Elise Davis is a 28 year-old Little Rock, Arkansas native with a life-long musical passion and career—one that has in recent years taken off to land her a record deal with Thirty Tigers, and a spot in last year’s lineup of popular music festival, Austin City Limits. Her most recent album, The Token has been a success. She is currently touring and gearing up for her next album.

To know Davis personally is to know someone who is equally as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. If you don’t know her, her music lends a vulnerability that lets you get close enough to catch a pretty solid glimpse.

According to her bio,  “Vulnerability and carnal desire go head-to-head on Elise Davis’ The Token…,”   “Story and storyteller are one and the same. ‘I really can’t express my vulnerable feelings – especially towards men I’ve had feelings about over the years,’ Elise confesses, ‘But, I have no trouble writing down painfully honest lyrics about it.’ ”

The Token puts a microscope on the southern dynamic between the sexes, and Davis’ inner turmoil, founded on her life’s trajectory against a more traditional path. Elation and ache play a tug-of-war.

The Token is a rare piece of art born of risk and actually sounding like a risk that paid off. Davis is putting her human condition in the forefront for all to hear; The Token delivers an unrelenting living contradiction, one born of her past while wrestling with the present.

Davis is coming to Little Rock on April 21 to play with artist Rayland Baxter at the Rev Room. She was gracious enough to do an impromptu interview.

What was your favorite song off of the album The Token? If you didn’t have an overall favorite, which is your favorite to either perform, write, sing to yourself, etc., for whatever reason…?

What I have really enjoyed about touring off this record is that my favorite song to perform changes often.  It really just depends on my mood that day, or the type of venue I’m playing, the crowd, what type of band configuration I have that night, etc.  So that has been nice to have my favorites change around off this record. However, if I had to pick one today… I would say “Right Way To Ask Me.”  My guitar and bass player sing three-part harmonies with me and it has a long really laid-back/ “vibey” instrumental section, both of those parts make it fun to play live.

Photographer :: Danielle Holbert

Who are some of your current favorite artists and why?

I am constantly listening to different types of music, new and old. Every week or so I try to find a record I haven’t heard and dig in. Lately I have been listening to new records from Aaron Lee Tasjan (a Nashville artist), and Aimee Mann (I’m a long time fan of her).  Over the past several years I would say some of my favorite records have come from Courtney Barnett, Lucinda Williams, Kurt Vile, Jason Isbell…. this list could quickly turn way too long…but those are some of the first that come to mind.

Over time, you have worked hard and I have seen it from a distance…but what are the best ups? The worst downs? 

Every musician has a different path to figuring out their career. I would say for me it has always been a slow and steady incline. I am always having ups and downs, but as with anything in life.  I would say releasing The Token has been one of the biggest ups of my career. I am so proud of that record and it has been really special to speak with people who let me know that it is meaningful to them. It makes all the downs worth while.

How do you remain balanced, while living a musician’s lifestyle?

I think human beings are really great at adapting to different environments. Over the years I have adapted to what a lifestyle of touring entails and it has made it easier to find balance on the road. Which is basically, just trying to take care of your body and mind in an environment where there is no structure other than just getting from one club to the next each day. I have to work at it still but I think I was sort of built for touring. It works well with my brain. And I am totally cool with sleeping on couches (haha).

You just started publishing some illustration books…what inspired you to do these? 

I have always enjoyed writing poems and painting/drawing.  It’s another form of creative expression that is fun for me because there is no pressure in it. I don’t consider myself an amazing illustrator but I really enjoy expressing myself in that format.  Around the time I was about to put out The Token, I realized I had built up quite a collection of poems and drawings.  I decided I wanted to make something combining these two art forms that I love. So, I took a couple of my favorite poems and illustrated them. I then combined about 8 or 9 other random drawings, and made it into a book. I enjoyed it so much that I now plan to try and release a little book of illustrations with every record I put out.