It's a rarity in pop music that debut albums are as provocative, literate, lyrical and sexy as Jo Davidson's "Kiss Me There." Usually an artist requires at least a couple of work-in-progress outings to find her voice and approach. But this New York-based singer-pianist-songsmith breaks into the winner's circle with an auspicious premiere that is, at turns, alluring, feisty and poignant.
"All the songs are true stories," says Davidson, who wrote the 13 tunes, played all the keyboard and most of the guitar parts, co-produced and engineered "Kiss Me There" with Greg Ladanyi (who has worked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Don Henley.) "It's my journey, and every song is a personal story."
From her personal anthem, "Fragile Tough Girl," the catchy pop tune that opens the album to her tragic balladic tale of hypocrisy and youthful naiveté in "Rose-colored Glasses," Davidson unflinchingly plumbs a depth of emotion and understanding that reveals her commitment to a high standard of music-making. "Being an artist is the only way to make sense of the chaos," she says, "I have to write."
Born in Ohio, Davidson started playing the piano by ear when she was four and began classical music lessons in the first grade. At age 11, she took to writing her own songs. "There was a talent show when I was in the sixth grade," she recalls. "The piano teacher said that we should all pick a song to play. I asked if I could write mine."
As a youngster, Davidson explored the creative possibilities of a song. She notes, "I listened to the radio a lot when I was growing up and that influenced the way I structure songs." As she got older, Davidson continued to pursue her songwriting talent, entering and placing in such composition competitions as the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the Billboard National Song Contest. After high school, Jo moved to Los Angeles where she set out to make inroads in the music community. Davidson decided to embark in an independent career direction. She built her own studio, established her own indie record label and publishing company, "Fragile Tough Girl Records", and began in earnest to document her songs.
With an independent spirit, Davidson recorded a earlier, rough version of the "Kiss Me There" album to sell at concerts and on her website to increase her fanbase. Her song, "Mental Pollution," attained further exposure when it was featured in the NBC made-for-TV movie, Friends to the End, starring Shannon Doherty, who sang the tune -a performance that periodically appears on the VH-1 cable music channel.
Signing with EAR (Edel America Records) in May 2000, Davidson returned to the studio to tweak her album tracks. She re-cut, re-mastered, and re-sequenced tracks including the above mentioned rock-edged-rant, "Mental Pollution." She describes it as her "song of isolation and angst. I have a temper tantrum on the bridge of the song and it feels good to get it out," she laughs ("..the world could drown from the truth that's in my tears.") Underneath it, I'm searching for my true voice and the courage to speak out."
She enlisted David Campbell (whose credits include Alanis Morrisette and Goo Goo Dolls) to work up string arrangements for a few other numbers like the two moving ballads "Tonite" and "Secrets"; Davidson also wrote two new tracks: "Windows," her rocking ode to loving the edginess of New York City, and the title song, "Kiss Me There," a simple yet beautifully crafted song about finding comfort and connecting with a lover in a deep, intimate way.
The personal release of writing serves as stimulating therapy for Davidson. "Writing is how I process everything," states Jo. "In my writing I am vulnerable and honest. A lot of my songs have very spiritual and religious types of influences," she explains. With "All The World's Religions" she tackles her personal conflict, searching for relief from her guilt ("There's darkness and then there's light / The two always seem to fight / Living in my soul without paying rent"), while "Rose Colored Glasses" reeks with the tragedy of childhood pain revisited ("With rules by which even God wouldn't abide, you set down the iron fist / I fell in lust and the punishment stung like fresh blood on a suicidal wrist").
On a lighter note, "Shampoo Boy" is a playful mid-tempo song based tongue-in-cheek about a friend who asked her if she will remember him when she becomes "big and famous." "It is a quirky song about wanting someone to wait on you. Your love slave," she laughs. "But underneath it all, 'Are you attracted to the image of me or are you attracted to the real me?' "
The album is book-ended by "Fragile Tough Girl", which was recently featured on an episode of The WB's Felicity, and the piano-lullaby called "Alone in My Room." Davidson explains that she most definitely is the "fragile tough girl" of the song -tough but vulnerable. As for "Alone in My Room," "I think it is all part of a journey. I would like to say I have conclusions, but maybe the point is that there aren't any. In the end, we all need comfort. ("The world is screaming and you're craving lullabies....")
In the spirit of the true singer-songwriter, Davidson opens a window on who she is as a person on her album, "Kiss Me There." She says, "Want to know more about me? Just listen closely to the songs." Are they too revealing? "That's the way I write. I'll save the fiction for other songwriters." As for her future, she brings it up in her song "Tonite," which underscores the theme of keeping the faith in the face of adversity. "I know it sounds so cliché, but I believe in the dream. I won't give up even if everything falls apart, as she expresses, "...to all things their season, to all things their time, I believe in the sun even when it doesn't shine."
For more info on Jo's upcoming performances and to be on her mailing list, go to www.jodavidson.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org