Hi Steven, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
It’s been a great start to the new year 2017! We hit the ground running, finishing up my new recording, Departure. We started recording in November of last year, so we knew exactly what we needed to do at the beginning of the year to move forward to the finish line.
From all the songs out there, why did you choose to cover The Church’s “Under The Milky Way”?
My producer Josh Charles and I share a mutual fascination for this song. When we started looking at great songs from the 80’s, he reminded me of this song and thought it’d be great to bring a fresh take on this big hit for The Church. I’m drawn to the melodic and lyrical mystery in the song. It has a surreal sort of cinematic quality and majesty that holds my interest.
The cover comes off your new album Departure – what’s the story behind the title?
“Departure” suggests not merely a new musical direction, but a voyage or exploration. After years of interpreting songs from the big band era, I wanted to explore the music of my youth and find a fresh way of interpreting iconic songs that have become classics in the pop realm.
How did the idea for a cover record come up?
Last summer Josh and I went to Desert Trip outside of Palm Springs. It was an amazing experience of three nights of concerts with 90,000 people outdoors. Some of the biggest bands in the world who have been around for decades; like Neil Young, The Stones, Roger Waters, The Who, and McCartney, and Dylan. It was a stunning, once in a life time experience! A combo of Roger Waters and some magic mushrooms didn’t hurt either! This was the music of my generation and in the pop culture of music, it’s what I cut my teeth on from an early age. So, we decided to revisit artists and great classic songs, mostly from the 80’s, and put our spin on them.
How did you choose what songs to cover?
Josh and I listened to hundreds of songs from the 70’s onward. It’s a long process of sifting through a lot of great material. You may like a great song, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a good song for you, as an artist, to interpret. We both believe in great story telling, so we narrowed the field on those terms. We wanted to keep the melodic structure in tact, and Josh was brilliant in providing a new way of approaching many of these songs, by changing the tempos and feel of the tracks, bringing something fresh and new to these classic songs.
How was the recording and reconstructing process?
Recording Departure was a much more organic and experimental process. With a core of four world class musicians, we brought in fully realized demos to the band, however, we wanted them to feel free to bring their own musical ideas to the creation of each track. This is where it really gets exciting! In real time, right there in the studio, without charts, we are witness to the magic of spontaneous collaboration, as the music is literally being born on the spot. It’s a thrilling process! Then the icing on the cake is found in layers of electronic programming, strings, and lush guitar over dubs.
What was it like to work with Josh Charles and how did that relationship develop?
Josh and I have a very unique relationship and collaboration, as co-writers, and fellow musicians. He’s a great singer, incredible keyboard player, and a brilliant musician! His training and creative instincts are formidable, and his grasp of different musical genres is extremely unique. Between an artist and producer, there must be implicit trust and communication. That’s what can make or break the creative process. That is intact between us, and it also makes the ride a lot of fun!
How much did he influence the album?
Music just pours out of him. He’s fearless and intense, bringing originality, vitality, and enthusiasm to each project. Every artist should be so lucky to have a producer with his outstanding qualities. We always discuss the projects we want to tackle in great detail before setting out to make the next album and this idea was something that we were very passionate about for sure.
After a long time in the big band circuit, what made you want to seek for a whole new direction?
Departure is more an exploration that sonically lends itself a new direction. Josh and I believe in good music, in whatever form it resides. Good songs, good story telling, good melody, will always survive and stand the test of time no matter what the color palette is underneath the production style.
I’m feeling a David Bowie vibe on some of the songs – would you say he influenced this record or is it purely a big coincidence?
Bowie was, and always will be a cultural icon in every sense of the word, and the musical boundaries he drew were limitless. He wrote songs that were for the sake of art and never compromised for the business side. Everything from the glam-rock Ziggy Stardust to the Berlin infused new wave soul of The Thin White Duke to just being Bowie In his later years, he became more experimental and always took his fans on a musical journey. He was a huge influence on me and his last album BLACKSTAR has a sound that to may be attributed to the cinematic quality and mood found in Departure.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the music on this record?
After listening to scores of songs from the past several decades, Josh and I found that they seemed to coalesce mostly around the great iconic songs from the period of the 80’s. We wanted this recording to take on the best aspects of the thematic qualities we loved from that period of music, in terms of sweeping melodic lines, and in some cases, a movie score cinematic feel.
Any plans to hit the road?
We’re gearing up for performances in the coming summer and fall, and excited about live performances between the east and west coast. Stay tuned.
What else is happening next in Steven Davis’ world?
Josh and I continue to write together. We’re looking forward to our follow up recording which will also feature original songs in the landscape of DEPARTURE along with a few surprises.