Exclusive: Kate Davis discusses internet success, Postmodern Jukebox and ‘Treble’ vs. ‘Trouble’
The first thing you notice when you hear Kate Davis perform is that while she’s young, only 23, she carries herself as an old soul with that indescribable “it” factor.
Beyond that, she’s also like a quilt with many intriguing layers.
Layers stitched together by her ability to create art in a unique environment fueled by new-found internet fame and old-school sensibilities.
And indeed, her hit cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That (Upright) Bass,” accompanied by Scott Bradlee and Postmodern JukeBox has set the internet aflame.
Since being uploaded to the popular Postmodern Jukebox channel, it’s received 1.8 million views on YouTube and the song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 12. It reached No. 1 for three weeks and currently sits at No. 3.
She’s also helped spark the Postmodern Jukebox album “Historical Misappropriation,” to No. 3 on the Billboard Jazz albums chart.
This new “it girl” might be riding high now, but unlike many others who tend to flame out just as fast, she’s already let the world know she’s going to keep making music no matter what happens here on out.
“At the end of the day I’m making my own music and my own kind of sound based on all these things I love and I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but it doesn’t matter what people say or what everybody wants, it’s what I want. And, I’m just going to keep doing things that sound right to me and make me feel like I’m creating something special,” she said.
Davis also knows that the pop world can be a funny place in that the most talented, dedicated musicians may never see any kind of measurable success.
Despite this, Davis said that’s not something she spends much time thinking about.
She said she’s aware of both the praise and the criticism the song has received, including the fact that people are poking holes in her singing of “trouble” instead of “treble” in the chorus of “All About That Bass” saying,
“Look, I know there’s a lot of conversation about my pronunciation of treble vs. trouble and I went to music school. I’m not an idiot, I know it’s treble,” she said. “I understand that people like to make statements on the internet but you can only run it into the ground so much. There are a lot more fun things to do in the world than getting all frustrated about the way I pronounced a word.”
Davis said even before “All About That Bass” came out she felt like she’s been making her mark as a musician since she moved from Portland to New York City to study at the Manhattan School of Music.
She’s also received four Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards, was a double invitee to the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, and served as bassist in the Grammy Jazz Ensemble. In 2009, she was selected as a Presidential Scholar of the Arts, which included a White House visit.
In 2012, ASCAP selected her to attend the prestigious 2012 ASCAP Foundation Paul Cunningham writing workshop, and she received the Robert Allen award for her original song, “Movie.”
So no matter what a few negative people might say on the internet, Davis is well on her way. In addition to performing with the jazz trio the Ladybugs. She also regularly plays with Gabe Schnider (guitar) and Conor Rayne (drums) on her solo projects.
She said she’s having a blast creating music in a positive, open environment in New York with inspiring artists who share her vision for what that music can sound like.
“It’s … the best possible scenario right now that I could ever ask for because it’s the most creatively stimulating one and I’m able to be around not only friends who play music, but the kinds of music I love and the genres I love,” she said. “And I get to play on a weekly basis with many of the people I’m closest with and I get to do a lot of things like write music. Which, I feel is a very important thing because it’s coming from me and it’s really personal music.”
Davis will crack that creative window to the world further in December when she releases her first original EP.
She said she’s now at a point where she’s made inroads into showing her musical abilities through covers, which will, she hopes, translate into a greater interest in her original works.
“(The EP) is all of my original music and it’s something I’ve been planning to do for a long time now,” she said. “And now with the positive internet momentum it’s making it easier for me to make it all happen. I know people who will listen to it and even if they don’t like it because it’s not like “All About That Bass,” then that’s OK because it’s still something I’m excited about and something I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into.”
Davis said while she’s becoming known for her old-world sound, which is steeped in her educational background and who she is as an artist, she hopes people will appreciate the difference between that type of performing and the type of personal, intimate music she writes.
“It’s not easy to write music and for me a lot of it comes from personal experiences and so I’m really excited to share this with people because it feels like a snapshot into my life … and I hope people are able to get into it because it’s truly me and it all happened.”
In the meantime, Davis continues to feel positive ripples from her internet fame, including having the opportunity to meet Jeff Goldblum and receiving a complimentary Tweet from Trainor.
Davis said she met Goldblum at the Cafe Carlyle earlier this month where he and his jazz band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, performed.
“I was very grateful to hear him play and up until that point I had really only heard him play on Law and Order and stuff like that,” she said.
“With those kinds of people I stand back and I’m in awe and I don’t want to overstep my boundaries or say anything I’m not supposed to say but it was just an absolute treat to meet him.”
Davis said if Goldblum ever wanted to play with her she’d, “be the first one to say sign me up, I’m into it!” because she said not only is he a great performer but he’s a genuinely sweet guy, also.
“He’s very friendly and open to people and he wasn’t a diva at all,” she said. “It was a really inspiring situation for sure.”
With Trainor, she said that was the first time anyone who she’s covered has reached out and given her any kind of feedback.
“I’m happy that she would find the older treatment to be a suitable way to perform her song,” Davis said. “And with my other covers, if Taylor Swift or Katy Perry find me maybe I’ll get to chat with them someday, but I’m a little over the moon that Meghan Trainor acknowledged the fact that this was done and it’s all good.”
Beyond those experiences, that ‘it’s all good’ attitude is the prevalent vibe she’s releasing out into the universe whether it’s in interviews or when she’s performing.
She comes across as happy-go-lucky, and maybe a little shocked at the attention she’s receiving. But at the same time she’s more than ready to see where her next journey will take her.
But perhaps the biggest part of Davis that makes her so endearing to both new and old fans alike is that she’s a both a genuine person and performer.
And the fact that she’s not above saying that what she’s creating is very much a work in progress, which is a breath of fresh air in today’s age where people attempt to shape their image into something that can be easily sold or can generate the most buzz.
Davis said as her sound continues to evolve, she knows she’ll keep making music that’s driven by what motivates her over what sells.
“I think it’s important to have an understanding of contemporary music and use all of these influences that speak to me to create my own personal sound which I’m still working toward, which is no easy task,” she said. “And jazz has been a huge part of that and maybe more of a foundation thing than anything else but with all of the things that contribute toward what ultimately I feel passionately about as far as my sound and a way to represent myself.”