Beyond The Stage got a chance to have a conversation with Dava — a newcomer in the pop industry who is slowly making her way up the ranks — about her background, beginnings in music and even her plans for the future.
Beyond The Stage: To start with, in your own words, who is Dava?
Dava: This is a tough question ’cause there are so many layers to all of us. Ultimately, I hope that as the records unfold, I find more of myself in them. I think that’s really the point in all of this for someone like me. Self-discovery and community. I don’t know exactly where I come from and growing up without answers has made me feel a bit displaced, which used to really bother me. I think musically it’s been a blessing. There is nothing else but this pursuit and all the beautiful people in my life.
BTS: How would you describe your music and sound?
Dava: I gather inspiration from all kinds of music and people and places. Growing up with alternative influences like The Killers and Gwen Stefani during her no doubt phase and rap influences like Lil Wayne and Drake have ultimately made it impossible to enjoy making only one kind of sound. I think it’s open for interpretation.
I’m still figuring out exactly what it is. Sometimes it’s nostalgic and sometimes it feels very new and unique. I love the pursuit of world-building.
BTS: You’ve gone from Oklahoma to Colorado and then finally ended up in Los Angeles. How have your travels through the country shaped your musical identity? Do you feel like you picked up certain things from each state that you lived in?
Dava: No doubt. I remember playing Elvis on guitar in local bars and coffee shops back in Oklahoma. I really loved folky romantic music when I was a kid. When MTV caught my attention in middle school and high school that’s where everything else came in.
It was absolute chaos from My Chemical Romance to Rihanna. We didn’t have cable in my early childhood, we had this thing called Sky Angel and it was only religious television networks. Being exposed to television and music consumption in those formative years made me a psychopath for new music. In Denver and Fort Collins I definitely picked up a new love for performing live and open mics, I had done it as a kid but this was totally different. I took it very seriously.
BTS: Who would you say are your biggest inspirations, be it in the music industry or outside?
Dava: My mom. She was a writer, I didn’t know that until after she passed. She left behind a series of poems and journals. She titled them all Dear Leviticus. It was my first tattoo, I keep it on my wrist to remind me of her.
BTS: What’s the process like for creating new music? Are there certain times and places you like to create music in?
Dava: I don’t really like studios, I prefer to make songs at my friends’ houses. It feels easier. I write down working titles of songs and ideas before recording. Sometimes a really good movie or experience comes along and inspires me to build a world around it sonically.
BTS: What are your earliest memories when it comes to singing and/or creating music?
Dava: I think about my bedroom in Oklahoma a lot. I wrote so many songs in there, I might have even been better at it back then. I got a job my senior year in high school at a recording studio to teach beginner guitar lessons and the owner quickly became like family to me. She gave me my own key and I got a tiny apartment right up the street. I’d go all hours of the night and play around learning to record vocals or just make youtube videos of myself singing with a guitar.
BTS: If you had to pick a dream collaboration for yourself, what artist or band would you like to work with and why?
Dava: The Killers. I admired them so much growing up, I wanted to be a rockstar just like Brandon Flowers.
BTS: Looking at YouTube, “Hoodie Strings” seems to be the first song of yours that started getting some traction online. What was that feeling like knowing that people were finally starting to listen to you? Was there ever a moment where you started feeling confident about being a musician?
Dava: It gave me a lot of hope, I always wanted to make music my life. There are so many barriers that keep us from making leaps as artists, it feels like those dreams where everyone’s looking at you and you’re naked. People noticing didn’t give me as much confidence as I had hoped. The other night I pulled up to a session with an artist I’ve admired for a long time. It was our first time meeting and I was feeling a little awkward. We both hooked up our mics and the band started playing and it was unlike anything I’ve done before. It was some serious rock and roll shit. At the end, we’re covered in sweat and we stepped outside to take a break. I remember him smoking a cigarette and saying, “You’re going to be an absolute legend.” Whether or not that’s the case, it’s moments like that where I find more confidence than the internet could ever give me.
BTS: Talk a little about your new single “New Ceilings” — what was the inspiration behind creating such a song? Where did the idea come from?
Dava: It’s kind of a weird song. I love it. I had a bad day, I was out here in LA trying to make something of myself. Record labels started to get curious about what was coming next and they usually set you up with sessions to kinda see what you’re all about. I was on my way to one of those sessions and mid-route my phone service got shut off. In retrospect this is small, but I grew up not coming from much and it’s moments like this where a sort of imposter syndrome sets in. I tried desperately to move states a few times and start new and focus on music and my day jobs.
The last few years I had my grandmother living with me after her health started to decline, so there was a lot riding on this. But LA is THE monster and I put so much pressure on myself to survive here. I was super late to the session and I’m all freaked out because without my phone I won’t be able to drive for uber which was my only job at the time. I’m putting on my best face for the A&Rs that came to meet me. After they left the producer and I started chatting and he asked me what I wanted to write about. I think I probably said something honest about how I felt in that moment and before I knew it I shed some tears on his beautiful new rug. He told me to write about my experience and I did.
I desperately want to chase a different reality for myself. In that pursuit, I’ve met people that I admire very much and also people that I hope I never turn into. The song is really just about chasing what you want but not losing yourself in it.
BTS: The video for the upcoming single seems like an intimate moment being shared between you and the viewer, is that the kind of vibe you were going for? Did the pandemic have a role to play in the art direction of the video seeing how so many people have to be away from their loved ones right now?
Dava: My boyfriend and I started walking around with his camera and I turned on the song and started mini-performing it on the escalator. He was like, “We should shoot a music video just for fun.” This song wasn’t on the tracklist for this project at all. Once we got going we were obsessed, we tried all kinds of weird things that never made it into the video. I sent it to my A&R and said, “This is coming out next. Make it happen.” He was so stoked, we all were. It felt right to put something very organic out into the world especially with the times we’re living in.
BTS: You have your debut EP Sticky being released later this year, what can your listeners expect from that? Is it going to be similar to the kind of singles you have already put out or are you trying out something new with it?
Dava: Right now, and probably forever I’m going to make a lot of different types of music. Expect to find different sides of me.
BTS: The pandemic and all this time being confined to one space has resulted in a lot of artists finding a different identity for themselves and their craft. Has there been such a moment for you where you realized the kind of music you wanted to make and you got a lot more clarity about yourself as an artist?
Dava: I definitely realized that I want to make everything a bit weirder.
BTS: Once the world starts shifting back to normal and concert spaces start opening again, do you have a plan for where you would like your first concert to be?
Dava: I’d love to get on a festival for my first round of performances.
BTS: Are there any artists you have been listening to a lot lately?
Dava: I’m actually prepping to be in sessions a lot more after the “New Ceilings” release so I’m doing album deep dives. Taking in a lot of Frank Ocean, Mac Miller, and SZA.
BTS: Finally, what does the future look like for Dava?
Dava: A lot more music including my debut EP, better visuals, and hopefully a ton of merch. But also I hope I get to grow with my friends and team beside me. We need a few world tours!
“New Ceilings” is available to be streamed on all platforms here. Watch the music video for the track below.
To keep up with Dava, follow her on Instagram.