Song Premiere: Mikaela Davis “Promise”

Alex H. Krinsky on May 10, 2023
Song Premiere: Mikaela Davis “Promise”

Photo by Wyndham Garnett

It has been five years since harpist and vocalist Mikaela Davis released her debut LP, Delivery, and since then–after packing up to leave her hometown of Rochester, N.Y.–has shared the stage with icons across the country, including Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bon Iver, Lake Street Dive, Christian McBride and Circles Around the Sun. Now with an elevated, fresh perspective and having reconvened with her friends, Davis is set to release her newest effort And Southern Star, named for her band, on Aug. 4 via Kill Rock Stars.

On the album, the Crane School of Music graduate and her close friends and bandmates Alex Coté (drums and percussion, vocals), Cian McCarthy (guitar), Shane McCarthy (bass) and Kurt G. Johnson (steel guitar) explore the nature of their collective sun-drenched psychedelic soul through meditative almost telepathic explorations of themes such as the periphery of past selves, the coexistence of isolation and excitement in a new environment.

With her classical training and improvisational experience on stage, Davis seamlessly blends melodies inspired by the ’60s on the harp with intimate, reflective contemporary compositions with her band. “I finally feel like this album is more me than anything else that’s been released,” Davis said of the project that was self-produced by the ensemble and marks the first time the quintet has appeared on an album at once despite playing together for 10 years. Notably, And Southern Star was recorded at Old Soul Studios and at Horehound Mansion by Kenny Siegal and Cian McCarthy, respectively. The project was mixed by Mike Fridmann at Tarbox Road Studios, who is lovingly nicknamed the ‘silent sixth member of the band.’

Today, we premiere “Promise,” a song penned by Davis and Coté that was initially created to illustrate the pains of a friend but eventually evolved into a more personal expression. The textured and immersive sonic tapestry showcases the dizzying level of communication between the band, while the infectious lyrics open the door for listeners as wide as any great pop hit. The combination of the two approaches creates a dreamlike scene where Wilco meets Clairo and together they ruminate.

“‘Promise’ started as a hook idea whispered into a voice memo in a bathroom stall while out at a show. I later finished the song with Alex,” Davis told Relix. “He had the idea of ending each verse with the line  ‘…a promise I never/nobody wanted to keep.’ Clever and one of my favorite songs we’ve written together!”

In conjunction with the song’s premiere Davis will be performing her Here Comes Sunshine Residency this month in Buffalo, Albany and Syracuse along with one-off performances in Burlington, Vt. and the Rochester Lilac Fest, starting tonight. All of the residency shows will feature two sets composed of a mixture of original & Grateful Dead songs. See full dates below.

Pre-order And Southern Star here.

Listen to the premiere of “Promise” by Mikaela Davis below.

Mikaela Davis Here Comes Sunshine Residency

May 10 – Albany NY – Parish Public House [Residency Show]

May 11 – Syracuse NY – Funk n Waffles [Residency Show]

May 15 – Rochester NY – Lilac Festival

May 16 – Buffalo NY – 9th Ward at Babeville [Residency Show]

May 18 – Syracuse NY – Funk n Waffles [Residency Show]

May 19 – Albany NY – Parish Public House [Residency Show]