For Kate Davis, good things come in threes.
Davis’ three stellar breakout singles serve as an instant sonic addiction with their beautiful verses, breathtaking melodies and brilliant arrangements. Her refreshing, relatable music will leave ears buzzing for more when Davis’ heartfelt debut album, “Trophy” drops Nov. 8.
“Each of the singles has their own identities and sonic worlds. Since this album is a culmination of my writing, there are huge gaps of time between their conceptions, especially the first two singles,” she said.
“The production style and arrangement choices help bring these songs together on the album. Obviously, these songs all come from me, but at very different times in my development as a writer. I think more than anything, the singles capture moments in time.”
‘Open Heart,’ ‘Cloud’ and ‘rbbts’
Davis’ latest single, “Open Heart,” makes a poignant comparison of heartbreak to open heart surgery and features raw guitars and pounding drums echoing her somber, hopeless mood – “Deep breath/Oh we’re cutting you open now/Hold tight/Oh we’re taking your heart out now.”
“Open Heart” also features new lyric video of a hand-drawn heart beating as blood pumps through it and pictorially captures the track’s sense of growing despair. It’s an intimate view of the inner workings of Davis as an accomplished singer-songwriter in the indie rock sphere.
While “Open Heart” serves as a delicate sonic incision into a complicated adult relationship, “Cloud” transports listeners to a nostalgic era filled with first love. It wraps you in a comfortable musical fabric stitched together with lush harmonies and steady guitar strums.
“‘Cloud’ was written one night after watching the opening sequence for ‘Big Little Lies.’ The show had just come out, and instead of finishing the episode, I was inspired to write the song. I didn’t even get around to the series for a while,” she said.
“My mom had been nudging me to write something of a happier nature since most of my songs were more emo. My experience writing ‘Cloud’ was very free and almost frantic in that the song came out quickly. But I think I was definitely subconsciously informed by my mother’s request. I think I needed that sweeter sentiment in my life after all.”
In July, Davis dropped a video for “Cloud,” which features a tightknit band of friends hanging out and performing together. Tim Bright, producer for “Trophy,” envisioned a narrative inspired by Larry Clark’s “Kids” and “Wassup Rockers” films and reminiscent of the trivial, fleeting relationships people develop in their youth.
On the flip side, Davis hauntingly captures the deterioration of young love on her introspective debut single, “rbbts” (pronounced “rabbits), which dropped in June. The track features slow gorgeous verses melded with passionate lyrics and a huge soaring chorus – “Tell me what are you afraid of, why do you hide?/Show me everything you feel and fear inside/Cause I’m running, I’m running.”
The video for “rbbts” chronicles the breakdown of a relationship over one night in reverse order. At the start of the video, a teary-eyed Davis floats in a bathtub fully clothed and ponders how it all went wrong. It’s the end of the night, and in her head, she’s replaying every detail of her painful breakup.
“During that time, I had a relationship with somebody who I had known in college and who was a little younger than me,” said Davis, who named the track after a nearby coffee shop in SoHo. “And it was just this turbulent time where we cared for one another, but he wasn’t able to commit to being in an actual relationship.”
All That Jazz and Some Indie Rock
Before making the switch to indie rock, Davis was an accomplished classical and jazz musician who played double bass, piano and violin. Originally from New York, she relocated to Oregon in middle school and joined the Portland Youth Philharmonic as well as the Grammy Jazz Ensemble.
Once she graduated high school, Davis had won the Presidential Scholar in the Arts Award and earned a full ride to the Manhattan School of Music. After graduating from college, she had performed at Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center and received coveted invitations to share the stage with Herbie Hancock, Ben Folds, Allison Krauss and Jeff Goldblum.
Despite her accomplishments, Davis had grown weary of traditional musical styles and yearned for modern popular music. At the time, she had slipped into secret listening sessions filled with Beach House, Elliot Smith and TV on the Radio.
Over time, her personal approach to music grew more emotional than that allowed of a highly-trained jazz darling. Days initially spent practicing and performing jazz quickly transformed into nights spent writing cathartic indie rock.
“I remember going to college and realizing what my teachers had expected of me and what my peers had expected of me and being totally disenchanted by the whole thing,” Davis said. “That’s when I decided I really needed to have a different type of outlet, and that I really needed to pay more attention to the things that I was listening to for fun.”
Sharon Van Etten and ‘Trophy’
One of those fun musical pursuits turned into a co-writing session with indie rock singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Davis penned “Seventeen,” a nostalgic guitar-driven track, with Van Etten for her “Remind Me Tomorrow” album.
“She was so warm and open, and we got to talking and got to know each other and decided we wanted to sit down and work on something together,” Davis said. “With one day and one session, ‘Seventeen’ came out of that. I got to write a song with one of my heroes, and it’s on her record. I’m still kind of in shock.”
Now, Davis is ready to reap the fruits of her indie rock labor and share the artifacts from her late night craft. Throughout “Trophy’s” 12 tracks, she poetically reflects upon the intricacies of what it is to live, ruminating on topics too close to her heart – identity, self-worth and loss.
“I lost my dad about five years ago. For me, a lot of the writing is about loss, but more specifically in the way of losing a parent,” she said. “It’s a devastating loss, and there are a lot of themes that are trying to grapple with that new reality.”
For Davis, her new reality includes a budding partnership with Solitaire Recordings, three new singles, the upcoming release of “Trophy” and a short East Coast tour in November.
“Once things are out, I hope there will be more interest generated and that people will want me to come to their towns and play,” she said. “I really can’t wait because this is music that’s been so important to me that I’ve been sitting on for so long, and I really just want to share it with everyone.”