Sowers-Lozier will be in concert with her band this Thursday.
Davina Sowers-Lozier looks like a vision from the 1940s when she performs. She sounds like one, too. The lead singer for Davina & The Vagabonds had a long journey to get where she is today, but she remained unapologetically herself through it all.
I caught up with the singer/songwriter over the phone prior to her trip to Lubbock. Davina lives in Minneapolis and the first thing she asked was how warm it currently was in Texas. But concertgoers need not worry; she and her ensemble are plenty capable of bringing the heat.
Like its lead singer, the jazz quintet puts its own spin on a vintage sound, leaving listeners feeling transported to a different time.
Lubbockites can experience this for themselves at 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 10) on the Texas Tech University campus, in the Student Union Building's Allen Theatre. Tickets are $20 a person and students will be admitted for free with a valid student ID.
In anticipation of the show, I asked Sowers-Lozier some questions to learn the story behind her unique sound. When were you first introduced to music?
My stepfather would play jazz music on his Edison phonograph, and I remember falling in love with the sounds that came out of it. He'd play the jazz gods: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Louis Prima. There was something very captivating to me about them. In addition, my mother was a folk singer who forged her own sound during the 1960s folk music revival. So, I was exposed to many kinds of music very early on.
One of the reasons I took refuge in music was because I grew up in an economically depressed town. I come from Altoona, Pennsylvania, which was one of the cities that suffered greatly when technological needs outpaced industrial resources. So, it was a bleak place to live. Music really became my refuge, and then even more so after my stepfather passed away.
How did you go from a teenager in Pennsylvania to the front singer for a band?
That's a long story, but I'll hit the main parts. I left home at 15 years old and spent years backpacking and living here and there. It was a romanticized nomadic notion for a teenager, but I quickly fell into trouble with chemical dependency. My drug habit created a lot of challenges for me to overcome at a young age, but eventually I did overcome it, and I've been sober for more than 20 years now. After starting that path to sobriety, I formed this group and we've been together since 2006.
How has that journey influenced your art?
I think you look back and often realize the horrible things were necessary; not good, but necessary. Not that I would make those choices again or go back, but where I've been created who I am today. There is something beautifully honest about coming to peace with those times in our lives. Addiction is a strange dichotomy; you're glad for what it teaches you, but you never want to go through it.
A lot of my music is fun and is meant to get people moving, but I also share truth in my lyrics and try to be honest about my experiences in hopes that it hits home in a deeper way for those who really listen. There are nuances such as melancholy rhetoric over a major chord and ways I share deeper ideas in the way I write and arrange.
A lot of reviewers liken you to Amy Winehouse and assign your music to certain boxes. What do you think? Are those fair comparisons?
You know, of course I would rather just be known as me. I want someone to hear my music and think, “That sounds like Davina,” but I have a saying that goes, “Call me by anything, as long as you call me.”
I think a lot of people try to understand why they're attracted to a sound they like, and sometimes it helps to compare it to something else they know. I get that, and I know it's coming as a compliment.
Was there ever a time you thought about quitting and pursuing another career path?
There are certainly days when I feel like throwing in the towel, but no, I've never seriously considered another career. On the days I have wanted to walk away, it's been due to the pressures of managing a group and the business side of things, not the music itself. I'm at a point in my life where I recognize this is what I'm meant to do, and I've learned how to ride out those harder days. I think that's part of being on a path. There are times you want to give up, but you don't.
I do have some side hustles I enjoy, but they're not meant to replace my music. I've collected vintage clothing for a long time, and I really love finding unique pieces and sharing them. I have a website people can check out if they're interested in vintage clothing as much as they are vintage music.
What can concert-goers expect at your show this week?
We're going to play a 90-minute set and showcase various songs, mostly original pieces, but the audience might recognize a few as well. We're very excited to be coming to the home of Buddy Holly for the first time, so we might have to sneak something of his in. But people will just have to come out and see.
As far as the group itself, there will be five of us: myself, my husband Zach Lozier on trumpet, Matt Henzelka on trombone, Connor Hammergren on drums and Chano Cruz on upright bass.
It's your first time playing in Lubbock, but have you performed in Texas before?
No; this will be our first time, believe it or not, and we're really excited! I'm not sure how we haven't managed to come down to Texas before, but we're glad to be changing that.