5 Questions with Eisa Davis



Eisa Davis is a busy lady. The award-winning actress and Pulitzer Prize finalist has appeared on stage opposite James Gandolfini and appeared in hit television shows like The Wire and House of Cards. She’s also a staple in the New York City music scene, having performed at Joe’s Pub, Symphony Space, and BAMCafé, to name a few. On March 12, Eisa will take the stage alongside Kate Davis, Olivia Harris, and more as part of The Songwriter’s Orchestra.
1. Tell our readers about yourself and how you first started making music.

I have a friend who talks about “the incantatory nature of childhood”, that we love to repeat things over and over in chants and make up songs as we move around. that definitely applies to me. you ever sing a song in the shower about your soap? We used Dr Bronner’s when I grew up in Berkeley, and so I made up a song that went “Pep-per-mint, mint la la…” or my cousin and I would sing songs doing chores like washing dishes: “yes grandmother, yes grandmother, tweedle-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee.” I also grew up with an incredible musical education, studying classical piano and hearing amazing jazz musicians, gospel singers, and all the pop and hip hop of the time–so by junior high’s adolescent angst and unrequited love, the ballads and odd chamber pieces started making their appearances.
2. Songwriter’s Orchestra brings musicians from countless genres together. The ensemble features vocalists from Broadway, up and coming rock guitarists, and more. What’s your musical background? What do you bring to the ensemble?

my piano teacher would always chide me if I made any unnecessary hand flourishes ​or showed off how much I was into my own playing. he wanted the musical experience to be fully sovereign to the audience rather than the audience being told what to feel. I think his aesthetic has affected me a great deal as a performer. I can’t force anything now, can’t peacock. I’m always in awe of people who can do that, who milk every single second on stage, from Keith Jarrett to Valerie Simpson, both of whom I’ve seen perform recently. who knows. maybe I’ll start taking things over the top to switch it up a little.
3. What does it mean to be a part of the Songwriter’s Orchestra? Are you traditionally a solo performer or do you play music with a band? What sort of experience can our readers expect on March 12?

​I almost always play with a band, but Songwriter’s Orchestra is my movie score fantasy come true. what we’ll try to do with these songs is sweeten your life with chord progressions, and with simple, elegant lyrics and vocals, move you to self-reflection, maybe even compassion.

4. Can you tell us a bit about a concert you truly enjoyed being part of? Who was on the bill? What was the venue?

it was a big deal to perform at Symphony Space for the first time. it was their Wall to Wall Miles Davis celebration and I had a solo with the band Burnt Sugar where all I did was whistle. but I can’t think of a show I haven’t enjoyed. ​if I do a show and people show up, that’s enjoyable.
5. Do you have any pre-show rituals (or even, superstitions) that you have to do before taking the stage?

look in the mirror and make sure there aren’t any boogers. but I forget to do that sometimes too. so, no, I guess. it’s a good idea to warm up so there aren’t any unexpected crackles. basically I just try to remember to breathe and talk to the audience as I sing. be there and ride the sound rather than let it go by while I’m in my head judging it. ​I usually forget to do all of that too.​
See Eisa Davis perform live with The Songwriter’s Ensemble on March 12. Tickets are on sale at now.