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Abbe Davis, Lead Singer of Sordid Fable
I'm in South Florida -from NYC- on my way to interview Abbe Davis, lead singer/songwriter of the hard rock/post grunge band, Sordid Fable out of South Florida. They did a Marjorie Stoneman Douglas event in Parkland, FL recently. I was blown away by her strong voice, and the band's overall sound.
The band has combustible energy, with tunes that have either cool rock rhythms, and then a classic rock sound in slower tempo songs. Very catchy songs. It's what you expect of rock music, and it doesn't disappoint.
Some artists I meet are hard to read, yet Abbe isn't. She is warm and a bit shy. As we're about to begin, I can't help but laugh to myself about how she is organizing her stuff on the couch, nervously (the water, the phone, distracted), yet on stage, in some rock n roll trance, it is all focus.
JY: Let's begin here. I loved your sound! Where are you when you sing? I like asking this because artists experience things in different ways.
Abbe: OK, I will answer that, yet I have to first ask you, are you related to Peter Yarrow? Cause my mom went to school with Peter Yarrow. It's her thing. She used to sing songs to me from that folk group when I was little, like "Puff the Magic Dragon"?
JY: No, I"m not related, yet I get asked that all of the time. Also, do you know what that song is about?
Abbe: (laughing) Uh, yes, I do. As a kid, I thought Jackie Paper was some cool paper kid who had a dragon friend he hung out with. Later on I learned the truth.
JY: (laughing) Did your mom know what it meant or is she into getting high?
Abbe: MY mom? No! My mom is so square. She didn't even do that with me and my dad
when we got him some pot - when he was sick with cancer, and we were trying to just get him to eat back then.
JY: Yes, I heard that you lost him to cancer. In the Spring, your originals will be about him, right?
Abbe: Well, I'm sure at least one song on it will be. I want to have 10% of sales go to gastrointestinal cancer again, in his memory. I want to again put moneyi nto Dana Farber Research, in Boston. I did the Pan Mass Challenge, to raise thousands a few years back. It's a lifelong thing now, to give to that.
JY: Hey, that's what music and the arts is about, it's always great to see artists do that. Where you close, or did you guys have a tough time usually? Not everyone is close to their parents, even if they love them.
Abbe: We were very close. He understood me more than anyone in certain ways. My family tells me I can be a lot like him. I got even closer to him when he got sick-cause I asked him if I could be his healing support coach. He would tease me cause I had these dried beans, and if he got negative I'd say "I'm your healing coach, you are being negative, the book I have says I need to give a bean to you when you do that, so try not to, ok? It's not going to help you to be negative, dad." So, one day on his own he grabs a dried bean and throws it onto his plate and says to me, "Ab, I was being negative." He was a funny, great guy. Like a cowboy type but sillier. And no b.s. The shortcomings of your parents does fade away, when they get sick and all you want to do is save them. Cancer fucking sucks.
JY: It's awful. Yet you guys were bonded. Did he like music?
Abbe: Oh yeah, he and his mom (my grandma) had great voices. He sounded like Tony Bennett, no lie, that good. He was always singing something around the house, Jazz, 1950's ballads, the Beatles, Jimmy Buffet, Billy Joel, and his favorite, Neil Diamond.
JY: Let's get into your what is it, four ranges, or what, that voice!
Abbe: You know, I worked on my voice a lot by the time I got to high school, and then it was at UM. Yah, there are a lot of great singers out there.
JY: Now don't go being modest, this is rock n roll! When did your actual singing begin?
Abbe: (laughing) Aw man, my mom loves to embarass me, says I began at age 5. Ya know, for me, it was always music. I just don't remember a time of not humming, singing, or loving music.
JY: Did you get lessons, how did it go growing up - instruments and things like that?
Abbe: I began piano in my teenage years. Guitar I am working on. I wrote my first tune at age 12, during a wild house party one of my brothers threw. So, as the middle school kids trashed our family home, I locked myself in a room and wrote this tune. I still have the paper, written with a yellow highlighter. I was like "Where'd this come from?"
JY: So then how did your vocals and the rest go on from there?
Abbe: From there I knew I wanted to sing in a band, my brother played drums in some bands and he'd bring me and say "You have to hear her sing." I'd sing and the guys wanted me to be in their band, but I was too young (I thought), so I'd go home and just write music at the piano. Then I took lessons when I got to high school, a private teacher, for classical voice, cause I wanted my voice to work well. Was the best thing I could have done. I learned so much about breathing. Mind you, one summer my parents forced me to go with them to a Summer Workshop in N.C., Salem. I was terrified. My first teacher was this amazing woman out of Harlem, Betty Allen was her name. I later learned about how she was this legendary teacher. Man, that large, smiling woman, she had me sing some spiritual tune, and bam! A voice I didn't know I ever had, just soulfully flew out of me! I never heard myself use my voice that way before then.
JY: What else have you studied with music?
