Dalia Davis BTD Artist Interview
Written by Matt Zin on February 5, 2021
Dalia Davis is a singer/songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist. She has also released a fabulous album titled Keep A Clean Engine. Dalia, you most certainly give us plenty to talk about. I did also want to ask you where are you from?
I am originally from a Midwestern suburb. In high school, I performed solo in coffeehouses and formed a band with two other guitarists and singers.
You are one busy lady. You have a new track titled, “Eleven and a Half” which is on the recently released Boston Rock & Roll Anthology Chapter #21 album. So what does the title of this song mean? It sounds to me like an age, like 11 1/2 but maybe you are referring to years in something else. Maybe I am completely off and I need you to tell the story instead. (lol) How long did this song take you to write?
“Eleven and a Half” is on my album “Keep A Clean Engine” and also appears on the Anthology. The song is about how it feels to be that in-between age. You’re not a young kid anymore but you’re not a teenager either. It has a nostalgic feeling of looking back at a more innocent time growing up. I wrote it over a few weeks when I was in a songwriting group.
Speaking of how long did it take you to write, I was reading that your album “Keep A Clean Engine” took over five years to write. Could you take us through that journey of how you put all this together and how it came about? I know we don’t have five years to talk about this but you can shorten up your answers for this interview. (lol)
Actually, “Keep A Clean Engine” took over five years to record. The writing of the songs took a lot longer! Throughout my career, I’ve performed as a singer/songwriter and played in bands. The album shows my folk and rock sides, in addition to pop, soul, gospel and jazz influences.
I wanted to make a polished recording of a collection of songs I wrote over many years. I sang lead and back-up vocals and played keyboards, acoustic guitar and bass (on two songs). I also arranged and produced all 12 songs. In most of my rock bands, arrangements were a group effort. It was exciting to be the sole musical director for this project.
I assembled a group of fantastic musicians to play on this album. I’m an alumna of Berklee College of Music and enjoyed recording with two Berklee instructors – guitarist Lauren Passarelli and drummer Larry Finn. Larry and McGregor McGehee on bass were a powerful rhythm section for most of the band tunes. Brad Hallen played bass on two songs. Chris “Stovall” Brown played bluesy slide guitar. Billy Carl Mancini played guitar and Ruby Bird sang backup vocals and played accordion. I was grateful to record with so many fine musicians!
Looking back over your five years of putting that whole album together, what would you say your struggles were? How did you conclude that the album was complete?
Finding musicians who would be the right match for each song was a challenge. I worked with five guitarists, two bassists, two drummers, a jazz pianist, three back-up singers, a cello player and a violinist! As an acoustic piano purist, I insisted on using a real grand piano to record the piano tracks. Since the studio where I was recording didn’t have a piano, I recorded the piano at another studio. This studio had a Hammond B3, which I played on some songs.
I worked closely with engineer Bill Mason, whose patience and advice were so helpful. I tend to be a perfectionist when recording. We recorded multiple takes from the musicians and sometimes “stitched” together the best parts of each take to create the final track for many songs.
I figured the album was complete when I ran out of money (lol), the songs finally sounded like what I envisioned and that they were the best they could be.
So you are a multi-instrumentalist. I am going to ask that million dollar question I am sure you get asked all the time, what do you play? How long have you been playing and what is your most favorite instrument to play?
I’m a lead singer and play piano, keyboards, guitar, bass and basic rock beats on drums. My voice is my favorite instrument. I’ve been playing piano since I was young – another favorite. Bass is the most fun. I learned it in high school. My band was at a gig and the bassist was not there, although his bass was. I picked up the bass and basically figured it out on stage. It’s hard to pick just one favorite!
Being a singer/songwriter, do you feel that often you wear your heart on your sleeve?
Yes. Some of my songs are personal and are loosely based on my experiences. My goal for these songs is to take the personal and make it universal in my music. Some songs are inspired by others’ stories (imagined or real) or reflections on society’s issues.
I see you are a veteran of the Boston music scene. How long have you been doing that? Can you share with us some of your most wonderful memories?
For a long time – let’s leave it there. I was a member of many bands, providing lead vocals, keyboards and bass. I played and recorded with many Boston musicians and recorded with the Stones’ producer Jimmy Miller. One wonderful memory is when my band played at The Paradise Rock Club. What a thrill to perform on that spacious stage with their professional lighting and sound! It made me feel like a real rock star. I have fond memories of playing at The Rat, the legendary Boston club. I enjoyed playing solo at Nightstage – a classy nightclub that featured national acts.
Do you feel that you have pretty much stayed the same through-out your music career or have you changed things up according to the times and world issues around you?
My writing style has changed somewhat. My songs were more complex and now they are simpler. I write more on the guitar and less on the piano now. My core musical values have stayed the same – strong melodies, interesting chords and harmonies. In concert, I still enjoy playing my versions of carefully curated covers in addition to originals.
How would you best describe your music in ten words or less?
Eclectic pop songstress explores life with captivating voice, engaging melodies.
How would you say these COVID-19 times has changed your music scene? What are you doing differently now?
I had two gigs booked in April that were cancelled – one with my band and one as a solo. I have been working on songwriting, promoting my album and learning how to record myself with a Digital Audio Workstation. Very complex!
We are coming to a close of this interview. It has been a pleasure getting to know about you and your music. Did I forget anything that you would still like to talk about? Any shout-outs you would like to make or projects you would like to talk about?
A big thank you goes to Joe Viglione for helping me promote this album and getting my music lots of airplay on terrestrial and internet radio stations in the USA, the UK and Spain. The songs receiving the most airplay are “The Power of One,” an empowerment song, and my soulful cover of Dylan’s “My Back Pages,” which I arranged in the style of Aretha Franklin. My “Beatles Bridges” is a fun track for Beatles fans to hear. I created a medley using only the bridges from 14 Beatles songs, which I arranged to flow together. The title track, “Keep A Clean Engine,” uses the car as a metaphor for life. Thank you, T Dawn, for this interview.
Where can our listeners find your music?
ITunes/Apple Music: Download the album or individual songs
Thanks for your time. Please keep us in the loop of your new adventures!
T Dawn and the BTD Radio crew