MEGAN DAVIES TALKS “GIMME”, SOCIAL MEDIA & ARTISTIC INSPIRATION 0 106

Having already earned herself a growing army of followers across social media and seen her music streamed millions upon millions of times on the likes of Spotify and, most notably, YouTube, Megan Davies has achieved a great deal in the last few years. A passionate and creative singer-songwriter, she’s currently in the UK to play four shows on her very first headline tour here, and ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her before the first show in Manchester to talk artistic inspiration, performing for the cast of The Greatest Showman and what the future holds.

TITL: As an artist and an individual, how would you sum yourself up in a few words?

Megan Davies: I would say acoustic – everything started out acoustic for me, even if it was a big pop track I was covering. Raw in the sense that I try to be as honest as possible when it comes to the things I like and what I want to say. Hopefully passionate because I just love it so much.

TITL: Personally and professionally, who are you most inspired and influenced by? How do those influences filter through to the music you make?

MD: I love John Mayer a lot – his guitar solos are really cool. He doesn’t seem to…he always seems to be pushing to be better at what he does, which I find really inspiring. I’m a huge fan of this Brit named Imogen Heap…

TITL: “Hide And Seek”.. a beautiful song.

MD: She’s someone I’ve listened to for a really long time and I think is really inspiring as a female who does as I do; record and produce my own stuff that I post on my YouTube channel, that kind of thing. I remember when I was in high school seeing an article and a picture of her at a huge mixing board at home, in her living room and I was like “That’s so cool.” I think she’s someone who is very inspiring. People like Ed Sheeran – I saw him play a stadium in Nashville where I live just a few months ago and he was just standing up there with an acoustic guitar singing to THAT many people..

TITL: He played the Ethiad Stadium on his last tour here which holds something like 80,000 people. It’s incredible to see how just one guy and a guitar can captivate so many people like he does.

MD: Literally no-one else could do what he does.

TITL: Who would you say you feel most musically connected to?

MD: That changes a lot. I feel very emotionally connected to a lot of different types of music. I’m definitely one of those people who can cry at certain music if it hits me the right way. I remember when I was twelve years old being connected to Avril Lavigne’s record; super emo, but nowadays, there’s so much. I love Radiohead, Coldplay – a lot from the UK. It’s amazing that you can listen to so much nowadays, especially with streaming, so you can make your own playlists to fit whatever you’re going through in life. It’s hard to say just one artist because I feel like I connect with a lot of them.

TITL: You mentioned that you can cry to a lot of music but what’s the one song that can and will make you cry every time you hear it? Is there one?

MD: “River” by Joni Mitchell.

TITL: Mine’s “Everybody Hurts” by REM..

MD: Yes!

TITL: The last time I recall hearing it on public, national radio was September 12, 2001. It was the last song played before the country held a two minutes’ silence.

MD: Oh my God.

TITL: And of course, it’s such a true, honest and relevant song, especially now as mental health is becoming more of a talking point and more artists are starting to speak out about it. The song has such a powerful message.

MD: Of course, yes. I think with “River”, for me, it’s kind of a song that comes on a lot around Christmas time. It’s a sad sounding song and I’m one of those people that isn’t a big holiday person – I’m not super happy over the holidays and that song, I don’t know…it hits a nerve for me. It’s a great song.

TITL: As a singer-songwriter from Nashville, often considered the music capital of the States, do you ever feel any pressure to live up to the success and legacy that the city has thanks to the many artists who have come from there and achieved so much over the decades?

MD: I don’t think so because I’m not a country musician. I think if you’re a country musician, there’s a lot more pressure. I think there’s a lot of great music that comes out of Nashville don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing bands that have come from there, with different styles of music, but I’ve always been on the fringe, I guess. When you’re not in country music, I guess that’s where you are – how can I explain it? You kind of feel like you’re a little bit more on the outside, which I love…creatively not doing what everyone is expecting from you. I personally don’t feel that because it’s SO country. Everything in Nashville is so much country music. I feel like I get to skirt along the outside a little bit.

