's all-local music festival, REVERB, that brought the two singer/songwriters together last October.

"It was a magical night in many ways," recalls Cole, pausing to push her blonde hair over her shoulders and sip a Bloody Caesar while brunching at Hattie's Hat in Ballard. "Our sets were at different places, but at the same time. Somehow, we met later on in the evening and exchanged hugs and records."

Davis, who adds accordion, piano, and a silky soprano to the orchestral pop outfit Grand Hallway, was playing solo that night, as was Cole, a Spokane native who began making waves in Seattle in 2008 with We're Still Here Missing You, her debut album of disarmingly insightful piano ballads. Both women share a confessional approach to lyrics and a graceful, buoyant piano-playing style that miraculously avoid any hint of the "Dear Diary"–esque moments one might expect from such young voices. They also share a love of doughnuts and a rather fearless grasp on the roller coaster of life.

"We definitely have the same sense of humor," affirms Cole, who hit it off so well with Davis that shortly after REVERB they took a trip to Orcas Island and hatched a plan to embark upon what Cole calls their "Thelma and Louise–style" 11-date tour down the West Coast, which kicks off this Thursday, Jan. 21, at the Sunset. "We'll tour around in my Subaru with some instruments, some snacks, and some dry shampoo," says Cole, sounding both pragmatic and impulsive. "We'll be playing individual sets at all our shows, but may throw in some tasty collaborative covers here and there." Their itinerary will take them from the Sunset to venues throughout Oregon, California, Utah, and Idaho.

Cole endured a painful divorce last fall and lives a nomadic existence, splitting her time between Spokane, the Skagit Valley, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles. ("I'm currently living in a friend's garage next to a kegerator and a hot-water heater," she quips.) But she plans to settle here eventually. "I've been kind of wandering about since September," she admits. "But I keep coming back to Seattle."

Provided she and Davis don't drive the Subaru off a cliff in a fit of feminist fantasy, she'll take a brief detour to Los Angles upon her return, to continue working the sophomore album she began writing last year with TV on the Radio's David Sitek.

That fairy-tale partnership was also the result of Cole's brazen confidence. "They are my favorite band," she gushes. "I just found an e-mail address for him one night and decided to write him," she explains. Sitek's reps quickly wrote Cole back, informing her of his mutual interest.

Their association has led to some surreal moments, such as the night actress Scarlett Johansson came to Sitek's to cook them both dinner. But Cole is most keen on the embrace of Seattle's music community.

"Seattle's been amazing to me, and I like it here more and more every day. When we get back, I want to move here for reals."

Such colloquial statements would never trip easily off the tongue of local-by-way-of-North Carolina singer/songwriter Barton Carroll, preparing for the release of his fourth record, Together You and I (out on Skybucket Records Jan. 19). Thirteen years older than Cole, Carroll's graciously formal Southern manners are always on display, as are his gallows humor and fondness for character-driven songwriting.

His new album rotates around the theme of duets, both in form—as when the ethereal-voiced Anna-Lisa Notter accompanies him—and in topical spirit, most poignantly on "Shadowman," a heartbreaking yarn about a brother mourning the death of his sibling. Lest this sounds like a concept album, its author insists such cohesiveness was unintentional.

"It wasn't until the two duets [with Notter] were prepared that I realized the entirety of the record could be thought of that way," says Carroll. "If you're doing your job as a writer, I think it's best not to be paying attention to themes until they emerge themselves."

Carroll will showcase his creative bivalves at a record-release party this Saturday, Jan. 23 at the Sunset, with Built to Spill guitarist and longtime friend Jim Roth joining him onstage. - Seattle Weekly


"Shenandoah Davis Is Fierce and Flawless"

When Shenandoah Davis played "Milagros"--a song filled with rolling piano trills--on Saturday night, she did so flawlessly, hitting every note on her electric keyboard. That expertise is the most captivating part of Davis' live shows: she plays standing in the middle of the stage, her keyboard and microphone in front of her, effortlessly performing her vocal aerobatics and intricate keystrokes. The tiny back room at Hattie's Hat has the perfect acoustics for Davis's ragtime-influenced pop, but she pounded the keys and projected her voice like she was playing at Benaroya Hall. Even the audience knew they were seeing a special kind of talent. When Davis told the audience how excited she was to watch other bands on REVERB's lineup after her own set, an audience member yelled, "You mean there's something else after this?" - Seattle Weekly


Discography

"The Company We Keep" - August 2011, top 3 self-released records on CMJ
"The Europe EP" - 6 songs sold only on European tour 2009
Half Yogurt "Tomo Nakayama/Shenandoah Davis Split" - December 2009
"We; Camera" - full-length album (13 tracks) - July 2008, re-released on cassette tape by Off Tempo Records in March 2010
"Milagros" - 7-song ep - January 2008

Photos

Bio

Immersed in classical music since the fragile age of three, Shenandoah Davis grew up at the bench of her parent's piano. After continuing her musical studies through college, music at some point became more an occupation than a passion. After finishing a bachelor's degree in opera performance that she was already certain she would never use, Shenandoah moved from her long-time home of Boulder, Colorado to Seattle, Washington, got a job as a barista and slowly began making her way back to the world of music - this time with her own compositions. In the three years since Shenandoah Davis released her full-length debut We; Camera (self, 2008), she’s toured the US, Japan, and Western Europe, and performed at some of North America’s largest music and arts festivals (SXSW, Bumbershoot, Sasquatch). She’s been featured on KEXP, collaborated with the Seattle Rock Orchestra and Portland Cello Project, recorded and toured as keyboardist for Seattle-based buzz band Grand Hallway, and held a musical residency at the Art Monastery in Umbria, Italy.