Violinist Davis West is returning to his Americana roots with his bluegrass-inspired album Bedroom Bluegrass. Across 12 tracks, he mixed bluegrass with lo-fi while bringing the precision of his violin playing to the fore. Featuring a range of collaborators, the album brings a sound you never really knew you were missing to your ears while offering West’s interpretation of the genre. We had the chance to talk with Davis West about his album, getting back to his roots, home recordings, previous release comparisons and much more!
OSR: As a trained violinist, what drew you to Americana and bluegrass music?
West: Bluegrass has always interested me because of its raw, acoustic nature that brings out this sort of primal side in me. Where classical music and jazz idolize status and perfection, I feel like bluegrass truly encapsulates musicality and creativity within a simple musical frame.
OSR: Your latest album Bedroom Bluegrass is an interesting mixture of lo-fi pop, choppy violin and bluegrass. What prompted you to create this rather unique sound?
West: Bedroom Bluegrass is a result of my many influences and my best attempt at capturing my current musical tastes. I don’t think my goal was to make something unique, but rather to make something as close to “me” as possible.
OSR: What was your creative process for the album? Did you start with a single track or did you map out the entire album?
West: A lot of tracks from the album came from my masters’ dissertation while I was studying at Berklee College of Music. My thesis was called “100 days of jams” in which I composed, edited, recorded, and uploaded a new piece of music every day. Nearly four years later, I still go back to those seeds of ideas, and during the first quarantine, I wanted to develop them further. Before I knew it, I had enough material to put together an album, and thus Bedroom Bluegrass was born.
OSR: As the album was recorded in your bedroom studio, what was the biggest challenge you faced creating it?
West: I find that recording in my own bedroom is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I found it really easy to dip in and out of work flow, but on the other, that meant it was just as easy to step away and play video games. Maybe that’s a good thing though, to take influence from non-musical hobbies. I’ll just keep telling myself that.
OSR: You played every instrument on the album, but other than the violin, which is your favourite to play?
West: I think the piano is my next favourite instrument to play. It’s very visual, it’s kind of a harmonic puzzle, and my mom taught it to me when I was 4 years old. It’s also the instrument I use to try out most of my ideas before recording.
OSR: The album does feature some renowned bluegrass musicians including Casey Driessen, Ben Somers and Dan Caton. How did you connect with them?
West: Casey Driessen was my mentor at Berklee, Dan Caton was my classmate and frequent collaborator there, and I met Ben Somers through Casey. I had subbed for Casey on a few of Ben’s gigs and before we knew it we became great friends. I’m humbled and truly honoured to call these stars of musicians my good friends.
OSR: There are also other collaborators featured on the album including string players from other countries, how did the distance affect the creation of the album?
West: Being a multi-disciplinary musician myself, I tend to bump into kindred musicians from across the world. In recording tracks like ‘Notebrush Jig’ and ‘Silvercloud’, part of me had definitely thought that it would be easier to record all the parts myself, but having multiple inputs and varying colours of voices is really what draws me to music I love listening to. With Daniel Lee living in Amsterdam and George Crotty living in Toronto, of course, it was a bit of a challenge to constantly send files back and forth. I felt like the final product shortened that distance greatly. In the end, I think that’s what making music and making global connections is all about: making the world feel a little bit smaller.
OSR: If people could only listen to one song on the album, which would you recommend and why?
West: I’m inclined to say ‘Point of You’. It pretty accurately showcases my tastes: acoustic, raw mandolin ostinato, an earworm fiddle chorus, and Sophie Sutton’s poppy-buttery vocals. I still think the whole album has a lot to offer within each track! ‘Liontrot’ and ‘Boring Coffee’ are also some of my favourites.
OSR: How different was it creating this album compared to your previous electronic EP?
West: Compared to Krass Alter, which was mostly videogame-infused beats, I felt like Bedroom Bluegrass was more relaxed and genuine. Not that Krass Alter wasn’t genuine, but Bedroom Bluegrass contains some pretty heartfelt lyrics, more of the choppy fiddly stuff I love, and I really took my time with it.
OSR: How do you feel your music has evolved between these two releases?
West: In producing Krass Alter, one of the big goals was to just showcase what I could do. I hadn’t released too much in the way of beats and electronic music prior, so it was kind of a show-and-tell of sorts. Bedroom Bluegrass was more of a humble snapshot of my tastes.
OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?
West: Live shows! During the pandemic, I had taught many online classes, and now that restrictions are loosening, I have been busy playing gigs around Germany. I’m planning for a tour in the spring/summer, and aiming to put together a couple singles before that. The hustle never stops.