Kate Davis discusses her new album 'Fish Bowl' NPR's Leila Fadel speaks with Kate Davis about her new album Fish Bowl, which is told from the perspective of a dimension-hopping protagonist named FiBo.

Kate Davis searches for home on her new album 'Fish Bowl'

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KATE DAVIS: (Singing) A year from now...


Kate Davis started writing songs for her newest album from the top floor of her parents' house.

DAVIS: As if I were some, like, teenager. You know, like, don't bother me. And I remember my sister was just like, are you recording a version of the Liberty Mutual theme song up there?

FADEL: What (laughter)?

DAVIS: I think she was hearing the like, (singing) everything. You know, and, like, I was like, what are you talking about? She was like, no, we were - we swore that we heard, like, the (singing) liberty, liberty, liberty.


DAVIS: (Singing) But then everything, everything, everything crumbles to the ground.

FADEL: Her new album is called "Fish Bowl." and the songs on it don't sound anything like insurance company jingles.


DAVIS: (Singing) Do you need a social commentary or apocalyptic romance? With what shreds of freedom remain...

FADEL: "Fish Bowl" is told from the perspective of a protagonist named FiBo

DAVIS: FiBo is a character that was a way for me to live this story, you know, someone who...

FADEL: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...I didn't have to identify as but could kind of share this experience with.


DAVIS: (Singing) Who are you hiding from? Who was it who hurt you? I don't have anyone else to tell.

In my mind, she's kind of like this dimension-hopping voyager. It feels very much like "Alice In Wonderland."


DAVIS: (Singing) Say my name and watch me go to sleep. Say my name and watch me go to work.

The truth of it is that I was in a lot of pain. And it was hard to be comfortable on Earth, you know, and really just, like, spend the time in this world. And it became very liberating and comfortable to just build a different world.

FADEL: And FiBo goes on a journey that isn't always easy.


DAVIS: (Singing) I wanted more than being left for dead.

FADEL: Abandoned by her community, FiBo feels like a monster.


DAVIS: (Singing) I just can't control myself. I told you I can't control myself. I never could control myself. Is there anybody there who wouldn't be scared of me?

FADEL: Davis was channeling a feeling that she'd had in the past. She spent years studying classical music and jazz. And then in 2014, Davis went viral on YouTube with a cover of "All About That Bass."


DAVIS: (Singing) Because you know I'm all about that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble. I'm all about that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble.

FADEL: The video got millions of views, and most of the comments were pretty positive. But Davis says she also got a lot of really inappropriate and objectifying comments that really messed with her.

DAVIS: I've had such a difficult time with my sense of self and my voice. And I think a lot of the reason why I find these really painful moments of rejection or feeling like everything has burned to the ground - or, like, why did this happen again? Or, like, why is this not right? - is because I think I had always been searching for so much of myself externally.

FADEL: She was performing the kind of music she thought people wanted from her. And now she's looking on the inside and creating music for herself.


DAVIS: (Singing) A black hole was tearing into me where my heart had forgotten about fragility and tenderness and your absentee.

I felt at a certain point that I had become a puppet and a caricature. And people responded to the very thing that didn't feel authentic to me.

FADEL: It's so incredibly relatable, I mean, because I think so many of us, especially women, look for that validation externally and then - and always are thinking we're not good enough.

DAVIS: Yeah. And I - you know, I even think about my early days of being a young performer. And I say performer with a capital P 'cause that's really what it felt like it was. You know, there was just...

FADEL: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...This, like, feeling of - that I had been contending with since I was young. Like, if you can be remarkable or if you can show up and do something different, then you'll get the attention, and you'll get the validation and love.

FADEL: Yeah.

DAVIS: But that doesn't come from an internal place. That's all very kind of performative.

FADEL: Is that what's changed so much about your musical voice now? I mean, are you now looking internally?

DAVIS: Yeah, I think so.


DAVIS: (Singing) Without being emotional, just going through the motions of one big self-sabotaging, empty...

I think, you know, their validation, whoever they are, is not going to make you whole. I think there was a moment where I had the time and space to really get outside of other people's expectations and go a little further within and say, OK, if I were really going to do this, what would it sound like? What would it feel like? And who's talking, you know? And I think that, like, FiBo in some ways was an easier way for me to connect with, like, a deeper part of myself...

FADEL: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...Even though it's, like, fictionalized.


DAVIS: (Singing) Work, read, smoke, eat. Pet the cat and watch TV.

FADEL: Do you think, then, this album is the first time you've really been able to be you?

DAVIS: It's the closest I've ever been. That I know. I think that there will always be this insatiable quest, you know, to get closer and closer to home, this kind of, like, comfort in knowing that there's no performance, or there's nothing that's in front of the idea or the truth or, like, the pure self-expression. But this does feel like the closest I've ever gotten for sure. It just makes me want to keep pushing.


DAVIS: (Singing) ...For home.

FADEL: Kate Davis - her new album is "Fish Bowl." Thank you so much.

DAVIS: Thank you so much.


DAVIS: (Singing) Home.

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