By Anna Birk, Contributor
[Photo by Noel Davis]
Q&A with Hope Davis following a performance at Donkey Coffee in Athens, Ohio.
You grew up in Athens, Ohio—what made you leave?
Hope: Well, I was suffering from an eating disorder in high school, and I was extremely depressed. I also have rheumatoid arthritis, so during the wintertime I get really, really sore—my joints get sore and everything. Also, I lived in the Plains where Athens high school is. It’s a really small, really rural, poor town.
Read more: Q&A: Inoculous
That’s what I’ve heard.
Hope: Yes. I was also a military kid, so I was used to traveling around. So, I felt awful about myself. I felt sore, and I felt really trapped. And with all of that in combination, I decided to, one night, drop out of school, get in a car, pack all of my shit up and leave. It was exciting; I got to Texas, and when I got to Texas, I was at a rest stop, and it was so warm for wintertime! I found myself throwing all of my winter clothes away—that was such a bad idea because as soon as the night came, it was freezing.
With all of that, how did you discover music and become passionate about it?
Hope: I have been singing and writing poems since I was maybe 13. I started writing about my experiences, and they just formed organically into poems. Along with every poem, I had a melody that came with it. All of the instruments were just sitting in there along with the poem, but up until recently—I mean, four years ago—I learned to play guitar.
Did you ever take any vocal lessons?
Hope: When I was … maybe 12, I took some opera lessons. It was the choir director at my mom’s church! She was like, “Honey! You should totally take lessons from me!” I did it in the music building [on Ohio University’s campus] in this tiny music studio—it was so ridiculous. But other than that, I had no vocal background. Also, opera is so good because it gives you a chance to get to know your diaphragm and where the sound should be coming from if you want to keep your voice healthy. It was good to learn that at that age.
After witnessing your performance and songwriting, a lot of your ideas come from more abstract occurrences in your life. To you, they mean one thing and to someone else, they could mean something completely different. Your song, “The Shadow Man,” was about a ghost in your room. My interpretation, however, was almost symbolic—referring to someone from somebody’s past. How does it make you feel that the songs you have written can impact so many different people in so many different ways?
Hope: Oh, I love that. Generally, we all are cut from the same cloth: we all have the base of humanity and of being a human being. But the experiences shape who we are individually. If you’re really honest with your feelings—like putting them in a song—and then you decide to share them, those feelings are really the things coming through at all times, which is the goal. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way, and you get distracted during a song and lose sight of what you’re singing about, and you can’t take yourself back to that moment when you wrote it. I love the idea of us all being able to lean into each other a little bit more because we are in a time where we’re having a very hard time relating person-to-person. We all exist so predominantly online, so emotions are crucial for our mental health and our communal health. It’s stressful, too, and it adds another job to your life because you have to represent yourself, and that’s not fair.
Looking toward the future, what are you hoping to do with music and with your life? Are you hoping to pursue music a lot more?
Hope: I don’t know; my real job is marine biology. I do conservation marine biology, and I monitor endangered species and environmental areas with a lot of human traffic. I’ll live aboard a ship for five weeks at a time and make sure construction companies aren’t harming the endangered species that live there.
As far as music goes, I adore it. But it would also be an intimidating thing to expand into a money-making thing. At this point in time, it’s such a therapeutic outlet for me, and I don’t want to taint that because it’s so precious. I don’t want to keep it to myself, and I love sharing it because I think the more that we share, the easier we are going to transition into really loving each other. But I don’t know if I want to walk the avenue of trying to convince people that I’m worth their money to go and see. To ask people all the time to be buying my things and advertising myself—it’s a strange world. If it happens organically, and if it happens in a healthy way, then I could see [myself] following that route. We will see where it goes. The journey is going to take its own steps.
Where can we find your music?
Hope: I’m actually in the process of recording an album right now, and it’s probably going to be on Spotify next year. Right now, it is on SoundCloud, and I have a link to SoundCloud via Instagram.
Check out “Won’t Take the Time” by Hope Davis below: