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Kate Davis: Not Just An Overnight Sensation - BassPlayer.com

Kate Davis: Not Just An Overnight Sensation

In these meme-dominated times, “going viral” has become the de facto barometer for success, if not necessarily for good taste—which makes it pretty easy to feel jaded when a video starts generating clicks in the millions.
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In these meme-dominated times, “going viral” has become the de facto barometer for success, if not necessarily for good taste—which makes it pretty easy to feel jaded when a video starts generating clicks in the millions. But in the case of singer and upright bassist Kate Davis, whose jazz-styled cover of Meghan Trainor’s pop hit “All About That Bass” nearly broke the internet when it hit You- Tube last September, it wasn’t just the novelty of the song choice that explained its appeal. Clearly, we were also witnessing the emergence of a fresh-voiced and talented young artist. “I didn’t anticipate it catching fire like it did,” Davis admits. She taped the clip with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, with Bradlee on piano and Dave Tedeschi on drums. “When that song came out, it was just a no-brainer. It was kind of like, ‘Well, that would be hilarious if we did that,’ because it’s so literal.”

A serious violin student from a young age, Davis switched to upright when she caught a classmate from her high school orchestra playing in a jazz band. She felt drawn to Scott LaFaro’s melodic approach, and by 2009, she had left her native Portland, Oregon to enroll in the Manhattan School of Music. Now 24, Davis is working on her debut album with producer and multi-instrumentalist Rob Moose (Bon Iver, the National, Blake Mills). “We’ve still got some discoveries to make about recording my upright sound. I’m kind of terrified about it, but I’m sure we’ll dig in and figure out what works!”

With so much attention being paid to her acoustic skills, Davis isn’t averse to going electric—far from it, in fact. She finds plenty to admire in watching Esperanza Spalding (a fellow Portland native and child violinist, it turns out), but she first picked up a Fender Precision largely out of frustration. “Up until recently, I was pretty down about the upright. Whenever I played it, I felt like people liked the gimmicky aspect of it, like, ‘Oh wow! This girl is playing an instrument that’s larger than she is!’ And I was bringing it to a lot of rock venues that didn’t have the proper equipment to amplify it. So I was playing electric a lot more, and showing up to gigs with only that. And then we made that video.”

Now, with a newly acquired ’76 P-Bass and a Hofner 500/8-BZ on deck, Davis looks forward to the challenge of experimenting with different sounds, textures and musical styles. “I guess my relationship with the upright is totally love/hate, and it always has been—so the electric bass is just a little bit of a painkiller,” she laughs. “I mean, you can’t get a nicer sound than an upright bass, but that’s not to say it works for everything. I’m hoping that one day, they’ll feel a little evened out.”

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Basses German-made (ca. 1938) ¾ upright bass (builder unknown), Hofner 500/8-BZ, 1976 Fender Precision
Amp Acoustic Image Coda
Strings D’Addario Helicore Hybrids

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