TITL: You don’t fit into the Nashville norm, as it were…which is and can be a good thing.

MD: Absolutely yeah. I wouldn’t take it any other way for sure.

TITL: It’s like that saying “You were born an original, why die a copy?”

MD: Exactly. I like that.

TITL: You uploaded your latest video “Gimme” two weeks ago. How did you come up with the concept for the video and why did you choose that song as a release?

MD: That was a song that was written a little bit ago – early 2018, I think. I was out in LA, working with a producer who was making beats and I was writing to them. It was really fun and that was one song that came out of it. I had just watched this episode of Black Mirror – I was binge watching it, it’s so good – and we were kind of just bitching about social media. There’s that one episode that was all about social media and that was so uncomfortable to watch. It was like so scary and so…he was making this track and I was kind of just writing down these lyrics, putting my guitar to it. We wrote it and recorded it – it was kinda just a fun jam session – and towards the end of the year, I’d been looking at some of the songs I’d been writing and that one just felt so relevant, and I felt that it would be a fun one to put out.

As far as the video goes, I came up with the idea for it in the shower. *laughs* I was running through it in my head I guess and I was just trying to think about what I would do in terms of a video. I ran out of the shower and wrote it all down. I got my laptop and just wrote the entire treatment which ended up beings something like two pages. I started sending it off to all the video people I knew in Nashville asking “Can you help me make this?” We got it done, which was crazy – it’s one of the more ambitious videos I’ve done.

TITL: But it works with the song – and I think once you have a visual that fits with a song, as yours does, then its “pull” can be and is often magnified – it reaches a bigger audience. Someone can listen to a song and like it, but sometimes you need a visual to go along with it to really put the song into context and put out there exactly what you’re trying to convey through the lyrics..

MD: Totally. With this song, sometimes you can be like casually listening to the lyrics and be like “yeah this is a good pop song” or whatever, but once you actually listen to those lyrics, it’s actually very dark and very tongue in cheek. It’s not super happy, so with the video, I wanted to put a sort of scarier video to it.

TITL: Given that you launched your career on YouTube, how do you feel about the dominance social media seems to have over many industries, including music, and people’s lives in general? Is there such a thing as “too much” social media?

MD: Oh absolutely. I have very mixed feelings about it as I think most people do. I think most people have a love/hate thing with it. You wanna totally cut off but at the same time you don’t. I feel the same way. I’m grateful for the internet and everything that it’s brought to my career as I would never be able – or have been able – to do it without that platform, but I can’t lie – it causes me a lot of anxiety; a lot of social anxiety and depression. It definitely affects your mental state. I have very mixed feelings about it but the more I talk to people about it, the more it seems they feel the same way. If there’s anything that ties us together, it’s that aspect of it.

TITL: This is your first UK headline tour. Just how excited are you to be embarking on this new chapter of your life and career?

MD: I am so excited. It’s so cool to be so far away from home and to come here and first of all play music that I created back there, but also see people who’ve been listening to it and who I’ve had conversations with online. The coolest part is meeting people who are so far away, but have been connected to what I’m doing in different ways.

TITL: For those who perhaps haven’t listened to your music or who are coming to see you on this tour, what can they expect from your set?

MD: They can expect some new songs for sure. I’m a big fan of trying out new music before I release it. There’s a song, it’s brand new…just a few weeks old, that I’m going to be playing on this run, and a lot of the new stuff hasn’t been released so I’m really excited to try that stuff out. People will hear some OG Megan Davies too, but there’ll be a good variety.

TITL: You’ve been championed by the likes of Parade Magazine and Music Radar among others, but do you actually care that much about what critics and the like think, or are you more concerned about the thoughts and opinions of those who come and see you, support and follow you?

MD: I definitely care more about the people who are connecting with it, than those who are “forced” to connect with it, like it’s their job to write about it or something. I do care – I don’t want people to not like it – but I’m also the person that doesn’t want to look at it, good or bad. If it’s a great review, that’s fantastic, but I don’t read it, and if it’s a bad review…I’ve gotten this far based on my own creative tastes – I don’t want to colour that too much, you know? It’s definitely flattering when someone does like what you do, but I do like to keep it more between me and the people who are listening in the audience or wherever they may be because they feel a connection with what I do.

