Elise Davis’ ‘Empty Rooms’ Affirms Her Life’s Work [Exclusive Premiere]
In her late teens, Elise Davis had a steady gig as a hotel lobby musician. In addition to a Saturday-night dive bar gig -- the 1AM-4AM shift, playing covers for "a lot of drunk people" -- and coffee shop sets, she spent three nights a week performing for hotel guests ... or, as was often the case, an empty lobby with occasional passers-by.
"There's been a lot of empty rooms along the way," the singer-songwriter tells The Boot with a laugh, but her heart was back in that hotel lobby as she began writing her new song "Empty Rooms." The track, premiering on The Boot, follows Davis' own career arc from a fledgling singer-songwriter playing to nobody but finding freedom in performing to an artist ready to release her third album while trying to hold onto the innocence of those early days.
"That song was born from me really reflecting on where I am in my life and my level of success, and struggling with at times feeling like a failure, at times feeling proud of how I've kept at it so long," Davis explains, admitting that "Empty Rooms" makes her "a little bit uncomfortable" with its vulnerability and sweetness.
"It's just kind of battling with success and how I feel about myself," she adds, "but also coming to that place of really knowing this is what I'm supposed to do with my life."
Davis has been songwriting since she was a kid; of course, back then, she was far more carefree and less bogged down by the worries of adulthood and life as it is in 2021. "It's just so innocent and pure when you're a kid," she says, "... and I do think I'm still able to tap into that as an adult, but it is something that you have to remind yourself of when you get too caught up in the bulls--t."
Listen to Elise Davis' "Empty Rooms":
"Empty Rooms" is the penultimate track on Davis' forthcoming new album, Anxious. Happy. Chill., a 10-song record about falling in love and changing perspectives. Following 2018's Cactus, an album "all about sexual freedom and casual flings," as Davis describes it, the artist met her now-husband, Jason.
"I just kind of got to a place where I thought, 'Maybe that's who I am: Maybe my life will be touring, and I'll have boyfriends and whatnot,'" Davis remembers, but when Jason came into her life, it was "a complete 180."
"I was just like, 'Whoa, that's what I want, and I know it and I have no doubts' ... I just knew, and I was done dating, I was done looking around," Davis says. "It's just worked, but I feel like an entirely different person than I was a couple years ago."
The couple wed on March 7, and were on their honeymoon when the United States began shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Davis wrote about half of her new album from Arizona's Sonoran Desert, and after she and her new husband made their way backed to Nashville, masked and through partially-shuttered airports, she hit the studio with producer Teddy Morgan.
"It was all so crazy," Davis recounts. Both she and Morgan were a little concerned about spending a month in the studio together, but they remained masked up as they arrived and left, and stayed in separate rooms while recording. Though Davis usually loves having a crowd around as she records, and recruiting friends to play on her albums, she and Morgan cut nearly everything themselves, only enlisting drummer Fred Eltringham for one day's work.
"I can feel the songs in a different way," Davis notes. Because she played so much more than she usually would, she says, "I can hear myself in them more."
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