It's official. Downtown West Palm has more than one music festival to be giddy about. Now back for its second year, Summer Jam is slated to turn the Meyer Amphitheater into a little reggae paradise at the end of the month. The lineup is stacked with reunions of mega-local acts Boxelder and Doorway 27 and presents a fresh crop of national talent.
One artist heading South for Summer Jam is songstress Alana Davis. What do you think when you hear the term "32 Flavors"? If your first reaction is to sing the catchy song instead of run to the nearest Baskin Robbins, well then, you just might be an Alana Davis fan. Davis made her mark on the music scene with her popular cover of Ani DiFranco's "32 Flavors" in 1997. So where has she been since then? We found out the answer to that question, as well as the music veteran's take on the current state of the industry.
New Times: You have been making music professionally for over 15 years. What types of changes, good or bad, have you noticed in the music industry in that time?
Alana Davis: To be honest, I don't pay any attention to the changes in the business. Who cares about the guys in the suits? They have to flex to keep up with us, not the other way around. My job has never changed. I make music. Thankfully, I will always have a need for music, and so will everyone else. Therefore, we will always seek it, and it will always, somehow, be available.
The internet considers you as somewhat of on enigma. What have you been working on?
Well, I have been raising my daughter for the last five years. Before that, I was taking care of my mother. I have made music all throughout, perhaps selfishly at times. Music has and always will be my personal guru, but sharing it is another story. There are only some times when I am able to do that.
You started your own record company, Tigress Records, in 2005. How do you go about finding new and interesting artists to work with?
I just try not to fall asleep in the humdrum world of what is being served up. I find one needs to search for things of true inspiration and value.
Your biggest hit was an Ani DiFranco cover that you made your own, "32 Flavors." What are some of your favorite covers
I enjoy singing Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, and Joni Mitchell. I have yet to record any Billie or Joni; I hope to one day.
A sample from your song "Murder" was featured in a Jay Z song. Are you a hip-hop head?
Not since high school. Hip-hop kind of lost me after it stopped being about a real experience and became more about bitches, hos, and rented Escalades.
What female singer-songwriters inspire you to keep making music?
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None really. I play and sing because I have to. I generally don't listen to female singers, their voices are usually too high for my ear to enjoy. Plus, lyrically, I find their stories are ones I've likely experienced, so not much to learn there either. I am inspired to make music by simply living my life.
You have gotten the chance to tour and share the stage with some amazing artists. What is one festival experience or story that has stood the test of time?
I loved standing on the side of stage with Bonnie Raitt and giggling to ourselves about a fellow artist's nasty, old, gray BVDs and exposed plumber crack while he was bending over to get a beer out of a cooler. It's comforting to realize that big, shiny people are just as laughable as we are.
What about Summer Jam makes this an event you want to be involved with?
I adore reggae music and reggae people, and I am an island girl. After all, my father is part West Indian, and I was raised on the ultimate island; Manhattan!
Summer Jam is Saturday, August 31, and Sunday, September 1 at Meyer Amphitheater, 104 Datura St., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $30 for one day or $50 for two days. Alana Davis will perform August 31. Visit musicjamproductions.com
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