TITL: What’s the nicest or best thing someone has ever said or written about you and how do you deal with any criticism directed your way? Do you find it easy to shrug off or does it linger in the back of your mind?

MD: It definitely lingers – I’m a deep thinker, for sure. It’s honestly why I take breaks on and off from social media. I try not to spend so much time on it because it can kind of get to you. The nicest thing anyone’s written about me…there’s been a lot of great things. Just on the personal message type side, I’ve had some really amazing stories shared with me. I had a soldier in Afghanistan who reached out and said he was listening to my covers at night to help him sleep. I thought that was pretty cool. It’s things like that that I remember the most rather than a straight forward compliment – it’s nice to get those for sure – but I love hearing those types of stories from people, who my music has helped through a difficult time or something. I’ve definitely had my share of terrible things written about me on the internet and it kind of stings a little bit. I’ve gotten better at pushing it off, but there’s always that stuff – the good and the bad of the internet. This is the job – it’s all part of it and can be – is – one of the not so great parts.

TITL: Your career has given you many amazing opportunities, including, perhaps most notably, performing for the cast of The Greatest Showman. As someone who loves the film and saw it twice in the same night, I have to ask, what was that experience like?

MD: Twice in one night?

TITL: A friend and I saw it and loved it so much, we went to the screening straight after it..

MD: Wow. There were two components to that whole experience. The first was that I got to go and meet the cast, visit the set and film the video that I have on YouTube, and sing for them. That itself was very surreal. I hadn’t seen the movie yet – I had the song, but that was it. I didn’t really know if this was going to be a huge film or not, at the time..

TITL: It turns out the answer was yes…

MD: It was six, seven months before the movie came out, and just to meet the cast, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, was pretty mind-blowing. Then I got to go to the premiere. That experience blew me away just because I had never experienced anything like it. Nashville’s not a movie town, it’s a music town. To see such a huge premiere with the red carpet, and see so many people and be drinking champagne, was like…it literally felt like a Cinderella moment. It’s hard for me to even explain it to people; friends and family back home – it feels like I’m describing a dream. It was so surreal. I got to watch the movie with the cast and crew around me which was super cool and everyone applauded after like every song. It was an experience I will never forget.

TITL: I still don’t know how “This Is Me” did not win the Oscar for Best Song, but the soundtrack has a Grammy now so there’s that..

MD: It was on the Billboard charts for forever…I had a feeling when I was on set that the film was going to be pretty amazing, and then when I saw it I just thought “Wow, it’s going to be huge.”

TITL: The soundtrack broke the record for the longest time an album held the number one spot here a while ago; the record that used to be held by The Beatles Sgt. Pepper record..

MD: Good for them! That’s amazing.

TITL: You’ve also collaborated with the Red Cross and American Cancer Society. How important to you is it to be able to use your platform to benefit and support such organisations and those less fortunate? Would you like to see other artists – and perhaps people in general – do the same?

MD: I don’t judge people for what they do – people support different causes for different reasons and in different ways – but those two approached me, and when you build a following online, that’s something that happens a lot. Charities, brands…they all tend to reach out, and the Red Cross and ACS…those two were no brainers for me. Of course I’ll spread the word about having a plan for your family to get out of the house if there’s a fire – things like that are important and we did little PSA’s, things like that. They’re both causes I feel super passionate about.

TITL: Aside from this tour, which after the UK you’re taking around Europe, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

MD: At the end of this tour, it’ll be mostly focused on releasing some new music. Like I said, I try a lot of new songs out when I’m on the road. I have some YouTube videos that I need to work on and that involves me not travelling. I spent a couple of days in London before we came up here to start the tour and I really enjoyed it so I’ve been thinking about going to London…I like going to different places and writing; being creative.

TITL: Finally then, taking into account all you’ve done and achieved so far in your career, what other goals and ambitions do you still want to fulfil? What’s the ultimate goal?

