Lugging around 50 pounds of instrument hasn’t stopped Kate Davis from performing with all that upright bass.
On Thursday, Davis will perform with drummer Connor Rayne, her friend and bandmate of two years, and guitarist Alex Foote at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard as part of Spoleto Festival’s jazz series. She will bring an original set of songs she has written over the years — during times when she was battling the bass rather than embracing it.
“Bass has presented itself as a huge challenge, both physically and in a genre way,” Davis said. “I love a lot of things and I’m having a hard time incorporating all of the things I do into one huge thing, which is me, and that’s scary. I don’t really know how to be me yet.”
This became more complicated when she collaborated with Postmodern Jukebox, a video project focused on covering popular songs but with a spin.
Postmodern Jukebox creator Scott Bradlee asked Davis to accompany him in “All About That (Upright) Bass,” a jazzy take on Meghan Trainor’s hit single.
“I recognized very quickly that this was a young artist that had already developed a wholly original voice by mastering the music of the past,” Bradlee said by email. “So when “All About That Bass” hit the airwaves, it became very obvious that this song needed to be recorded with Kate.”
The video has gotten over 12.6 million views since its September 2014 upload and thrust the 24-year-old Davis into unfamiliar territory.
“It felt like a fluke,” Davis said. “The opportunity for this video came at a time when I didn’t particularly have a very good relationship with upright bass. It’s a labor of love. It’s tough. And at the time, I was tired.”
Then, when the video exploded, a wave of attention washed up. “All of this momentum and all of this attention has been much appreciated, but it is still kind of sinking in,” she said. “It wasn’t like I was expecting it, and it’s not that it’s that much attention, but it’s taken some getting used to.”
And not all the attention was positive. Along with the outpouring of support came comments on her appearance and lewd suggestions — things that typically happen to women who garner fame.
But Davis has taken the trolls in stride and channeled her emotions into another longtime passion: songwriting. She has been working on an album with completely original works slated to come out early next year.
That project will also feature 22-year-old Connor Rayne. The two met while both were attending the Manhattan School of Music. “We met in one of the ensemble classes at school, and shortly after that, we started seeing each other around,” said Rayne. “One day, Kate was wearing a Smiths T-shirt. We started talking about music and that naturally bloomed into this really great friendship.”
Both Rayne and Davis are leery of placing a label on their sound. Neither wants to trap themselves in a genre box.
“It would be easy to say, ‘This is this kind of music’ but I can’t really say that,” Rayne said. “With Kate’s writing, it’s so obvious that her inspirations are so spread. We don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves and then limit what we can do.”
For the future, Davis wants to maintain that originality. “I really think it’s a positive thing to be as a neutral as possible because it creates more truth,” Davis said. “I just don’t really want to be the covers chick.”
Dianna Bell is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.