Interview: Scott Evan Davis of CONNECTION UNSTABLE at The Triad May 21st

"When I grieve I put that energy into other things so that I don't think about how bad I feel."

By: May. 18, 2022

Interview: Scott Evan Davis of CONNECTION UNSTABLE at The Triad May 21st When Scott Evan Davis steps onto the stage at The Triad this Saturday, it wil his first live performance five years. Although the award-winning songwriter has been a prolific presence online during the pandemic, the teacher of many and viral video star prefers to have other artists embody the stories he creates at his piano. Still, coming out of the pandemic, Davis realized he had a need to connect, to share his stories and his talented friends with an audience ready to meet in person and enjoy a little human contact. So the man with mug put together an evening of his original works, some of his dearest friends, and, maybe, a little bit of that snarky humor he shares, so brilliantly, with his throngs of fans.

Before the big day arrives, Scott took a call from Broadway World Cabaret to talk about his new musical INDIGO, self-doubt, and the need to overachieve.

This interview has been edited for space and content.

Scott Evan Davis. Welcome to Broadway World!

(Laughing) Oh, it's so good to be here.

I try to convince myself of that every day.

That's what I say in the mirror every morning.

Right? So. You're about to do your very first solo show since before the lockdown.

Yeah. Since well before the lockdown, actually - I think the last one I did was in 2017.

Why such a long hiatus from live performing?

Interview: Scott Evan Davis of CONNECTION UNSTABLE at The Triad May 21st Well, it's because of Indigo. Concerts cost money and you self-produce them, and it's a lot of work. I think I was doing so many of them for a stretch of years, all over the world, in a way, and once I started working on Indigo and I met my Broadway producers, it became really an intensive sort of thing, and I was teaching so much and doing that - I thought that was my creative outlet for a while. And then the pandemic happened and I really started to miss it.

But you put out a lot of online content during the quarantine.

I did. I wrote a couple of new songs, which kind of surprised me. I didn't think I would feel like doing it, but I did. And I did some virtual collaborations and things like that to try to stay creative. I think I was just sort of frantically trying to make my heart happy, however I could; it was really rough at the beginning of the pandemic for me, emotionally.

Did it work? Did it make your heart happy?

It did. Keeping busy made me very happy because I teach voice lessons. I teach piano lessons and everything. Indigo, we had just had a workshop with Broadway stars and we were supposed to open for our first world premiere production, the following fall. And then of course the pandemic happened. None of that happened. Instead of wallowing, I think I just said I'm not gonna miss a beat, I'm gonna create a virtual studio, teach my ass off, pretend like nothing happened, so my students stay and grow. I started social media for fun because I needed an outlet, and then I started releasing virtual collaborations because I said, "Make lemons into lemonade. If I wanna do a song with Nicolas King (who's always traveling and we've been friends for a while, and I never got to), well, now's a good time because we can just do it in our own houses. And that was, I think, really helpful.

So you're one of the people that actually used the quarantine and the pandemic to your benefit.

I think, just me as a person, I don't know how to sit still. I've always been super (and I'm in therapy twice a week to talk about this) but super overachieving, super needing that sort of relevancy and that ambition. When the pandemic happened and I saw everything slipping away, Broadway shutting down, theaters closing, I knew very well that Indigo might never see the light of day, which I had worked 10 years on, and it was very depressing. I was grieving. And when I grieve I put that energy into other things so that I don't think about how bad I feel. It's a coping mechanism I think I've always had. In this case, it was just obsessively learning how to video edit. That was the other thing - I'd always hired video editors, and I said if everything we put out now is gonna be virtual, I can't pay someone every single video, so I took a month and got a tutor online and learned how to video edit. Now I kind of do that on the side and I enjoy it, but things like that, making an at-home studio, doing virtual collaborations, writing a song - something had to happen. So I just dove into work.

What's the update on Indigo?

Interview: Scott Evan Davis of CONNECTION UNSTABLE at The Triad May 21st Indigo, I am very happy to say, was just announced on Thursday that we're having our world premiere production next May in Dayton, Ohio at the Human Race Theatre Company, which is very exciting. It's gonna be a full production, it's gonna run a month, and there is hope in coming to New York. We just wanna do a couple of performances out of the city before doing anything here. It's very exciting.

I'm happy for you.

Thank you. I was very grateful that my producers still pushed and stayed persistent and loved it and were able to last because the producers that I have for Indigo, are producers on Hadestown and Strange Loop and they did Allegiance. So I feel like I'm in good hands. But they were not gonna let it die.

It is such a blessing to have producers and agents and managers and people that will believe in you and stay with you - that's not a subtle message, that they stuck around.

I know; from the second I met them... it was so random how I met my producers, everything was serendipitous and synergistic and it all was how it was supposed to be. I don't know what your belief system is, but my belief system is very much like, as hard as things are, there's always gonna be some underlying sign or reason why. And that was very much what this was. I just knew it was right from day one when I met them. And here we are.

So tell me what Connection Unstable means.

