I was honoured to be able to interview an upcoming star, Scott Evan Davis. Scott has appeared as an actor in an off-Broadway show, has sung, written and composed the lyrics and music for his album Cautiously Optimistic as well as performing in live concerts. Whilst speaking to Scott, I found his story to be heart-breaking and heart-warming.
Would you like to start by telling me a little about yourself? I know you are a singer, actor, songwriter and composer. Could you talk a little about each?
Sure. I grew up always wanting to be a performer, I went to musical theatre in High school and college. When I was about 12 I taught myself how to play piano. I never had any interest in writing songs…at all….but I did like to sing so piano was something I loved. When I was attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC my teacher at the time became a mentor. I was hurting financially and had a hard time keeping up a full time job and staying in school (I have always been on my own financially) and he noticed that I had a hard time staying awake in class. He took me to lunch one day after class and confided in me that he had been given a year to live: Cancer. Nobody really knew but he wanted me to come and live in his house, there was a spare room and in turn I wouldn’t have to pay rent and I could help around the house. I said yes. For almost a year he taught me everything he knew about musical theatre, training me to be on stage. Towards the end I became resentful and isolated and wanted to move out, I wanted to move to Boston to pursue a relationship. We had a big fight and we never spoke again: he died shortly after. I ended up doing more theatre and getting to NYC again. I was in an off Broadway play called Joy and during rehearsals one night I had a dream; there was my mentor, looking healthy and amazing, he had his arms outstretched and he wanted me to hug him. I knew he forgave me. The whole time he was hugging me he was humming. I woke up and couldn’t get it out of my head. I went to the piano and the melody became ‘Cautiously Optimistic’. I have been writing ever since.
Like I said, I never wanted to be a composer but now, it’s all I can think about. So in a year and a half I have an album, a songbook, and 9 concerts under my belt. It’s crazy.
You must have been really busy! After the dream, you said that he had forgiven you, were you easily able to forgive yourself?
Well, between his death and the dream was about 4 years give or take. I think in that time I reconciled with myself as much as I could, I had been 19 and it was a lot for a kid to take on, not to mention when you are younger you think life lasts forever. Once we had fought and I moved to Boston, I knew I had made the wrong choice. When he died……or when I found out he had died it was my wake up call to start getting back involved in theatre and I did, full force, which ultimately led me back to NYC. I think by doing the things he had always wanted me to do was a way of forgiving myself.
I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for someone so young. In which way was the move to Boston wrong?
Well, it’s a paradox. Moving to Boston was wrong because it was away from everything I had been working towards. I had someone willing to pay my rent for the first time in my life, I had a father figure (my relationship with my father was very strained, almost none existent really) who was willing to teach me. In Boston I had love, or what I thought was true love, who knows when you are that young but I believe it was real so I pursued the love. I always have. I can’t say that was wrong perse, but it wasn’t in line with any career path. He had given his last year of his life over to my education, to my success. He wanted me to be a legacy of sorts, I imagine, so at the time going to Boston would have been wasting everything he had done.
Your album sounds very personal, are the songs depicting feelings and events of your life?
It’s true. Following love is never wrong; it makes us who we are. I think we find out that what we care about deepest comes to the surface when you are in love. You feel things more when you are in love; those feelings are what inform my songs. So, it all happened the way it was supposed to. That is why I don’t feel regret. My album came out of my love yes. I think the human condition and relationships were always something I deeply understood, I can see all sides of a situation, I always could. When I write, I think from different perspectives but I suppose they are all a part of me.
You stated that you were originally an actor, is that something you are likely to return to or has composing and singing become your future?
Composing has definitely become my future. If I get to sing, great, but I would rather listen to other people sing my songs. I don’t have any real desire to play a role anymore.
I read on your resume about the musical with autistic children, as a mother with an autistic child, I find this interesting. Could you talk about that?
YES! I was hired by a school on the Lower East Side ps94 to be a composer. There is an autistic program at the school and their teacher wanted to write a musical for them and by them. So I was brought in to write music and lyrics. I am very proud of it. It’s called ‘Powerful Day’. They are amazing and have inspired me every step of the way. I even inspired one of the children who was very introverted to write lyrics to a song which I am now setting to music and putting in the show. Other than that, I wrote music and lyrics to the songs after talking to them about their ideas and thoughts. You can actually go on to YouTube and type in IF THE WORLD ONLY KNEW by Scott Evan Davis. I woman with a puppet just sang the song during my last concert.
