Mikaela Davis is a harpist and singer from Rochester New York, USA. She released a stunning record called Delivery in 2018. And she’s toured with The Staves and Bon Iver and played in Grateful Dead founder Bob Weir’s band. For The Influences she recorded covers of Gillian Welch and Cass McCombs, and her own 'In My Groove'. “I think we’re always getting better. Over the years I’ve actually learned to play less. Sometimes simpler is better. Especially after getting into Neil Young, and realizing a song can just be one chord to four chords, and it can still be brilliant. You have to do what’s right for the song.”
The first time I heard Alela Diane was live at the Motel Mozaique festival in Rotterdam, back in 2008. 'The Pirate’s Gospel' got a European release in 2007. Here was this folk singer, encompassing everything I love about traditional folk music in modern day folk songs, sung with her brilliant voice. Her latest record 'Cusp' had a similar effect on me. For this she ‘locked’ herself up for three weeks in a cabin surrounded by snow, with nothing but a wood stove, her guitar and a piano. I guess we should be asking her for tips on how to make it through these times of self-isolation and social distancing. Instead we talked – back in 2019 – about the power of traditional songs and motherhood in this complicated world.
Job Roggeveen is an interesting and versatile artist. As a musician he played in several bands and started his own band Happy Camper, winning an Edison. As an animator, and one third of animation company Job Joris & Marieke, he was nominated for an Oscar and won an Emmy. In the last year, he focused (musically) on his solo project: instrumental piano music, resulting in the record 'Gliese' that was released last week. Earlier this winter, we met at the Dom square in Utrecht and filmed a session in the freezing cold, accompanied by visuals from Mr. Beam. Roggeveen covered Röyksopp, Massive Attack and Wu-Tang Clan.
I have so many fond memories of the first session Robert Ellis recorded for The Influences years ago, I jumped at the change to do it again. In the fall of 2019, Ellis and guitarist Kelly Doyle joined me in Job Roggeveen’s living room in Utrecht and recorded impromptu covers of Joni Mitchell and Gene Wilder’s 'Pure Imagination', and 'Let Me In' from his latest record 'Texas Piano Man'.
Some time in the Spring of 2017 I flew to Glasgow Scotland to film Ryan Joseph Burns' album launch. That night in Saint Luke's, I single-handedly filmed with six cameras. To compensate, I got up (too) early the next morning and met up with Farmer & Lewis to film at the viewing platform of The Lighthouse museum. With just one mic, one camera, a banjo, a fiddle and a stunning view of Glasgow's city center. Eight years after the first time I filmed at the same spot, we recorded three traditional songs.
It was January 29th 2015, when I first met American songwriter Andrew Combs. I was in the upstairs room in Paradiso Amsterdam and Justin Townes Earle had just finished his sound check, when all of a sudden, I heard this special voice over the PA. It was Combs, getting ready for his support slot that night. Combs released several great records since, and his most recent 'Ideal Man' especially has me in awe, but we never managed to make it work logistically, until the very last day of his most recent European tour. I invited him to my house, where he recorded covers of Lucinda Williams and Loudon Wainwright III, and 'Firestarter'. His own song, not a Prodigy cover!
Two years ago, Dutch comedian and radio dj Dolf Jansen asked me to film a show he was doing with a band from Belfast, Northern Ireland. That night, the band blew me away. Dolf was pretty damn good too. But I just had to make sure Arborist would record a session before they finished their first ever Dutch tour. And so we met up at a boat shop next to the B&B they were staying, and filmed four songs, including a Townes van Zandt cover and a traditional song.
I've been filming sessions for this website for twelve years. In all those years, there isn't a singer I've heard more peers express their admiration off than Erin Rae. The Nashville based songwriter's work is loved by many musicians I've filmed, and for years now, I've joined them. From 2015's Soon Enough to 2018's masterpiece Putting On Airs, there's simply too much beauty to not be in awe of Erin Rae McKaskle. Last fall, I couldn't believe my luck when she joined us in Utrecht to film covers of her father and Kate Campbell plus a solo take of 'Can't Cut Loose'.
The first time I heard Benbecula by the Scottish songwriter Michael Cassidy was in Amsterdam when Ryan Joseph Burns played me a mix on his phone. It sounded incredible already. But nothing could have prepared me for the mindblowing live take Cassidy recorded during his session at our live show in The Glad Cafe in Glasgow. He also played a Miley Cyrus cover and The Wedding Dress. Like A New International's Biff Smith yells at the end of the Benbecula video: "That's a belter!"
About ten years ago, Dutch drummer Kees Schaper (from Tim Knol's band) toured with American songwriter Tim Easton. A perfect chance for me to film with Easton I thought. We did and it was great. Now, a decade later, I've taught myself to film and Easton is still the amazing songwriter he already was. Last month, he performed at The Influences' live show in Utrecht and we went into the cold to film two new covers, of David Bowie and Woody Guthrie songs.