Davina Michelle already has won the hearts of pop megastars Pink and Kelly Clarkson. Now, she’s set to win you over too.
The Dutch singer got her start by posting covers on YouTube. In 2016, her rendition of “What About Us” caught the eye of Pink when Glamour showed her the video. Pink reacted by saying, “That’s better than I will ever sound,” and nothing has ever been the same since. The video went viral and has amassed about 20 million views, leading Davina to her own million-plus-strong Youtube channel. In addition, Kelly Clarkson dedicated a 2021 Kellyoke moment to Davina’s song “Liar.”
Davina followed up her internet fame with a string of hits in the Netherlands, including occupying the number one spot for eleven weeks and earning five platinum certifications. Now, she’s kicking off 2023 with a bang. In January, she released a new single, “Heartbeat,” and has a special performance at Los Angeles’ Hotel Café on Feb. 9.
“I'm most looking forward to, I think, the audience [and] getting to meet American crowds for the first time,” she says just days before the show. “I'm very curious to know how the audience is and how they react to songs I've been playing these songs for years now in the Netherlands. And it's always so crazy to play the songs that you've been playing for a year for a whole new audience who's never heard the songs.”
When we sit down over Zoom, Davina has so far spent much of her time preparing for the show and being in her hotel room. Still, she describes it as hectic, but exciting and notes that she and her team have decided at the last minute to shoot a music video for “Heartbeat.”
“We thought of the idea of recording a fake surrealistic performance using video yesterday,” Davina says. “It's gonna be incredible. I'm thinking of doing a very f***** up performance with me crawling on the floor.”
In the meantime, Davina has made a setlist of originals and covers. She won’t reveal what songs she has planned just yet (you’ll have to attend the show to find out), but hints that she likes to play songs that are meaningful to her.
“I'm just playing a lot of different things and I am playing some acoustic songs, I’m playing some full band, very loud songs,” Davina says.“Just showing my repertoire.”
Read more from our conversation with Davina below about her love for live music, the writing process for “Heartbeat” and plans for an album.
As you would know with your YouTube success, social media is super important in this industry. However, why do you think live performance is an important way to establish yourself as an artist and to expand your fanbase?
Social media is incredibly important to promote yourself, to promote your music, but to actually be able to perform on stage and to look people in the eye when you sing the songs that you've been working on for so long—that's something very special. And I think I always love to test my songs, like unreleased songs, on the audience and see how they react.
I think playing live is just a huge honor to actually be able to have people wanting to drive all the way up to the venue, stand in the queue, buy tickets, be waiting there for you to play your music and to sing along.
You kicked off 2023 with the release of “Heartbeat.” What was the songwriting process like for your new single?
I always write my songs with my boyfriend. He's also the producer. He's a drummer. We always work together, and he writes the melodies and harmonies and then produces the song and I work on the lyrics and of course sing the lyrics. So he came up with this melody and it has a good vibe, it has a positive vibe and it's very high energy. I felt like I wanted to do something with a beat and with a tempo, but because the melody was so optimistic, I felt like the lyrics should be a little less optimistic, actually, to make a contrast.
That day when I wrote “Heartbeat,” I had a very busy day, a very busy week, a very busy month. And I was like, “OK, I have to do a ton of different things.” I wasn't really inspired by anything at that point because I was so busy. I was like, “Gosh, I have to do this, I have to do that.” And
I wanted to write about that, about being pushed and pulled all the time, about living in a temple that's not actually yours. So I was like, “OK, maybe I should just take a step back, chill a little bit and then maybe I can write a song again and have inspiration again.” And that idea turned out to become “Heartbeat,” actually.
When a song is very happy and the melody is very happy, I always like it when the lyrics are a little more nasty. Otherwise the song gets too cute and the other way around. I feel like when something's very sad, it's a very sad melody, I always like it when the lyrics have something optimistic in them and there's a contrast. And that's what I did with “Heartbeat” too, of course. First of all, I wanted to write my story and I wanted to write what I felt. And I really love the combination of the high energy, positive melody and then actually my story being that I've liked to take a slower tempo and take a step back in that I'm not very comfortable in the position that I was. Of course it's optimistic because I'm like, “I'm running away! I'm off searching for a better me and a new me!” And so it's kind of optimistic, but I just didn't want it to be too cute. I always feel everything should be balanced because life isn't perfect and life isn't always happy.
See also: Nikki DeLoach Is Finding Balance
Do you know if “Heartbeat” will be part of an EP or album?
I hope so. I'm working on my album right now, but I'm super busy, so I hopefully get to release my album in the summer. But I'm not releasing anything until it's perfect. I don't know. I'm pretty sure “Heartbeat” will be on the album because it's my story and I'm so proud of it. It's definitely something that I would like to spread even more and, hopefully, influence people to follow their own tempo.
When I get back from L.A., the album is my number one priority. I'm looking forward to writing more. The past few months have been crazy. I've been traveling a lot and done a lot of shows. I've got to meet incredible people, so I'm very thankful for everything. But when I'm back in Holland, I think I'm gonna lock myself up and write a little bit more and work on a new chapter, a new album.
I want to do something with balance. I want to do something with high highs and very low lows. I always have had a very difficult time with keeping balance. I'm always everywhere, and then I completely collapse. So I think it's definitely a topic that I'd like to really push on the album.
In addition to your show at Hotel Café, do you have any other fun plans for your time in Los Angeles?
Of course I want to go to the Hollywood sign. Actually, I can see it from my hotel room. I have a view of the Hollywood Hills and the sign. But I would like to see it from up close. I'd like to just walk around and do sightseeing and I want to know how people live here and I want to know what they eat and what they smell like— no (laughs)! But I'm just here, I think, for like four days. So it’s a very short trip, but I'll definitely be returning.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy of Davina Michelle