Interview: Billy Davis on Life, 'Wilderness' and New Music

Friday, December 13, 2019

Melbourne-based artist and producer artist Billy Davis has had to balance the challenges life has thrown at him with the desire to stay creative and make music. He recently unveiled 'Wilderness', which is the third single to come from his upcoming sophomore album THIS IS WHAT'S IMPORTANT — which is a song that's about surrounding yourself with good people in times of hardship as well as the importance of being a good friend and supporting others. Along with sharing the album next year, Davis will be hitting the road with Tones and I in the UK and Europe in March. We recently sat down with him to talk about spending time in Asia recently, collaborating and what he's been working on.

You were recently in Asia for Music Matters in Singapore as well as the Philippines. What was that experience like?

Asia was crazy, especially in the Philippines. Being there was a big eye-opener for me because I'm half Filipino and growing up my mum was heavy into the Philippines stuff. But I hadn't gone home in such a long time, so it was really cool to be able to go home and do music and be producing for artists out there. That was super cool. It's just so good to get out and see the world. Singapore was amazing too, but it was boiling hot. Being there though and seeing other artists from around Asia was really inspiring. There's people from Third World countries who are grinding hard and becoming artists, I found being there very inspiring. It was a really cool experience.

So spending time in Asia helped refuel your motivation to make music?

One hundred percent. It's very easy when you grow up in Australia to go, "Oh I need to make it in America." Some artists gravitate towards the Western world and forget about other parts of the world. It was cool to see that there's a whole different market out there. It's a whole different world. Being there opened my mind up too, especially with collaborating. There's some Asian artists that I met who wanted to work with me and I probably wouldn't have met them if I didn't go over there.

Do you see yourself spending more time over there?

Definitely. I see myself going back there and doing shows and working with everyone that I built friendships with, one-hundred percent.

Where else in the world do you see yourself taking your music to?  

In March, I'm going to the UK and Europe to tour with Tones and I, which I can't wait for. I'm a mad football fan too, so to be able to go to the UK and hopefully watch some games would be mental for me. I have a feeling that I want to be back in America next year too, as well as go back to Asia. I really want to go to Thailand and Indonesia as well.

I read that you filmed the video for 'Wilderness' in the Philippines. What was that experience like?

That was so crazy. In the video, I get kidnapped by all these random artists and get taken to different locations. It's a bit confusing, but that's legit how I felt there because every day I was with another artist in another studio, and traffic was always bananas in the Philippines, it's the third-worst in the world. So it was always chockers to get in a taxi or an Uber, or they call it Grab there. You'll literally be in there for 45 minutes before getting to another location and another artist. It was good to be doing something like a video in a different country.

'Wilderness' is very personal but it's also a song that's relatable to others who have encountered a difficult patch. What's the message that you hope listeners take from the song?

I think just to be a good friend. Especially with social media and stuff, when someone's sort of having a meltdown or someone's breaking apart, if you don't like someone and they post something, you won't like their photo. It's weird how our world has drifted towards overthinking everything that we're doing online. If you get to the crux of it, it's pretty crazy that we've become like that as people. I went through a pretty hard time two and a half years ago, and people that I thought would come for me never did. Me going through something became a conversation starter rather than, "Well he needs help." So I think the biggest message I want people to get from it is to not become a slave to the machine. Even if it's online, we're dealing with real people. It's very easy to get lost in everything and treat everyone like a number. These are real people, and real situations. Stuff can get really dark. You need to try your best to be there for others going through stuff or at least make an effort to help them.

Is being open in your music something that comes naturally to you?

My mum was pretty blunt when I was growing up, she'd just tell you how it is. It'd be pretty embarrassing, like we'd go to places and she'd just speak her mind. She was one of those mums. So that rubbed off on me, and I always just feel like the best stuff comes out when I'm honest and I'm not trying to fake it. When my music started going really well for me, I sort of was becoming something that I wasn't. My best stuff comes from being honest and that's just who I am.

You mentioned earlier that you collaborated with artists in the Philippines. What do you enjoy about collaborating with others?

Being a producer-artist is cool as every time I collaborate, vocally it's a different instrument each time. It's kind of like different colours on a painting. I love it as each artist I work with is unique and being able to hit the studio with a different artist each time is amazing as it means my music is always going to be more different than the last.

How much time do you spend with your music before sharing it with someone else?

I do a lot by myself until I reach a point that I'm sort of happy, then I'll give someone else a peek. I used to send stuff straight away, but I definitely learned my lesson from doing that. I hate sending stuff to people and going, "Just letting you know, this isn't mixed or mastered, so don't judge." I've decided now that If I'm going to make any excuses before I send music to someone, that it isn't worth sending in the first place. I want to be at a point where I'm just completely happy with it and there's no excuses, nothing to hide behind. I just send it off, and then they just tell me what they think.

You've got your second album coming out next year, what did you learn the first time around that's helped you this time?

To take my time. It's taken me around two years this time. The last one took me six months. I've learned so much since then. I've become a better producer since then as well and a better musician. My writing has also improved. I've definitely taken my time this time. A lot has hit me in life since then too. There's a lot more depth to my new music because life was pretty sweet when I made the last one. I was just writing songs for fun at that point.

What have you experimented with sonically this time that you didn't on the first album?

I was really safe with the last one. I didn't push the envelope too much because I wanted to fit the bill of what people expected from music. With this one, I wanted to be honest to myself. With my new album, it's a lot braver sonically, and much more true to myself.

Along with the album next year, what else do you have coming up?

I've got the Tones and I tour in March. I've been working with so many artists too. It's been a really good year for me production-wise. I've had an awesome opportunity to work with people overseas and here. I've got a lot of tracks I've produced for people coming out too, which is crazy exciting.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)
Photos by Kristy Smolcic (folio)

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