Seinabo Sey

9:30 Club presents at U Street Music Hall.

Seinabo Sey

James Davis

Sunday May 31

7:00 pm


Tickets at the Door

Seinabo Sey - (Set time: 8:50 PM)
Seinabo Sey

Some find their voice early. Others have to look for it for a long time.

Seinabo Sey found her voice early.

She found it in the music played in her home when she grew up in her father's native Gambia and in Halmstad and Stockholm, Sweden. She found it in recordings by Lauryn Hill and Destiny's Child when she started writing music as an adolescent. She found it while touring with Oskar Linnros and Maskinen and when meeting and collaborating with Stor and Linda Pira.

And she found it when she met producer and songwriter Magnus Lidehäll (Mapei, Veronica Maggio, etc.).

"Younger," Seinabo Sey's first single in collaboration with Lidehäll, is an explosive pop song with an outstanding vocal performance and an incomparably sophisticated and modern production showcasing why Sweden is one of the leading countries in pop music in 2013.

But it is also a statement. In a time when fewer and fewer artists take the opportunity to convey clear messages through their music Seinabo Sey wants to speak to her listeners with big words.

Her request?

Go after your dreams! Grab the bull by the horns! Seize the day and do it now because you are not getting any younger!

"Younger" is about daring to be yourself, says Seinabo Sey. About claiming what is rightfully yours. About not making yourself dumber than you are in order to achieve your dreams and to never forget that when it comes down to it those who try to suppress you are mere mortals just like you. Many of my favorite songs are songs that have boosted my self-esteem and given me strength and in a sense that's what I try to achieve with my own music too. The lyrics to "Younger" are addressed to me as much as to the listener.

Whilst working on "Younger" Seinabo Sey and Magnus Lidehäll took turns in sending words and music back and forth to each other before meeting up in the studio to record. When Lidehäll found fragments he liked, he left them untouched for the final mix. The chorus to "Younger" is such a fragment. The way it sounds in the finished version is exactly the way it sounded when Seinabo first recorded it on her cell phone at her kitchen table.

Seinabo has a unique voice, says Magnus Lidehäll. Not just because of her vocal range, but also because of the character of her voice. You seldom hear someone who sings like she does on the radio. Not only has she got a truly unique voice, she is also totally believable when she sings. That's a rare thing.

An album is scheduled to be released in 2014. But to Seinabo Sey what is most important is to maintain her voice.

"I take nothing for granted. But one thing is for sure. I will sing for the rest of my life. I do not care how it's done. I will always do this no matter what happens."

A voice that grabs hold of the listener and demands attention.

You either have it or you do not.

It is as simple as that.
James Davis - (Set time: 8:00 PM)
James Davis

It's simple. Really. James Davis is a band, three musician siblings who have now come together after separately deciding they needed a way to express the songs that were constantly forming in their heads. Comprised of fraternal twin sisters Jess and Rey with their younger brother Auston, their music blends stripped-down soul with heartfelt modern rock. In the spring of 2015, they will release their self-titled debut EP on Motown Records.

They call themselves James Davis because it's a family name. They grew up in Los Angeles, but they never stayed in one place for too long. They kept transitioning through the seemingly endless, disparate neighborhoods of a city where a five-minute drive can make you feel like you're in a whole other town. Today the three all still live together.

Within their shared home they made their EP. It's an intimate collection that yearns for a connection with others, fitting for a group who describe themselves as out-going introverts. "Every song you hear is from us. We want this to really be authentic," says Jess. All three of them sing on it, and the EP was entirely recorded by Auston in his bedroom. "We're self-sufficient, for sure," he says.

While still a teenager, Auston surreptitiously taught himself the digital producing programs GarageBand and Logic on Rey's borrowed laptop. Once his talents came out into the open, Ronnie Kaufman, the drummer for the Gap Band and a family friend, showed him how to compose on the keyboards. At the same time, Rey was teaching herself guitar so she could write the songs that she knew were inside of her. She could express these works with her raw and evocative voice, but knew they could be built up and made better by the family that surrounded her. Eventually Jess -- who in an earlier stage of her lifetime pursued a music career, though abandoned it after getting a taste of the industry at its worst -- was convinced to join them, bringing her powerful voice and love of harmonies.

The songs are deeply personal matters and carry that emotional weight. "Our music is about our life experiences -- pain, joy, victory and the disappointments," says Rey. Lead single "Better Than You Are" is a spare and beautiful song about moving forward with your life. It begins with just Rey's singing, a simple keyboard part and a spare beat before it unfolds to include an increasing complex arrangement and the voices of all three siblings. The hopeful "On Me" shows the group's California connection, as the winding guitar and insistent tambourine give it a classic summery pop sheen, even if it's grounded in their knowledge that the sun eventually has to set. "Wish You Bye" cuts even deeper, a remorseful about-to-breakup song stripped down to just an acoustic guitar and their intertwining harmonies that was somehow inspired by 2 Chainz's "Birthday Song."

There is no set way for a James Davis composition to begin or a process for it to come together. Any of the three might start it, taking it as far as they are able, but always leaving space, knowing that the others will be able to transform it into something greater. "We give whoever started the song room to exhaust all the ideas before either of us comes in," says Rey. It's an entirely unselfish way of songwriting. "We are three different individuals, so we have different takes," Rey continues. "We know our strengths."

"Better Than You" began during a difficult conversation between Rey and Jess, which Rey interrupted to get her guitar and start working out the idea. The two sisters recorded it as a simple acoustic version, which they then gave to Auston, persuading him to add the haunting arrangement with keys, strings, drums and his own comforting voice. The tender but dark "Co Pilot" was born during one of Auston's marathon sessions where he disappears into his bedroom for days to work on music. Rey explains she often has to stand outside of his door and take notes on which songs to bother him about later, making sure he doesn't delete them before the sisters can help shape them. The direct and gorgeous "Can't Love Me" is pulled from a journal entry that Jess wrote at Dockweiler Beach and is set to a melody that Rey had been developing. As a result of these disparate approaches, their compositions can take untraditional forms. "One song may be only two chords, we may not have a bridge, or we may have five verses and no resolve," says Rey. "We don't create in a box, but we believe it's relatable."

What has mainly been a private project, James Davis has started performing live with a bare setup. Rey plays guitar, Auston is on keyboards and Maschine, while Jess offers her voice. Until now James Davis has also kept a minimal web presence, an anomaly in today's musical landscape. They've held tightly to their songs, because they know they're valuable. Now they're ready, for you.
Venue Information:
U Street Music Hall
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009