MD: So much. For me, since I’ve built so much of my audience on covers, I really want to develop as a songwriter and performer. I still feel like I’m always trying to get better at what I do; I’ve a lot more to give as a creator and musician. That’s my focus more than the numbers…it’s cool when you get really big numbers or a reaction, but yeah, I think that’s more my goal at the moment. You’ve gotta explore…I could probably just do covers for a long time, but that wouldn’t be satisfying to me. I want to push myself creatively and I feel like I’m meant to do more.

Check out Megan’s latest video, “Gimme” below and keep up to date with her and her music by visiting her website, following her on Twitter, giving her page a like on Facebook and subscribing to her YouTube channel.

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BAILEY TOMKINSON CHATS “7 MINUTES IN HEAVEN”, TAYLOR SWIFT & SUPPORTING HER FELLOW FEMALE ARTISTS 0 77

Heavily influenced and inspired by Taylor Swift but with music tastes so varied she loves Sam Cooke, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper to name just three, Bailey Tomkinson has an undeniable passion for music. After releasing her EP Hey Ace last year, she’s recently dropped her new single “7 Minutes In Heaven” and with plans to head back in the studio soon to work on new material, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to talk favourite songs, upcoming performance plans and proudly supporting other female artists.

TITL: Who exactly is Bailey Tomkinson?

Bailey Tomkinson: Hi there! I’m Bailey, I’m a 19 year old singer/songwriter from sunny St Ives in Cornwall. I like to write country melodies that hopefully even people that don’t normally like Country Music will want to sing along to! I’m signed to German Indie Label FBP Music and when I’m not performing you can usually find me in the surf!

TITL: At what age did you first realise you wanted to make music a career and what did those closest to you think of said realisation?

BT: I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career in music, I watched the movie ‘Selena’, based on the life of the singer Selena Quintanilla, when I was about 4 and from then on all I wanted to do was perform.

The first time I played one of my songs in public was in front of about 300 people in an auditorium, it was a school rock concert in Brussels where we were living at the time, I was about 13. You could have heard a pin drop when I started to play and I just got the bug. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.  I think there is a video of it on YouTube somewhere actually! My family have never been anything other than massively supportive.Their attitude is that we all only get so many trips round the sun, why not spend them doing something you love?

TITL: Which artists and bands are you most inspired and influenced by, and what is it about the music they make that you like so much?

BT: I’ve grown up listening to Taylor Swift so she’s a big influence, obviously very relatable to a teenage girl. But I also admire her for willingness to experiment and innovate across genres; that she wanted to expand the ‘box’. I really admire Kacey Musgraves for the same reason. I listen to Sinatra. I love John Denver because he’s my Grandad’s favourite. Also Sam Cooke, Madonna, Abba, Cyndi Lauper, Jewel – honestly, I just love music.

TITL: Is there a story behind your latest single “7 Minutes In Heaven”?

BT: It was a combination of things really. I love movies like ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ for the sense they have where in one, crazy night anything can happen. I thought it would be interesting to try to capture that feeling in a song. I’m 19 years old, so you know, I love a good party and we have some GREAT parties down here in St Ives, we’ve got the beach, bonfires, surfers and guitars so I thought why not write about some of them!

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, could you choose what you feel is the greatest song ever written?

BT: That’s such a difficult question and if you asked me that 100 times, I’d probably give you a 100 different answers. Today, I’d go with “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. The song structure is a work of genius; it somehow manages to link multiple songs into one. Freddie Mercury is a GOD!

I think at the end of the day, I wouldn’t say I have a biggest inspiration as I’m quite fickle with the music I listen to, one minute it’s Sam Cooke and the next it’s Guns N’ Roses. However, that said, I’m pretty sure that if you ask people that know me, they’d tell you it’s Taylor Swift. Hell, at school I was nicknamed ‘Baylor’ Swift.

TITL: As a fairly new artist who made their mark on the industry last year, following the release of your EP, do you ever worry about how you compare to so many of your artistic counterparts?