Has the actual show been performed yet or are you still writing it?
The show happens in late May at their school. It’s been the best teaching job I’ve ever had, I’ve never been more grateful to be a composer than working with them and realizing that I have a gift that affects them positively. There are 13 kids and we sit around the piano and they can sing all seven songs on pitch and clearly. They love it!
I would love to see that! Are any parts of it likely to be recorded for others to see or hear?
That is a good question. I am hoping they will video tape it. I am sure someone will. It’s getting a lot of attention from the Department of Education so it all depends on who comes.
Music is definitely the language of the world regardless of capabilities.
I agree! It’s amazing how sound can transport you, and lyrics.
Did you have any difficulties working with the children initially, either emotionally or getting them to participate and understand your teachings?
No. I was amazed. I went in fear because I hadn’t worked closely with autistic children. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to write anything. From the second I met them I connected with them. It’s never been frustrating, only inspiring. They also have a fantastic teacher who knows them and loves them very much, and she has helped tremendously with their focus and energy.
Knowing that I have read your resume you are probably expecting this but…have your rope tricks helped you with your career?
EVERYONE asks me about the rope tricks!! They will haunt me. When I was just getting back into theatre I got cast in a show in Oregon called Route 66. Before I left I auditioned for Will in the musical Will Rogers’ Follies. They wanted me for the lead and asked if I knew rope tricks. I said yes, although I hadn’t ever picked up a rope before. So, the whole time I was in Oregon I learned how to do them, I would practice in the park near the mountains. When I started rehearsal I knew rope tricks. That was the last time I used them, however, it has made for great conversation.
Sorry, could not let you get away with that one!
It’s a funny thing. What I didn’t tell you was before leaving for Oregon I went through the yellow pages and found the only trick roper teacher I could find. She lived on a farm in upstate New York, I went out there a few times to be coached before going to Oregon. I guess when I want to do something, I don’t let much stop me.
That is dedication to the cause!
Now that you have one album under your belt, have you had any thoughts of a second? Or maybe stage shows including your rope tricks?
Yes, I would love to do a second one in the future but it will be a while. I am focusing right now on concerts and writing some new songs and a stage musical. I am starting to think about writing one at the moment, I have the idea and title and a book writer, so hopefully it will happen and who knows, there could very well be rope tricks.
I know you have a large following in America and you are becoming more popular in the UK, do you have any plans to travel and bring your music over to the UK?
Oh my god yes! I would LOVE to do a concert in London, kind of my ultimate dream. But not enough people know who I am over there yet so I suppose it wouldn’t make much sense. But if I could figure out how to do a concert in the UK and actually sell tickets, I would be there in a heartbeat using West End talent to sing my songs. I’ve only been writing for about two years so my following in America is growing but it’s certainly not large. I have a concert in Toronto in November, one in New Jersey in July and one in Alabama in January; I would LOVE to put the UK on my roster.
Is there any other aspect you would like to tell the readers about?
My website is www.scottevandavis.com you can see videos and find links to buy my album which is called “CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC the Music of Scott Evan Davis!” My songbook is on sale through there as well and of course twitter @scottevandavis
You mentioned about personal problems before your career took off. Have you had any personal struggles since, which may have fuelled your determination to succeed?
The only personal struggle I have encountered is losing myself in a relationship, I am lucky to be with someone now who I don’t feel lost in but rather heightened by. It was a long time coming. Money has always been a struggle. I work very hard. I work a lot of jobs. I hope to one day be able to support myself from my songs. But I am happy. I am happy with who I am and happy with where I am right now.
That is all anyone can ask! Is there anything else you would like to add?
I love what I do. It transforms me and it keeps me sane.
Well there you have it! After some difficulties Scott still had a dream and reached for it, the ideas he originally pursued may have changed but he certainly appears to be more than happy with his choices and turn of events in his life.
I cannot urge you enough to go and listen to Scott’s music; his lyrics have such special meanings. I personally found that I related to the lyrics in his songs ‘Ready to Fly’ and ‘I Am’. I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed speaking to Scott.
Fire away with your comments and questions and I hope you enjoy Scott’s music as much as I have.