It came out of me. I teach on zoom constantly, right? I teach voice and piano, I have 24 students a week (now 25) and I'm online a lot. And one of the things that happens when you're on a zoom call, when the connection isn't great, is you get a big sign that says connection unstable. It was just something my student and I were laughing about one day because it just kept happening. And I said, "It's so hard to communicate virtually if our connection is unstable," and I couldn't get that title out of my head. One of the ways that I work in general, whether I'm writing a song, show, or anything is that a title always inspires me. And that's what sort of made me think it's been such a weird two and a half years. Every song I've ever written is about the human experience, the human condition, connecting. Everything I do online with the followers and all of that is connecting with people in some way. And I thought that if I was gonna do another concert of my songs, maybe what I really do is tell some stories about my own experiences with connection and the past couple of years and how it's changed.

So as a concert of your music goes, it sounds like what you are presenting at The Triad on May 21st is something with an arc, something with a theme.

Every concert I've done over the years (and there have been many) has been more like one of two things: it's either been, "Please welcome to the stage Sally Mays, she's gonna sing, Save Me the Rose," and you play. Or I did a few song cycles over the past couple of years where I didn't say anything, and I was just at the piano and I strung together my songs with a theme but like song, song, song, song, song, song, cycle. I feel like there are just so many people that tune into me on a daily basis to hear me talk (n a weird way) that it was a good chance to tell some stories, personal ones at least, or maybe a little bit more about how I am and how my mind works so people got to know me a little bit more, but then, also, had my songs being sung. The thing is - I don't write... I talk about this in my show... but I never consider myself a real writer. I had really bad imposter syndrome and I didn't write my first song until I was 31. I'm 44 now. It was a surprise. I didn't know I was gonna do it; I've never been like, "I'm feeling sad today, let me write a song about being sad." "I'm in love, let me write a song about that." I've never been the kind of person who channeled his emotions into a song... much. I've done it a few times, but I usually just write for a character. I guess with this I wanted to have my own stories come out, but the characters that I'm writing for are all parts of me, and I think that's the idea.

You have a background in performing, yourself, but for this concert you have friends coming to sing songs.

I do. I'm gonna sing one or two but I have guests coming to sing. I don't love singing and I certainly don't like singing my own music. I would much rather sit and play and have the Liz Callaways of the world interpret it beautifully. I can sing fine, but I would much rather play for someone.

When you're writing a song, do you sometimes certain singers' voices in your head, people with whom you've worked, that you feel represent your work in a good way?

I think, just because I am who I am, every single song I write, I hear Streisand singing it. Every single song I've ever written, in some way, I always sort of start there. But it depends on why I'm writing. I wrote a song from Karen Mason, which she recorded, and I loved her voice and I was really able to write for what I thought her voice would do. Generally, if I'm writing, I make sure I hear it in my own voice first, and then I figure out what key and who could sing it from there.

You have a good cast joining you for this show - you must be very proud, very excited.

I am excited. I've started to work with them this week actually. And I am excited. I really am... nervous, scared, excited, you know...

Do you tend to lean more to one than the other

Nerves. I convince myself that it's gonna be awful, pretty much until it's over. (Laughing)

It's a good thing you have those two therapy sessions every week.

Well, three this month. (Laughing) I've upped it! I don't know why. I think it's just every single thing that I do, I always approach it from a place (and I have to get better at this) but I approach it from a place of stress, and will I fail people? Will I disappoint people, will I not be what they want me to be? And, honestly, these days it's even worse just because I think more eyes have been on me, and that's been a very interesting life switch for me.

Yet you are very calm and very confident and very soothing in all of your TikTok videos.

It's a disguise. (Laughing) I am. That's a big part of who I am too. There's a good balance of insecurity and confidence, I think. But also that's what people want, or what have they grown to expect. I love the fact that people want to tune in but you do feel a sense of obligation. You do feel a sense of not wanting to let people down or what they like about you, you wanna keep doing.

How did the TikTok videos start?

Interview: Scott Evan Davis of CONNECTION UNSTABLE at The Triad May 21st I didn't know what TikTok was, and my husband was lying in bed, right when the pandemic started, and he would scroll through TikTok and I didn't have it; I just started scrolling through and I was laughing. I think, in the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, that whole obsessive nature to pour myself into work and to do all of that sort of led to TikTok because I thought, "You know what? I have to build my vocal studio, so let me go where the kids are." At the time I was working with mostly kids (now it's adults) but then I thought I could like tap into the singing and dancing kids at TikTok. As I'm scrolling through, I'm laughing more and more, and I decided to just try some lip syncs. If you scroll back far enough on my TikTok, the first two months are me doing Golden Girls scenes, lip-syncing to all the characters, wearing all the different wigs. It took me two hours a day and I would get up and I would do that, and it was so fun... but also it became very time-consuming. I said, "I wanna keep posting because I'm a creature of habit," and I got used to it and I was liking it. Nobody was following me; I didn't care, it was fun, and I realized that I wasn't using it for work. I wasn't trying to get students or anything or posting too much music; I was just doing funny lip-syncs. I eventually ditched all of that because I needed it to be quick, and I said I gotta figure out how I can talk as me, cause it's easier. Then I started doing it and I realized that I talk with my hands too much, and it was distracting me, so I started holding coffee mugs... and I got sick of seeing the same coffee mug, so I started using different ones, then I started matching it to my clothing because I'm obsessive that way. And here we are.