BT: No, success isn’t cake. Just because someone has some doesn’t mean there’s none for me. There’s plenty for everybody. I have nothing but admiration for people who say, I’m going to follow my passion for making music and if they manage to carve out their own niche then more power to them. It’s hard enough for women in music, we’re all seeking to get equal airtime, festival slots etc, without turning on each other. We all experience the same thing…radio stations happy to put our faces on their posters or Facebook pages but then not spinning our records…I make a point of supporting other female country singers out there, we all want the same thing, a bigger industry and an opportunity to thrive within it.  

TITL: Do you have any performances/tour plans in the works?

BT: There’s lots going on. I’m making my London debut at Luna Lounge in April and in August, I’ve been lucky enough to get a slot at Boardmasters Festival which is one of my favourite festivals. I really want to play the length and breadth of the country, so if any one reading this has slots available, hit me up!

TITL: Given that we live in such a technology obsessed/dependent society, what are your thoughts on social media? How have the likes of Facebook and Twitter impacted your ability to reach an audience, and do you believe that artists can become successful without it?

BT: I don’t know that I have any new startling insight on the subject to be honest. It’s a mixed bag. Social media can be horrible, it amplifies hate and lies, it can make people insecure and antisocial I certainly think it’s important to remember that like television, a lot of it isn’t real. But the flip side is that it can connect people across oceans, across continents in ways we’ve never been able to before. 

In terms of the music, so far my experiences on social media have been incredibly positive, I’ve had other artists reach out with encouragement and advice, I’ve had folks contact me saying how much they’ve enjoyed a certain song and share my stuff with their friends etc. everybody has been really welcoming. Can an artist become successful without it? It depends on how you define success…for some it’s filling stadiums, which I don’t think you can do without a strong social media presence; for others it’s being happy, doing something you love on a local stage. If we were all the same, life would be boring wouldn’t it?

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? Will you be working on some new material at some point?

BT: Yes, I’ve been in the studio recently to record another single. Then after Boardmasters and festival season, I’ll probably do another EP. I’m writing constantly and definitely want to capture those songs properly. Later in the year, I’d like to do a bigger tour.

TITL: Finally then, what advice would you give to anyone looking to make their mark on the music world as you have? Is there anything you’ve learnt in your short time in the business you’d pass on?

BT: I’d say, make the music you want to make and then surround yourself with as many good people as you can. It really does take a village.

Check out “7 Minutes In Heaven” below and for more information on Bailey, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

LIVE: BLUE PLANET II IN CONCERT – MANCHESTER ARENA 27/03/19 0 83

While Blue Planet and its follow up series continue to delight and astound viewers around the world with the depth and scope to which the team behind it delve into the many wonders of our oceans, the experience of seeing the music that accompanies the programme, scored by Hans Zimmer, Jasha Klebe, and David Fleming, performed live with a full orchestra is something else entirely – but just as breathtaking.

The performance began with the orchestra, led by conductor Matthew Freeman, diving straight into the opening music, the skill and precision of the performance itself causing both smiles and goosebumps to appear on a vast majority of the audience (or certainly those I could see).

Host for the evening Anita Rani was both efficient and enthusiastic as she introduced each section of the show, herself and Freeman working almost fluidly in their partnership, while the visuals which accompanied each segment were as stunning as the music performed during it – the wonders of the oceans around us displayed in captivating detail on a giant 200 square metre screen.

It was not at all hard to feel as if, while the show progressed, that you’d been transported to another world of sorts – the younger members of the audience in particular seemed utterly awed by the sights and sounds they were being introduced to.

Highlights of the evening, in terms of the footage shown to the mesmerized audience, were the hundreds of dolphins surfing on waves and puffins feeding their young, but every scene and every sound brought home the most important sight and message of all – that we need to and must protect our oceans.

A night of awe inspiring sights and sounds left the audience within the Arena spellbound from start to finish and as the show reached its climax, the orchestra falling silent for the final time, the applause directed to Freeman, his musicians and host Rani echoed throughout the venue with many present standing to applaud what had been a truly spectacular night.