On the eve of the release of her sophomore album, "Fortune Cookies" (Elektra, due Oct. 30), singer/songwriter and native New Yorker Alana Davis can't hide her anxiety. In the four years since the rele
On the eve of the release of her sophomore album, "Fortune Cookies" (Elektra, due Oct. 30), singer/songwriter and native New Yorker Alana Davis can't hide her anxiety. In the four years since the release of her very fine debut, "Blame It on Me," the Lilith Fair-hued order of the day has given way to teen pop.
"The last time around, the market was very different with the whole female singer/songwriter thing going on," Davis recalls. "Today, the market seems so entertainment-oriented, which can make it difficult for an artist like me whose music comes more from the soul. I often wonder if, in such a climate, there's room for someone like me. But then I'll sit down with my guitar and write another song and it all seems to make sense."
Upon hearing this, Elektra's VP of marketing/artist development Dane Venable smiles. "The reality is that the industry is now so accustomed to manufactured artists that it expects all artists to act like machines," he says. "Alana's not manufactured; she's an artist in the truest sense of the word. She has a creative process she must follow. As a label, there are times when we need to work on an artist's timetable, not a quarterly one. For an artist like Alana, the time between albums is much less significant than when you turn that album in."
Davis, the daughter of an African-American father (jazz pianist Walter Davis Jr.) and an Irish-Scottish mother (jazz singer Anna Schonfield), spent the time between albums doing much soul-searching. "When I came off the road [from touring for 'Blame'], I was lost. I kept waiting for the album to really take off, but it never did. During such times, I have to remind myself not to get lost in the despair. It hurts to feel such despair -- it's like the unwanted child. So, my inner voice gets louder and saves me."
Davis says she wrote "very introspective" songs during this period. "It allowed me to get to this point where my music is open for interpretation, where I'm no longer wallowing."
At a time when many are feeling hopeless and looking for answers, the warm and inviting "Fortune" could prove to be an essential musical balm -- one that soothes and heals, as well as invigorates. Encompassing Joni Mitchell jazz, Tracy Chapman folk, Bill Withers soul, Bob Marley reggae, and Alanis Morissette pop, the album is rhythmically rich, with Davis' expressive, honeyed vocals leading the way.
"Simpler and more to the point, a bit more raw and urban" is how Davis describes "Fortune." "I skipped the demo phase this time. The whole process of making a demo tends to take all the spontaneity out of a creation."
So, says Davis, "each song began simply as me singing and playing guitar. The programming and live instrumentation came later. On a whole, the album reflects my personal tastes, as opposed to the imaginary tastes of people I don't know."
The bulk of "Fortune" was co-produced by Ed Tuton and Davis, who collaborated on "Blame"; three tracks (including the first single, a buoyant cover of Third Eye Blind's "I Want You") were handled by the singer and Josh Deutsch, and the Neptunes produced the sassy, funky "Bye Bye."
Last month, Elektra showcased Davis at New York's Village Underground and L.A.'s Moomba. A proper U.S. tour is forthcoming with live Webcasts to be heard at alanadavis.com, according to Venable, who adds, "when you see Alana performing onstage, singing and playing her guitar, that's when you totally understand and appreciate how special an artist she is. For Alana, it's about one thing: the music. Plain and simple."
"It's true," Davis says with a smile. "Music is what I do. It's not about the cleavage under my chin, my butt, or any of that stuff. I know that stuff sells records, but I don't want anybody buying my record because they liked my bosom."