Photo Credit: Jakob Wandel
As technology has grown, the ways we access music has grown with it. Originally the only way to consume music was to see it live, but radio and records allowed people to hear it no matter where they were. Records gave way to cassettes and then to CDs, and the rise of the internet gave us digital downloads. As we move up to the present, streaming has become the go-to way for people to access music. Throughout this evolution, different companies and sites have been utilized by artists to get their music out. In the digital age, YouTube has become a home for musicians, from small channels uploading songs as a hobby to superstars like Troye Sivan, whose successful channel turned him into one of today’s biggest pop stars. Megan Davies is one of those musicians. With nearly 1.3 million YouTube subscribers and a sizable collection of both cover songs and originals, Davies is using YouTube to be exactly the artist she wants to be.
The summer of 2018 has been a transformative one for Davies. When we spoke, she was a day away from leaving her current home of Nashville to go on tour (but admitted with a laugh that she still had a ton of packing to do). Summer 2018 also brought two new original singles, “Doesn’t Matter” and “Moonlight.” Davies says, “It’s been a lot of work in the studio, so it’ll be exciting to go on the road the next few weeks and get to play some of the songs live and feel them out in front of a crowd.”
The oldest videos on Davies’ YouTube channel stretch back nine years and involve her showing off some guitar tapping like any excited aspiring musician might want to do. The story of the current version of Davies begins in June of 2013 when she uploaded her first cover song, a mashup of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” She did not take the plunge without doubts though, as she says that at first she found YouTube “scary.” She explains, “The community on YouTube is vocal and at times a harsh critic, [and] at other times very deeply supportive and I think that scared me as a creator.” Thankfully for all her fans, Megan’s sister Jacyln Davies–who frequently performs with Megan in videos–encouraged Megan to begin uploading on the site. She also chose YouTube as a platform because, like millions of other people out there, she’s simply a fan of the platform. “As a fan of Youtube, as someone who just watches Youtube videos, I love it. I’ve always just loved watching what other people are doing and creating,” she explains. A million subscribers later, it’s clear she made the right decision.
Covers have always been a staple for Davies, but her process for picking what to cover has evolved over the years. She isn’t afraid to admit that a big factor when she began was picking songs that were popular at the the time, but she stresses she always considered the purely musical side as well. It also gives her the opportunity to work with many other local Nashville musicians, as can be seen in her videos. Davies explains, “a lot of times when I do a cover–because I do a lot of covers with friends–I like to collaborate … and have different voices.” She further explains that she picks songs that she can do something new with, giving the example of slowing down a dance track into an acoustic cover. If a certain take on a song has already been done or is present in the original, she won’t cover it. The number of covers to original songs she creates has also changed over the years. She says, “It’s a little bit less at the moment just because I’ve been working on so much more original music.” She also says that she believes she’ll always do some covers, as she’s heard from fans who have been touched by them, and for the simple fact that she finds them fun.
Original music has been a whole new experience for Davies over the last year and change. In July of 2017, she released the Bad Poetry EP, her first collection of original music. It was unlike anything she had done before. She explains, “It was a complete learning process, I think. Up until that point when I recorded that EP I had only done my own recordings, just acoustic vocals with my own setup and I mixed everything. I mixed all my covers and mastered them myself. So that was my first time working collaboratively in a studio, and also putting other musicians on my songs.” She elaborates that it was a big step for her being able to explain what her creative ideas were to other musicians and producers, and being able to draw from others’ ideas and experience. Davies sheepishly chuckles when she says that being able to really listen and incorporate those ideas into her own music was one of the biggest learning experiences she’s had. “I don’t think it was in any way my most defining sounds, but I think it played a huge part in getting to the music I’m making at this moment,” she reveals.
Even with the increased collaboration on her original music, Davies is still in total control of her career, which has paid dividends on both the creative and business sides of music. She explains that working mostly by herself and not signing to a label has allowed her to avoid some of the pitfalls where artists get trapped in unfavorable contracts. “Things like Spotify and Youtube have been fantastic for me,” she says. “It’s enabled me–without going past these gatekeepers in the industry–to build an audience and a fan base and create the same way that someone on a label would be able to create.”
Davies also had to learn how to balance her life while on YouTube, a platform with an audience notorious for wanting access into a YouTuber’s life. She acknowledges that she does feel that pressure to always be sharing, but says that she thinks by managing the expectation of what she shares in her life and what she keeps private, she’s kept her fans happy. “It’s a difficult balance, because I’m a pretty introverted person … When I’m not on stage, when I’m not in a video, I’m pretty introverted and it’s definitely not my instinct to share every moment of my life,” she shares. “But I think as long as I’m releasing content and making things … that’s what the people supporting me wanna see.” She says that she would rather hunker down and get music out to the people than focus on posting every day.
Going forward, Davies doesn’t plan to slow down at all. Besides tour dates, she says she has a few songs in the works that she hopes to have out in the coming months. And while she doesn’t completely rule out the idea of a full length album at some point in her future, for now she’s happy with the increased pace and connection that comes from releasing a multitude of singles and uploading individual videos on YouTube.
With the increase in technology and the ever-expanding distribution possibilities for music, it’s easier than ever for us to access music. Megan Davies is using YouTube and her own musical ability to create the music she wants, live the life she has imagined, and create the exact music career that she dreams about. There’s nothing better than that.