Joshua Davis is a music lover and shares songs for a living. He has released albums under his own name, with roots ensemble “Steppin’ In It”, classic swing band “Shout Sister Shout”. Davis will soon release an album inspired by his experience in the Holy Land. The songs are deeply personal and deal with his struggle between his Jewish identity and the oppression and confusion he found in the Middle East.
Please tell us something about yourself.
I live in Lansing, MI with my incredible wife and daughter. I’m a performing songwriter, producer and teacher and I’m working on a new album based on my travels in the West Bank as part of an event called the Run Across Palestine, an ultra-marathon fundraiser in support of Palestinian fair-trade olive farming communities. I’m also Jewish and have recently reveled in my heritage thanks to an incredible corned beef sandwich. Rye. Yellow mustard.
Can you describe to us your music?
My goal is to connect with people in a positive and meaningful way and help bring communities together through my songs and stories. Much of my material is steeped in the roots of American music, early blues, country and ragtime and blends these sounds with gospel harmonies and 70’s rock n’ roll grit.
Who are your musical influences?
My stepfather is a concert promoter and DJ, mostly focusing on Avant-Garde Jazz, but he’s got a towering record collection. I would go to the basement as a kid and pull down records that looked interesting or had flashy covers. The Band, Blind Blake, Mingus, Zappa, Count Basie, MC5, Louis Jordan, Otis Redding – these and many more stuck with me. I’m also heavily influenced by all of my peers in the Earthwork Music Collective. The music scene in Michigan is unlike any other I’ve found – incredibly vibrant and supportive.
Does film photography and/or lomography play a role in your life as a musician?
It does now. I love the way different forms of media interact. I brought La Sardina with me on the Run Across Palestine and used some of the pictures as inspiration for my songs. The way that the light and darkness play together, the element of surprise, multiple exposures clashing or communing, really speaks to what I’m trying to create with this album. The album is also being recorded on to 2” tape. Analog sights, analog sounds.
What was your first impression on the La Sardina Quadrat?
I like the quirky design and simple mechanics. Love using, it’s like using a typewriter – you feel physically involved, you’re actually pushing a button that puts ink on a page, turning a wheel that pulls more film in behind the lens. Not reacting to some digital readout on a touchscreen and a sound byte. In the States and overseas, everyone wanted to know what it was. I’d take a picture and they’d all look at the back for the image. I’d say, “it’s film.” They’d look back confused. When they understood, they wanted to know all about it.
How did you find taking photos with the La Sardina Quadrat?
It’s been years since I shot with film and have always loved photography, but haven’t ever learned the tricks of the trade. This camera was so much fun to use, it’s got me wanting to learn more. My wife refreshed me on the basics, which was incredibly helpful and then I was ready to roll. I found myself shooting differently with film. Whether deliberate or spontaneous, I was more spirited than I would have been with a digital camera.
Do you have any words of advice for those who want to try shooting with La Sardina Cameras?
I’d suggest trying out all features of the camera with your first roll: flash, filters, multiple exposures, different lighting – really experiment. Have it developed and see what works and what doesn’t, what you like and what went terribly awry. Once you’ve got the hang of it, be impulsive! Those quick spur-of-the-moment shots have turned out to be my favorites, and it makes opening up your prints even more fun.
Lastly, do you have any current projects? Where can people catch you perform?
I’m putting the finishing touches on my new album, “A Miracle of Birds” which will be released in February. The album is a deeply personal collection of songs that focuses on the struggle between my Jewish identity and familial ties to Israel and the hardship and oppression I witnessed while in the West Bank. Alongside club and theater dates, I’ll be playing for communities, interfaith organizations and schools in hopes to spur meaningful dialogue about the issues in this area. I’ll be touring with an incredible band of Michigan musicians and showing scenes from “The People and the Olive”, a documentary film about the Run Across Palestine.
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