Do you have days when you're trying to think of what funny thing you're going to say and your brain is dry?

Oh, absolutely. It's so interesting, with social media, because there are so many there are so many new followers that come in that you don't know who you're gonna reach, and the way the algorithm works is, you're never gonna reach everybody. So I've redone things. If I'm feeling particularly dry, I'll be like, "What were some fun ones from six months ago that did really well, let me redo 'em." People send me stuff, so sometimes if someone sends me something funny and they want a line reading, that's fun to do. It just depends.

Do you feel exposed? Do you feel vulnerable having so many people looking at you on a daily basis?

Yes, I do. And I don't necessarily think about it in real terms because numbers are numbers. If I look at my Instagram and I see that 224,000 people are following me (on Instagram and 501,000 on TikTok) and I look in my inbox and I see hundreds of messages that I'll never have a chance to really look at, I will feel like it's interesting, but it's not like a real connection. But when I really sit and read through the messages and read through comments, it becomes really real that there are people out there from all over the world that are tuning in to me every day, for whatever reason. It's been nice, but I do feel exposed because you are, and I don't mind it... sometimes it's not great... people can be mean, and I'm very sensitive. I think because of the persona I created people feel that liberty to sort of be snarky back, in a sense, but they don't know me. So it's a little weirder because they talk to you as if they do know you. People see me every day and I think they feel ... it's like watching a talk show. You wake up, you watch your Ellen, your View every morning. I think there are millions of people who would feel like they're close friends with those guys. You feel familiar with those people because they're in your home and I have a feeling that's what's happening. But I can't complain about it because people are quite lovely.

Have you written a song about the experience?

Not really, but it's interesting that Connection Unstable... my director, Rob Schneider, when we were putting the list of songs together, he said, "You should start this show by playing and singing something. And it should be funny - that's what people are gonna want you to do. I said, "But I haven't written funny." I mean, I have some funny, but I'm not gonna sit and sing funny. But I thought about it and I did, and I re-wrote a song and rewrote lyrics to it - it's sort of about social media and needing the validation, and there's one line that goes, "It's either constant validation or total isolation." It's an issue I should explore because that's how I kind of operate; I either want constant validation to know I'm doing the right thing or I want to be completely invisible. There's no happy medium.

Well, duality is more interesting than a happy medium.

It really is. (Laughing)

As a writer, I'm sure that you could explore duality for ever and ever, and never run out of material.

I completely agree with you on that. I think that's true.

So as you gear up for your first live performance in several years, what are your most prominent thoughts and feelings?

Interview: Scott Evan Davis of CONNECTION UNSTABLE at The Triad May 21st That nobody's gonna come and it's gonna be a big failure. That's literally the sense that I get whenever I do these things, which is why it's been quite a while because I really do go through... even when I was planning this, my husband looked at me and said, "You sure you wanna do this to yourself?" (Laughing) But It's cause there's a big piece of me that wants to sit on stage and be like, "Hey world, here are some songs." I'm gonna do some songs from Indigo that no one's heard before, some new songs, and some old songs. The excitement's there, the cast is there. But there are things that hang over my head: that nobody's gonna come and nobody's gonna care. I can't shake that. I don't know how to mitigate that or how to shake it - I'm trying. I just want people to enjoy my songs, cuz I haven't had a chance to show a bulk of my music in a while, and I'm really looking forward to that. I have a cellist, it's at The Triad. Hopefully, it'll be beautiful.

I guess what we should do is implore all of our Broadway world readers to buy a ticket to your show so that you don't have that I threw a party and nobody showed up feeling.

(Laughing) I'm imploring! I'm imploring! Exactly. And I'm also live streaming it too, which is interesting because one of the things that has been the weirdest of this whole two years is the international following I have. I had no idea, but they're there - that's gonna be an interesting thing too, because I know they are buying Livestream tickets.

It is time (and I'm sure your husband will back me up on this): it is time for you to accept that you are now famous.

No, that is not even close to where I am.

Okay. Well then maybe after Indigo's on Broadway, then we can talk about fame.

Maybe I do have a shot. Maybe it will all gel at some point and that will happen. I just have followers at the moment.

You are a self-professed overachiever. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to make it happen.

(Laughing) I did a video like that once, I think right when the pandemic started, I said, "All my life I've been an overachiever now I'm just overachieving," cause I was so over it. (Laughing) But, yeah, I am an overachiever because it's constant validation and I need it. I need relevancey.

I promise to validate you.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Or, at least, I can validate your parking.

(Laughing) That's funny.

Scott. I truly do thank you for chatting with us today.

Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.

Scott Evan Davis (and co.) CONNECTION UNSTABLE will play The Triad on May 21st at 7 pm. Information and reservations HERE.

Visit the Scott Evan Davis website HERE.

Interview: Scott Evan Davis of CONNECTION UNSTABLE at The Triad May 21st