BY JAKE BRYANT
While you’ve got some free time during this Thanksgiving Break, give CHS Senior Abby Davis’ new album Bonus Room a listen. Bonus Room, Davis’ second full-length album, was released on September 30th, 2018 and combines R&B and acoustic funk with soulful, raw vocals to produce a unique sound reminiscent of rainy-day jam sessions. When she’s not recording and releasing music, Abby gigs all around the Triangle, performing at everything from open mics to music festivals. She’s gotten the chance to work with professionals at the Berkeley College of Music, and has even been nominated for a Carolina Music Award! I sat down with Abby Davis to hear about her process in producing music, her journey as a youth performer, and her future ambitions.
Question: How did you get into writing and producing music?
Abby Davis: I started writing my own music when I was thirteen years old, at Martin Middle School. Mr. Yancey, the chorus teacher, had his students do a project where we would all write songs, and he would put the best out on iTunes. He ended up releasing some of my songs, and that really encouraged me to keep writing. I got into producing my own music last year, at my old school. Everyone was always talking about recording their own music, but no one really did; so, I decided I’d be the first one to do it! It started out with me just singing into my iPad—that’s how my first album was recorded. Later, I ended up getting my own recording studio.
Q: How were you able to put your own recording studio together?
AD: My dad has always been into recording music too; he’s in a lot of different bands, being the insane drummer that he is. He told me that I should get my own studio after I had gotten into writing music. He took me to Guitar Center one day, and we got all of the recording equipment. I went home that day, set it all up, and began recording Bonus Room. It feels so good to have my own studio—it makes me feel like the music is really coming from me.
Q: How has being young affected your career and musicianship?
AD: Being young definitely makes people view me as unprofessional; especially being a part of Gen Z, and being in the hectic climate that we’re in…Also, I want to represent the youth and what they want to say, as well as what I want to say, in my music.
Q: Where would you like your songwriting and music career to take you? Do you have high aspirations, or do you view your music as a passion project?
AD: My music kind of started as a passion project, but after I released my first album, A Walk In My Brain, I realized that I needed to pursue a career in music. I knew that I wouldn’t be truly happy if I were to pursue anything else.
Q: Tell me about your gigs around the Triangle! How did you get started, and how far have you come in terms of local performances? Any favorite venues you’ve gotten to play at?
AD: I started gigging when I was about seven years old. I was taking lessons from my uncle at Bamboo Music Studios; he’d set up gigs at places like the art museum or at coffee shops, and have all of his students perform. I started getting my own gigs during my Freshman year; I’d just walk into venues and ask if they needed a live performer! Doing open mics was another way that I got into gigging—one place I’d do a lot of open mics at was the Berkeley Cafe, in Downtown Raleigh. I play a lot of actual gigs there now, usually one every month.
Q: Your second album, Bonus Room, was recently released on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud. How did it feel to achieve this?
AD: It feels so amazing—to finally feel like an individual artist, who really puts herself out there. It’s probably the best feeling ever.
Q: Tell me about your experience at Berkeley College of Music!
AD: Berkeley College of Music is one of the most incredible places on Earth; it’s my dream school! This summer, I went up there for a week to do a songwriting camp, and I learned a lot of really eye-opening things about songwriting, a lot of which I had never thought about before. The most important thing I learned was probably that you can’t know everything about music. It was so inspiring to be around so many other people doing the same thing that I am, and we all got super close.
Q: Describe your journey in creating Bonus Room.
AD: So, I started writing Bonus Room this summer, when I was at a camp at the Berkeley College of Music. I wrote a total of 63 songs for it, and I ended up using 12. With my first album, I kind of just “threw it out there,” but with Bonus Room, I wanted to make sure that it was good, and that I genuinely liked all of the songs on it. I took my time in recording it (I actually started recording during Hurricane Florence). I released it through this collective that I’m a part of, called Oak City Mob—my friend Danny Secor, who started Oak City Mob, called me over to record some hooks for his music, and he offered to help me release my own music.
Q: Tell me about your parents’ involvement in music, and how that has shaped your musical career.
AD: I grew up in a very musical family. My mom sings, and my dad plays drums; they were in a rock band together in the ‘90’s. The music they wrote for their band has inspired me and has added a Rock ‘N Roll element to my own music.
Q: Are there any particular figures that you feel have shaped your identity as a musician?
AD: One of my biggest musical inspirations has to be Fleetwood Mac, and especially Stevie Nicks. I’m also really inspired by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Billy Joel. In terms of modern artists, I’m a huge fan of SZA, Georgia Smith, and Tyler the Creator.
Q: What advice to you have for those who wish to pursue a career in music/songwriting?
AD: These are the exact words my father said to me in a conversation we had the other day: “The more you put yourself out there, the more you’re going to be open to criticism, and the more you’ll end up saying ‘screw you’ to all of the criticism. Please yourself, and the rest will come.”
Bonus Room by Abby Davis is now available on iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music.