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Emily Dolan Davies

Emily Dolan Davies

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Emily Dolan Davies

Session drummer Emily Dolan Davies has played with a host of top artists including Bryan Ferry, The Darkness and Kim Wilde. She also helps young drummers make their way in the industry with her video series, ‘A Drummer's Guide To…’ and offers remote recording via her website. She uses Aston Starlights and Spirits to capture her Yamaha 9000 kit…

The Darkness, Bryan Ferry, Kim Wilde, Thompson Twins, The Hours, John Holden
Emily uses these Astons:
Spirit
Starlight
A glitch in the Matrix

“There was always music on in the house. My dad played guitar ever since I could remember. He tried showing me how to play but I didn’t understand why I had to use three of my fingers to create a note! It just wasn’t for me. I tried bass, and saxophone, even flute, it just wasn’t the thing, but I still loved music.

There was a drum club starting at school. I was the shyest kid but there was something that drew me to it, so I decided to try it out. There were about 30 of us, and I just sat down and started doing what the teacher was telling me to do, and it just kind of made sense. It’s like everything just locked into place. It was like Neo in the Matrix - it felt like I could see the code! I thought “I want to be good at this”. I knew instantly this was sort of my calling, if you want to call it that.

I could see my parents were a bit excited, but also thinking ‘drums… really!? The loudest thing’. Then my dad went into the next room and came back with Rush’s album ‘Exit Stage Left’ and put on YYZ and said, “You want be a drummer? THIS is a drummer!” It just all began from there. I was absolutely hooked; I just fell head over heels in love and I still am to this day… I love the drums SO MUCH!”

Is this what it’s like?

“I appreciate the production side of stuff and I’ve got a little bit into the engineering side of things since starting my studio, but I am through and through a drummer. I know the amount of work and dedication it takes - I wouldn’t say to ‘master’, I think you can always do more – but to have got to where I’m at. I’ve never fallen in love with anything else in the same way that I have with drums, apart from food, I love food!

In 2008 I was playing with a band called The Hours - I think it was the second gig we ever did, at Sotheby’s in New York, and it was for Bono’s RED charity. That in itself was like, ‘woah, is this professional gigging? This is great!’. We did our set and then we came back for an encore - a couple of Beatles tunes - and Bono came up and played with us! Another time I played Prince’s New Year’s Eve party with Bryan Ferry - so mental!

I thought ‘is this what it’s like?! I could do this… I don’t mind this’. But then one month later we were on the road in a splitter [tour bus], nothing glamorous, going round Unis doing a support slot. I mean it was great, I loved it, I was playing and getting paid, that was always like my only goal really.”

Arsene and Ewan

“I always ended up doing Bryan Ferry’s corporate shows, which were great - really mental galas with a really weird mix of people. There was one gig we were doing in Geneva and I was playing away; loving life. I looked out and thought, ‘that looks like Ewan McGregor, that’s weird’. I kept playing, and then I looked over the other way; ‘that looks like Arsene Wenger!’ I grew up as the biggest Arsenal fan. I wouldn’t say I am now, I kind of dip in and out, but as a kid, Arsene Wenger, oh my gosh, absolute idol!

We got off stage and the manager said, ‘there’s someone in the dressing room I think that you’d want to meet’. It was Arsene Wenger! Total fangirl! He was very sweet but I realised I actually had nothing to talk to him about at all, other than telling him ‘I love you’. I thought, right, this is awkward, so I went to get a drink and the door bursts open and Ewan McGregor walks in! He said “Hi, I just had to come and speak to you! You obviously love what you do” and I went… “yea!…I really do.” He told me he used to play the drums! We had this lovely conversation and it was like chatting to an old mate, he was so sweet. Just random…”

Beneath the Starlights

“My kit is a Yamaha 9000. I’m not a Gretsch girl, even my first ever kit was a Yamaha. I did have a brief spat with a DW for about a year that I thought I wanted since I was a kid. I got it and went, ‘Ew, this actually doesn’t sound that nice…’ and my £400 kit sounded better than this one that was £4000, or something like that. I do have a couple of old vintage Hayman kits that I use if I need vintage sound, but generally, my 9000 is just set up all the time in the studio and on the road - it’s like a workhorse. It’s great.

I was doing a festival, and someone recommended Aston mics to me. I’d heard of them but didn’t know much about them so I got in touch, and they sounded great! I’ve now got a stereo pair of Starlights, and I’ve got a Spirit, they’re awesome.

I’ve been using Starlights for the overheads, which sound great, like really, REALLY good. Before I was using these Audix pencil mics, which were fine, but the Starlights were just very obviously next level. It sounded brilliant. And I’ve had the Spirit as a room mic, which was really, really good. It took a while to find a good position in the room, but it sounds really great!”

Crushing it

“I want to make recording drums accessible for anyone that is creating music, I think that’s a really amazing thing that we’re able to do with the internet and technology.

I started doing this video series called, “A Drummers Guide To…’ where I basically answer the questions that I had as an 11,12,13 year-old drummer who wanted to be a professional. I want to help the younger version of me and let them know they’re not alone if they’re struggling. I connect with people through their music, and that gives me so much joy.

I share my biggest failures in music and things that taught me the biggest lessons, but were also absolutely heart-breaking and almost got me to the point of giving up.

I read a book called ‘Crushing It’, it’s quite an extreme version of ‘right, go do something you’re passionate about and you can help people’. It’s got a great message. I wanted to give back something to the community, in the same way that the drum community gave to me and supported me, and any time I was struggling I would reach out to drummers and they would offer me the most amazing advice and support. I just thought this might be a good way of doing the same thing for young drummers, or people trying to do it.”

Out-takes

Q. What are your desert island discs and favourite artists?
A. Last year there were two; John Paul White from the Civil Wars; who I think is one of the most phenomenal songwriters at the moment, I just adore him; and Moses Sumney, a guy from LA, he’s almost like Jeff Buckley, mixed with Radiohead, mixed with D’Angelo. That’s last year.

I know what I was obsessed with at 21, because that’s when I was playing with The Hours! I got introduced to David Axelrod! That album, Songs of Innocence, I was OBSESSED with. I would listen to it constantly, and Earl Palmer on the drums - I fell in love with him playing.

The great thing about the musicians in the Hours was they all had such great musical taste, they introduced me to so much good stuff. All-time favourites that I’ve grown up with: Radiohead, John Mayer, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, that was what was playing in our house when I was very young!

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. I’d very much be lost if I didn’t have the drums. It’s all I ever think about! I consider myself so lucky, not only to have found my passion but to be able to make a living from it.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston or your experience with the brand?
A. 
Indestructible, friendly, warm (both in sound and personality), versatile

Q. What was the first song that made you cry? 
A. ‘Karma Police’ by Radiohead

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