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She’s got pluck: Pop singer plays the harp

String theorist: Singer and harp player Mikaela Davis will launch her debut album “Delivery” at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg on July 26.
for Brooklyn Paper
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She’s been harping on pop music.

A young singer and songwriter will bring an unusual and enormous string instrument onto a Williamsburg stage next week — the harp. Vocalist and harp player Mikaela Davis, who will launch her latest album “Delivery” at Baby’s All Right on July 26, knows that the harp is uncommon in a pop music context, but she takes advantage of its versatility to push the boundaries of the genre.

“People mostly notice when I am pitch bending,” she says, “making the harp sound more like a sitar.”

She sometimes performs solos on the device, but most of the time, she considers her role in the band as similar to that of a rhythm guitarist.

“I see the harp as another instrument in the band,” she says. “Not necessarily the focal point.”

Davis discovered the harp during third grade, and began taking lessons right away, with the goal of joining a classical orchestra.

“I had every intention of becoming a full-time performer on harp, but not like this,” she says.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music performance, the Rochester native moved to Brooklyn and began writing original songs, tunes that would become “Delivery.”

Davis names Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith as some of her influences, and her latest single is a cover of Elliot Smithi’s “Half Right,” which originally appeared on his posthumous album “New Moon.” Davis says that the artist had a strong influence on her songwriting.

“Elliott got me interested in passing tones, more meaningful lyrics, and fingerpicking ideas,” she says.

Davis’ musical worldview became more expansive through playing the harp, and that sensibility informs her own contemplative and textured songwriting. “Because of playing the harp I discovered Alice Coltrane,” she says. “And that led me to Ravi Shankar and Middle Eastern music.”

That influence shines through on her song “Pure Divine Love,” for instance, but that worldly, sophisticated perspective is tempered by a pop sensibility, honed years ago while listening to the first Ben Folds Five album.

“I would rollerblade around my mom’s neighborho­od,” Davis says, “listening to it on repeat.”

Mikaela Davis at Baby’s All Right [146 Broadway between Bedford and Driggs avenues in Williamsburg, (718) 599–5800, www.babysallright.com], July 26 at 8 pm. $15 ($12 in advance).

Updated 11:32 am, July 24, 2018
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