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Our Girl Next Door: Emma Davis

Newtown girl Emma Davis is so adorable you’ll want to put her in your pocket and take her home forever. Luckily, you (sort of) can in the form of her debut self-titled album, which is filled with delightful tunes that have just the right touch of melancholy. Emma’s voice is angelic, her lyrics are smart and her music is beautiful, rousing and gentle, not unlike a waterbed filled with mounds of fluffy white marshmallows instead of liquid. The first single, Machines has been getting a fair bit of airplay on Triple J and FBi over the past couple weeks, and for good reason. It’s affecting and infectious. In light of this current Emma Davis obsession, we felt it best to stop stalking her and actually talk to the woman directly, and thus avoid certain criminal charges.

The London-born Emma has actually lived all over the place. “Everywhere that I’ve been, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some wonderful people and that’s what makes it feel like home”, she explains. Emma went to high school in England and followed that up with a stint at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston before finally settling in Sydney. Like many musicians, her love for music sprung up at a very young age. “When I was eight I decided I wanted to learn the classical guitar. Everyone else was learning the recorder and that sounded really boring,” she recalls. “I had this amazing teacher who taught me classical guitar, but then for half the lessons he’d bring in Beatles tapes, Simon and Garfunkel, Tracey Chapman; all these incredible songwriters. I think he shaped the kind of music that I’m into now. That’s what made me want to start writing.”

It’s a big leap to go from after-school lessons to the commitment and focus required to go to music college, but Emma’s musical inclination required her full attention. “I went to one of those schools where everyone went onto ivy league colleges and I did well but I just didn’t have the passion so I had a big panic. I was going to take a gap year and travel but I decided I needed a bit of structure and I didn’t want to be left behind while everyone else went to uni,” she reflects. “And going to college was a good way to measure if I was serious.” To then step onto the stage was a whole other set of fears. “I was too scared to sing until I went to music college,” she confesses. “Singing is one of those things that a lot of people do… it’s very personal, it’s putting yourself out there.”

Emma worked closely with Sydney music-scene legend and musician’s-musician, Brian Campeau (of Angus & Julia Stone and Elana Stone fame) on the album. “This whole album has become this wonderful project – we brought all these wonderful people onto it and it just feels like a big group effort,” she enthuses. When first approaching Brian, Emma wasn’t prepared for his dry Canadian sense of humour. Initially he said that he just didn’t like her music and couldn’t work with her. Mortified but stoic, Emma politely retreated, only to be greeted with a burly guffaw and reassurance that in fact, Brian loved it and was really keen to get on board. “I went straight to the bar and got a drink,” she jokes.

“It’s been a really long project. We started just after Peats Ridge [festival] two years ago,” she recalls. “It’s been nice to work on something with someone else. It’s good to have an objective point of view.” Emma’s first Peats Ridge was an experience she won’t forget anytime soon. Her set was up at ten in the morning on day one so she mistakenly presumed there would be no one there. What Emma couldn’t have predicted was that “it got really hot in the tents in the morning so everyone got up really early… and none of the other stages were open,” and so Emma walked out to a packed house. “We had people trying to get into the sides and poke their heads in,” she remembers. At the end of the festival, she wandered over to the merch desk to pick up any leftover CDs, “and they were like, ‘Emma Davis? You were the highest selling artist of the festival. People having been coming in all day asking for your CD.’” It turned out her performance really turned into an earlybird special for Emma and her fans alike.

Ah, yes. Stalk-fest momentarily halted. Have a listen to her gorgeous sounds with her new album on sale October 16, and go see that girl play when she tours during October. You can catch her at the Red Rattler in Marrickville on Friday, October 29th. Tickets are $10 from Moshtix (or $15 at the door). You can even download the first single from the album, Machines, for free. Good times.

words: Kristen Hodges


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