Alana Davis readily admits to the weakness that brought her where she is today.
"I'm addicted to noise," the curly-haired singer/songwriter/guitarist said earlier this month
at designer Tommy Hilfiger's Manhattan, N.Y., studio, while she was being fitted for her
gigs on the now-in-progress H.O.R.D.E. tour.
The 24-year-old pop-rocker, who resembles a younger Joan Osborne, is suddenly an
artist to watch, after her cover of indie queen Ani DiFranco's
Flavors"(RealAudio excerpt of cover version) got radio attention and she
signed on for this year's version of the popular H.O.R.D.E. festival tour.
The "noise" that's been generating so much public noise is distinctive: a folk-pop blend
with a sophisticated, jazzy lilt -- a sound that's made Davis stand out from the current
crowd of young female vocalists.
But Davis, a native and resident of Manhattan's Greenwich Village and a daughter of
jazz enthusiasts, insists she wasn't looking for any of this attention or, for that matter, for
"I wasn't looking for a record deal," she said. "I made a demo tape with a friend ... who
sent it around to people and somehow it fell into the hands of Elektra Records. It ended
up being lucky."
Davis' decision to join Elektra -- a move that yielded her debut album, 1997's Blame It
On Me -- wasn't as straightforward as one might expect. Davis said she had to think
long and hard about her future.
"I love music and always wanted to do music, but I didn't know if I was ready to put all my
eggs in that basket," Davis said. "I played guitar and wrote songs ... but never really
shared them with anybody. I wanted to be a veterinarian."
Animal lover or not, Davis soon found herself opening up for better-known acts, such as
Tonic, on the club scene. And she quickly jumped at the chance to join H.O.R.D.E.
(Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) when its resident guru, Blues Traveler's
John Popper, contacted her management.
"I saw her at [Manhattan club] Roseland," Heidi Kelso, H.O.R.D.E.'s tour director, said of
Davis. "She's been getting really big crowds. In San Francisco [recently] there was a
long line to see her. [Alana is a] really good performer who's had a really good response.
[H.O.R.D.E. crowds] really seem to like her."
"I get to play for audiences that aren't mine [at H.O.R.D.E.], which is good," said Davis.
"But it's hard. You concentrate on what you're doing, 'cause you want to win people
(RealAudio excerpt), Blame It On Me's second single, isn't going to be
commercially available like "32 Flavors." Following the rationale of most record
companies these days, Elektra is only shipping the song to radio stations.
"Now you gotta buy the record," Davis said, succinctly summing up the reasoning.
As for the controversial decision to cover DiFranco's song -- a choice that has angered
DiFranco's loyal fans and seemingly disturbed the maverick singer/songwriter herself --
Davis acknowledges the irony of getting radio attention with a song by an acclaimed
artist who's rarely played on the radio.
"Initially, when I did it, I sent it to her to make sure that she liked it," Davis explained. "She
and her camp said that they loved it. It's only after her fans started reacting that her
feelings started to change, and that's too bad."
"[The cover] has only done good things," Davis added. "I changed the lyrics and stuff but I
didn't take any credit. She's laughing all the way to the bank. I wish her fans would
realize that it has bumped her sales. I told so many people at top-40 [stations] who she is
that never would have known -- and she has done something pretty amazing."
But Davis is now moving on to "Crazy" 's commercial prospects and has already filmed a
video for the song -- an activity about which she has mixed feelings.
"I have a questionable take on what videos have done to the music industry," Davis said.
"They just want it to be a long commercial with a million shots of me. That's the last thing
that I would want to do. I would want to make a nature video. Maybe for the third one."
For the moment, Davis is focusing on the H.O.R.D.E. fest. Her new band, which includes
bassist Kevin Jenkins, is just starting to gel. And this excites Davis, because she's never
had a band for an extended period.
"I kind-of wanna get outta here," Davis said about her Manhattan base as she chose a
funky jacket from the Hilfiger collection from a fashion assistant. "I'm ready [for the tour]
and when I come back a couple of months later, I'll set up something new for myself. I'm
ready to give it all I got."
Spoken like a true road warrior.