Abbe: I studied Jazz, Blues, in college. I was at UM in Florida. Met a lot of very good musicians. I was too shy to go for it with the contacts. Funny how now I'm in touch with those musicians even more.
JY: Do you and your brother play now, does he drum?
Abbe: Hm, he does, he is good, yet he is into flying planes more. Commercial pilot, etc.
JY: Ah, ok. How is the band and new songs, what is going on for you guys?
Abbe: We're good. Working on many new tunes. I have a lot.
JY: A good problem to have.
Abbe: Eh, yes and no.
Abbe: Narrowing down which songs to play is tricky. I also write in many styles, too. I try to suppress some of it, or I'd go bananas. I stick to the rock genre. Songs are filed in styles (pop, folk, country, hard rock, classic rock, metal) not sure why I'm made like this. I even tell the guys "The issue is, my tunes are advanced progressions in my head, and sadly, I'm just not there yet with guitar, etc) I try to serve it, I am always learning. It's also a challenge for me to use Pro Tools. I don't suck with technology really, I'm just not patient enough, it seems like a long process even with the many poeple I know who use it and they get stuck on something for about 5 hours and my brain goes "Oh, no, no, no, I would't be able to handle that." I also don't have the time. I'm working on using/trying out phone apps currently.
JY: How is that going?
Abbe: It's going. (laughs)
JY: Tell me about your tunes, "Day of Colors" and "Show Me."
Abbe: Those songs are ones from a while back. They always work well, and I wrote each of those in about 5 minutes each. Those are the songs I like. I figure, if it just came to me so fast, then I'm just channeling it at that point.
JY: Do you believe in spirits, or the lord above, what is your dogma?
Abbe: My dogma, good question! Who knows? I think that there is some higher power out there, I don't think I just came here and it is what it is. I think we people down here mess things up. I think whatever put all the beauty here, that spirit looks on all of us and is shaking it's head like "What the hell are you doing? I gave you free will to learn but whoa, what are you doing? You're ruining things, stop!" Not every person, just collectively, I mean.
JY: I hear you, are you into politics, care to voice that?
Abbe: Oh, no way. I hear it enough when I do facebook posts. I'm going to say here, just VOTE, people.
JY: Yah, I get that a lot, too. Do you guys do cover tunes ever?
Abbe: Once in a blue moon, and very selectively. I have a lot of songs I want to get out there.
JY: How and when do songs come toyour head?
Abbe: It's at odd times. I'll wake up and the songs want OUT NOW. Or it could be when I'm with friends, family. It varies.
JY: Who are your influences?
Abbe: Too many. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, too. Then Steve Morris, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheney, just so many. Carter Beauford, Dave Matthews, these poeple amaze or have always amazed me. Blown away by them. I love Baroque music and a lot of things; Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, lyrics, meaning. Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carol King, Billy Joel, Elton John, songwriting geniuses. I could go on and on. I mean, in Rock music, always Freddy Mercury, Queen, his voice has always made me tear up. Paul McCartney and James Taylor, too, and Aretha, Bono and U2. Cause it is from someplace beyond, makes me think there is more than what we see with our eyes.
JY: All inspired. How do you feel when you are singing, or doing a show?
Abbe: Flying, it's like flying. I am someplace else. I mean, I'm there, but I'm gone. It's like being in two places at one time, hard to explain.
JY: When I ask musicians, they say they are in a trance, yet then, how do musicians make eye contact when they are flying?
Abbe: Good question! Yah, I am not exactly sure. Don't know. How do you look at your partner when you are having sex?
JY: (laughing) Nice answer, that explains it! So look, not to change the subject, but, how is it to be in a male band now, with all of these issues of gender going on "me, too," the Ford hearings, do you guys talk about it?
Abbe: We stick to music, yet I care about people. I can't trash the ones who are having a sad experience.
JY: The Stoneman, Actions for Change concert, what changes do you want to see?
Abbe: I want to see people want this country to have the universal background checks on guns, and for states to work on mental health awareness. There is too much divide right now about basics. And, it isn't all black or white, either; yet the basics values should be there. Important to get information and know what to vote for in Nov.
JY: Agreed. Did you meet Alyssa Milano at the show?
Abbe: See, now you sound like some of my friends. (laughing) Yes and no. She walked by and, I smiled. I just didn't want to bother her, it was a hot day out, and she had MSD parents to speak to, and others for hours on end. That was important for her to do. She gave a lot of time to everyone.
JY: Advice to musicians?
Abbe: Oh gosh, hm. To anyone in music, Music is not about being competitive and ya have to remember why you truly began and put work into it. It should be about doing your music, being real, learning, always learning, being open, being decent, helping others, community, etc. It's a path, all of it, and about sharing the gifts; don't take that for granted.
JY: Great advice. Thank you, Abbe. This has been fun! Love your voice and music, you guys rock!
Abbe: Thank you, Jason, glad to be here.
Jason Yarrow, Writer
Freelance Writer, JT Press, NYC
For more info or to hear the Abbe Davis band, go to www.sordidfable.com