/ Emma Davis
words, photos & video by josh yong
- Name – Emma Davis
- Based – Sydney, Australia
- Genre – Indie, Alternative, Dreamy Folk Pop
- Web – emmadavis.com.au
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very much a ‘go with the flow’ kind of person, and this project largely works off that ethos. When obstacles come up, I find that energy is best spent figuring out how to turn that barrier into the special defining feature, and most of the time it’s actually worked out for the best.
Call it what you want, but I often do find that some of the most memorable moments of the ROAM projects have arisen out of some kind of chaos.
Unfortunately for my collaboration with Emma Davis this was not the case.
I’m completely open with accepting it as a failure.
This was back in March, I was in Sydney and had organised a time for me and Emma, along with her band, to work on a ROAM project. We had sussed what should have been the dream location; a pagoda in a Balmain park, it was under shelter and looked great on camera. All was going to plan until a massive storm rolled its way in. We pushed on through, telling ourselves it would be fine, it would be atmospheric, it would give character.
When I sat down to listen and review the footage later that evening, I was gutted.
Visually, it was beautiful. Performance wise, it was incredible.
But there were trees rustling, and birds screeching, and planes rumbling. Every possible sonic interference came out to play on that afternoon, and it meant the footage was unusable.
“Aye curumba” was Emma’s response when I texted her about it once I’d pulled myself together.
She totally understood though. These things happen. I promised her I would come back and we would see this through to completion.
So here, 5 months later, is the redemption project with Emma Davis.
In terms of weather, it’s the polar opposite as I pull into Manly on the ferry from Circular Quay. The sun is blasting down and the sky is a unobstructed blue. It’s the middle of winter but the temperature is supposed to hit the mid-twenties.
Things seem to be looking up already.
Emma pulls up in her car and we head back to where she’s been living for the last couple of months. I’m reunited with her band-members Bonnie and Luke, and we all start to chat through the plan for the day.
There’s this feeling of déjà vu in the room. There’s the sense that we all knew what we had to do, it had been on our minds for months now. The plan was in motion and it was just a case of nailing it once and for all.
Emma had organised a space just around the corner from her house. It’s a church that rents out the main space for various uses, and we had it all to ourselves for the morning.
Best thing of all though, it was well clear of the flight path, which I learnt seems to be inescapable in the inner ring of Sydney city.
As soon as we walk into the space I am completely sold. It’s one of those locations where you could happily shoot in any direction and it would look equally as amazing. We settled on a corner framed by a stained-glass window and some floor-to-ceiling drapes. Pools of light were filtering through frosted windows, which would act as some kind of spotlighting for the band to perform in.
I’ve come to learn quite a bit about Emma over the time we’ve known each other.
You can tell she’s been doing the music thing for a while now. Long enough to have a firm grip on who she is as an artist and what she needs in order to meet particular goals, expectations and ambitions. Everything is well considered, self-critiqued and refined, from the songwriting and recording process right through to how that is translated into a live context her the three-piece band.
She backs herself on all this too, that’s probably the biggest thing that I have learn about Emma’s character. It’s pretty assuring to be around her presence.
I think ultimately this is why I was so adamant in my stance that in order to properly collaborate with her, it had to be fully representative of who she is as a musician.
“I know I cannot control a thing, //
all the sicknesses that time will bring…”
– Emma Davis “Best of Times”
Emma’s live performance goes hand in hand with the expansive space inside this church.
It’s allowing her voice, supported by Luke and Bonnie’s harmonies to project and bounce all around the room. The drums and Casio organ go along in a similar way.
It results in a very full and complete sound. It’s the same solid sound that I had heard from the three of them back in March when I saw them play at the Newtown Social Club (now sadly existing as a mini-putt bar). Both then and now, Emma is fully immersed in delivering the songs with such a convincing integrity.
There’s one memory that stays with me in terms of meeting Emma.
After our initial session in March she took me to a spot in Marrickville. It was a brewery that wasn’t allowed to call itself a bar due to consent problems. So rather than buying a beer you’d get “tasters” and instead of a kitchen they had a “market stall” selling food. In the corner was a cordoned off pool table (that was deemed to be “entertainment” thus crossing the consent line), they apparently had to fight for the right to play music.
It was here in this environment of endless restrictions and façades that me and Emma talked about the deep and meaningful topics that don’t normally come up after knowing someone for a matter of hours. But it didn’t matter. As we drank our miniature beers and ate our “street food” we really got right into discussing various aspects the human condition. Not the super existential stuff, but more of the self-awareness in our character in the choices we make to do the things we do and the people we choose to surround ourselves with.
It’s a rapid way to get an understanding of someone’s character, as well as a fast-track way to solidify a friendship that’s for sure.
Turns out that friendship came in super useful when just a few days later I had to deliver the message to Emma that I’d completely fucked up our session.
I think though in a funny way it was all one giant obstacle.
In all honesty it was the first major hurdle I’d had to face with this project. The fact that I had come to Sydney to work with Emma and not come away with what I was after was a bit of a rattling experience.
I believe however that it made today’s session all the more considered and ultimately more fulfilling, and I hope that the results reflect that.
Enjoy – more projects on the way so keep in touch.
Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think of the project so far.
– JY x