Soul Sunday with KNAGUI: Gypsy Gems – An Interview with Davina and the Vagabonds

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 03This past Spring, I was in Italy doing vocal clinics and Masterclasses. You know about some of the events The Ladybug and I attended together while I was there. And, as usual, I was in heaven chillin’ with my girl, especially since that trip started with us attending a concert featuring my homie, Raul Midon at La Salumeria della Musica in Milano. To put a marvelous musical bookend on the trip was a surprise date in my detoured route home.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 01I stopped in Minneapolis, Minnesota for business and happened to see online that a band I’d been audibly stalking was playing at a spot called Patrick’s Cabaret.  I immediately called the venue to reserve my seat.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 02Normally, here’s where my post would go into talking about the show and telling you about how amazing this venue (honestly, this place and “its” philosophy of paying and supporting artists is MIND BLOWING) is.  But, I’ve got something better… an interview with the incredible front-woman of Davina and the Vagabonds, Ms. Davina Sowers.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 07Ciao Davina, this moment has been a long time coming!  I can’t believe it’s been over 2 years sine I first heard of your artistry on NPR and now I’ve finally gotten a chance to experience you live… I must say, you were worth the wait!

GRINKIE GIRL PHOTOGRAPHY-Christie Williams02Tell me about this crew of yours, the Vagabonds, how long have you been working as this “outfit?”
The band, itself, was formed nine years ago. We’ve had many wonderful musicians through those years. The line up of Vagabonds I have now are:
Dan Eikmeier: Trumpet and Vocals
Ben Link: Trombone and Vocals
Connor McRae: Drums and Vocals
Andrew Burns: Upright Bass and Sousaphone

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 08Your sound is quite vintage, not just stylistically, but also sonically.  Why this direction?
It was never a plan. I think it was just my and The Vagabonds love for specific eras. We have what we love in our hearts and it plays out on stage and [through our] recordings.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 16But the direction isn’t pure vintage, I’d say you at times mix vintage with more modern themes and musical landscapes. Many times I picked up deep grooves in your presentation and Pocket (which was the song that introduced me to you and was later used on the blog) that night was dressed around a super hip-hop drum approach. Do you often cross-pollinate your music?
I write in many different genres. Many different feels. I have a vast love for all music. I am sucker for a good solid pop/r&B/hip-hop feel, but I’m also a sucker for a swaying swing. A lot  of my music is based upon what I’m listening to that week, that day… etc. I’m a sponge and try to emulate where my ear is that day.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 13OK, so that gives me a sense of some of some of your musical influences, but what about your influences in fashion and art?
My ultimate influence in everything is “Timelessness.”  I love the touch of a good fabric. I love the sound of good music.
There is a certain freedom in ability to be who you are. I have always been a collector of fashion past. My days as a teenager where spent sorting through my local thrift stores, finding pieces that called my name.  I was the girl people laughed at for wearing vintage bowling shoes and singing old traditional songs in front of my lunch period people. I would never want to change that. It’s just who I am, and who I’ve always been.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 10You are equally amazing on keys and with your vocals: you’re both gritty and a songbird, but your ability to convey a song is what struck me most.  All night you killed vocally, but there was a song, the Etta James record, that vocally was not as “beautiful” as the rest of the set, but you effin ripped my heart out with your convincing performance.  Can you tell me about what that song means to you and where you go when you sing it… if I’m not prying too much?
I’ve been through heartache, you’ve been through heartache, your neighbor, your mother, your father… They have all been through heartache. They deal with it or not deal with it in many ways. I sing about it. It’s the only way to make a layer of my heartache melt away. I hope my honest, gut wrenching storytelling through music helps those who can not deal or haven’t dealt with those things.
I’m a dark sensitive soul at times due to that. That is my only way to sort through the muck. Sing about it honestly and truthfully.

GRINKIE GIRL PHOTOGRAPHY-Christie Williams04I read that you’re from my home state of Pennsylvania.  Tell me about growing up there and what brought you to Minneapolis and were there any stops along the way?
Altoona, PA…[sigh]…, they were not ready for me. I struggled a lot growing up there. Left when I was 15 and never looked back. I could write a novel about what I’ve seen, done, and experienced. Maybe in another interview with you. All-in-all, Minneapolis is where I landed and ended my gypsy living. I travel and experience through the band now, and I call MPLS my home… for time being.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 11What’s next for you and the crew?
Our New Album “Sunshine” will release July 15th!  Europe for the next two months, Monterey Jazz Festival in September. Touring. Writing. Spreading the Vagabond word to as many people as we can.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 12Last thing, the Ladybug would kill me if I didn’t ask these two important TLC questions: 1st, what and where are your favorite vintage or thrift shops?  2nd, what does vintage mean to you?
Vintage means a energy from a  past life. Every vintage dress, hat, piece of jewelry, piece of furniture, book, etc… has a past story and I want to continue to keep that story going. It’s amazing how a lot of these pieces have held on so well. The idea of how they were made so differently than [the way] we make them now. This is just one of the so many reasons why I love my treasures from the past.

lavenir_davina_garrettbornphotography-49-1I have spots in different cities for clothes when I travel. I love this shop called Little Gems and I also cruise the internet. I buy TONS of jewelry and little antique nick-knacks online. I get too nervous buying clothes on the internet… I haven’t had much luck with sizes.

lavenir_davina_garrettbornphotography-22I have tried to quash some of my clothing purchases as of late. I am busting at the seems storage and body wise [she says with candor and a nubile smile]. When I lose some weight in both departments,  I will be packing less just to shop more on my journeys.

Thanks so much for your time and all the best with the next steps you and the band take!

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 05To learn more about Davina and the Vagabonds, you can visit their site, http://www.DavinaAndTheVagabonds.com, where you can listen, buy and connect.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI - Davina 04

[photo credits: Christie Williams, Garrett Born, Davina & KNAGUI]

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