Attention, songwriters in the making: Seattle-based chamber-pop musician Shenandoah Davis has a few words of advice for you.
“If you’re an aspiring artist who doesn’t feel like you have enough experiences to write genuine songs about yet, then go and travel and get into a couple doomed romantic relationships and get your hands dirty and mess up a little bit,” she said. “It seems scary to write that close to home, but there are plenty of wealthy kids whose parents bought them cars when they graduated from high school, toting around guitars and writing songs about how they wish they were farmers, or about mountain ranges they’ve never seen and emotions they’ve never felt, which always come off as disingenuous … not to mention boring.”
Davis certainly took heed of her own words of wisdom. Growing up in the Adirondack Mountains, she learned piano at 3, and studied classical music and opera in college. Then wanderlust set in, and Davis meandered across the states before settling in Seattle. Her dainty piano, pretty vocal harmonies, string arrangements and tight percussion meld into a sound she and her bandmates have dubbed “art-parlour pop,” akin to Joanna Newsom or local Sherree Chamberlain.
“I guess that I sort of create my own dream version of my world,” Davis said. “I try to take events that I have seen and things that I have experienced and blow them up in my mind … to create these kind of cinematic and sometimes heart-wrenching scenarios.”
Davis now has two full-length albums to her name, including this year’s “The Company We Keep,” which she recorded over the course of a year in her newly adopted hometown, with the result “far more epic” than she expected. It’s been something of a success, given the limitations of its humble, independent release, landing on college-radio charts and achieving steady critical praise.
“I’ve never considered the style of music I’m writing to be one that a mainstream audience would enjoy, but so far, all of the reviews have been glowing,” she said.
Her three-month U.S. trek winds down Thursday at Opolis, before heading to New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and more faraway places.
“There will definitely be some more adventuring before it’s time to start making another record,” she said.
Photo by Jenn Sweeney