Folk/Soul Sister duo Daughters of Davis, have lived in a camper van and toured the UK for the last year and a half – living off 17p soup and porridge, gigging practically every city across the UK. Committed wholly to their music, they gave up everything, quit their jobs and devoted all their time to become known for their greatest passion. We sat down with Fern & Adrienne to talk tours, travelling and giving everything up for a life on the road.
By Meghan Player
What initially inspired you to become musicians?
We really enjoyed singing together from a young age and being brought up on a wholesome dose of Motown and Soul. We later got in our first band together at college, an 8 piece funk/soul band! That was when we really began to experience the fun of writing music with a group of mates. We gigged extensively around the South of England and had a lot of fun. We were all such good friends band practices were more like parties, and parties often turned into spontaneous jams!
Was there a particular artist or band that you admired?
We grew up listening to a lot of old soul when we were young. Just hearing the expression and raw soul in their music and performances really inspired us both: Artist’s like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin. Later in life we’d listen to a lot more acoustic music like Bon Iver, City and Colour, and Ray La Montagne.
Prior to heading out on tour in the van: How often were you playing gigs when you first started out? How were the first gigs you played?
We did actually gig a lot, even before we got in the tour van. Adrienne would come in from work and head straight out to gigs, not home till gone 1am then back up to work first thing in the morning! It was tough trying to hold down both a job and keeping up with the level of gigging. Our gigs always seemed to go down well. Our regular was this gorgeous deco wine bar in Winchester called Greens. They gave us our first stint of gigs in our hometown and the atmosphere there was amazing, love that place! We still go back there to play. Its nice when you get to know the bar owners, we go back a few years now.
What inspired you to sell the things you owned to buy a van and start touring?
Funnily enough it started as a joke in a way! Adrienne was tired, saying it was difficult keeping a job and doing all the music. I was just finishing my Fine Art Degree at the time and I said “Y’know what! Let’s forget all this, why not just buy a camper van and tour the UK!!”
Well after that remark I realised I’d said something I couldn’t undo, even if it was a joke! Something in Adrienne’s face changed, and I knew things would not be the same again..the next thing I knew I was selling my car, Adrienne quit her job, we were doing car boot sales in the rain and we’d brought this camper van off Ebay having completely wiped out our bank accounts!
How do you keep motivating yourself to keep touring?
A big motivator on the road was actually the state of our bank balance! With the majority of our money going on diesel and CD runs, we had little extra for food. We lived mainly off of a diet of economy porridge and noodles, so some days we knew if we didn’t get out and play we wouldn’t be eating much that week!
But to be honest we really love playing, so we were happy to get out there bring our music wherever our wheels took us. We found pulling up on some deserted country lane in the middle of a rainy day and jamming out some new material was a great way to keep our set fresh and keep us excited about our next gig.
There is a certain gypsy like quality to the band, being able to travel from place to place with your music – have you found that your experiences on the road have inspired or worked their way into your music?
[Laughs] Yes it very much has! I’d always keep a journal/scrap-book on the road because I didn’t want to forget all the incredible places we went or people we met. Really that did and still does feed so much into our music. We have this new song at the moment which is about how two sisters can survive living in a van together, in such a confide space, for such a long time. We often write from experience – we find that’s where the best heart and soul comes from in a good song.
With that in mind, is it surprising to find how far your music has reached? Are there any stories from touring that are particular favourites? ie, the places you’ve been or the people you’ve met along the way?
We have many stories from living in the van, enough to make up a really good DVD! We actually recently released a DVD about our life on the road, which is available to buy off our website. We have really had some great (and scary) times on the road. One time we nearly go broken into by a van bandit whilst we were sleeping at 4am! Luckily enough we managed to drive our home away from the burglary just in time, think the person may have been more shocked than us seeing a supposedly stationary vehicle that they’d committed to break into, into suddenly take off.
In hindsight, would you have opted to do things differently if you could? Or would you keep the van and head out on the road?
No, not at all! It’s been incredible…well all except for the english arctic weather conditions causing the van’s water supply to frequently freeze over, having to sleep in 7 layers, coping with giant spider attacks and the occasional break in, all on a diet of noodles and 17p soup…wouldn’t change a thing! [Laughs] Although there was some tough times, the experiences we had on the road really did make it worth it and brought some great opportunities. One of biggest highlights was getting to perform at St Andrews Stadium at Birmingham City FC, pitchside to 17’000 and also supporting Alison Moyet at the London Royal Opera House.
Looking forward, what will Daughters of Davis be doing in 2013? Where will the road take you so to speak?
We’ve got a lot of exciting things ahead this year, a DVD launch tour is coming up soon with showings/gigs in such diverse venues as peoples’ living rooms to cinemas and theatres! We also have some new songs to releases and of course plenty of gigs and touring so keep an eye on our website for more updates!
Many thanks to Fern and Adrienne for taking the time to chat to us. You can keep up to date with the bands travels at: www.daughtersofdavis.com