Why Davina & The Vagabonds Finally Recorded at a World-Class Studio
photo - Christi Williams
Having made tour stops in Tel Aviv, Budapest and São Paulo, the Minneapolis-based band Davina & The Vagabonds certainly has lived up to its name. The retro-infused, jazz-meets-blues outfit was founded in 2006 and steadily has won fans around the globe. So, why is it only now releasing Sugar Drops (Red House), its first album recorded in a world-class studio?
“I’m very cheap,” lead singer Davina Lozier quipped. “But also, we have cut seven albums. I made the Billboard Blues chart with my last one, Sunshine. So, I guess we just didn’t need it until now.”
The band’s artistic evolution required a more upscale studio setting. “I started wanting a little more from my music, which can sometimes be picked up better sonically in a bigger studio,” she said.
As a child growing up in Altoona, Pennsylvania, her adoptive father had an archive of antique records. Her mother was a folk singer. And so, Lozier was raised on a playlist that featured early jazz, The Ink Spots, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and, especially, ’70s icon Melanie.
Leaving Altoona, Lozier wound up busking in Key West, Florida. “It was a great place to be homeless,” she said. “Well, not great, but it’s warm and the people are openly drunk and loose with their money.”
It wasn’t hard to score drugs there, either. Lozier struggled with heroin addiction and, after getting clean, moved to Minneapolis. “After two years I got sick of working at Applebee’s and teaching piano,” she recalled. “Then one day, a sound engineer heard me sing and said, ‘I have an opening for a gig on Tuesday night. Do you have a band?’ Of course I didn’t, but I lied, then threw one together and I’ve been working ever since.”
Thus The Vagabonds were born. The group is centered around Lozier and her husband, trumpeter Zack Lozier. They decided together to make the new album at Nashville’s Compass Studios. “This was really out-of-the-box for me,” the singer admitted. “Doing this would mean less control for me. But I fell in love with the piano. The vibe was nice.”
Some of Nashville’s best session players were recruited for the project, including trombonist Roland Barber and organist Reese Wynans. “Those guys latched onto every nuance we were trying to get,” Zack Lozier said of the top-shelf collaborators. “On ‘Magic Kisses,’ for example, I’d developed my trumpet parts, but I didn’t have anything for the trombone. Roland came up with all the trombone parts. That just made the tune.”
Both husband and wife agree that Sugar Drops marks a new artistic peak for the singer. “So many people never settle into who they really are,” the vocalist noted. “They just do what they do because they want to be Oscar Peterson or Muddy Waters or Britney Spears. But I am what I am: a chubby, 40-year-old woman who’s still doing it.” DB