Austin Davis has a new EP coming out soon with jazz musician Joe Allie. It’s about his experiences on the streets with the homeless. Austin Davis is a poet and the author of “The World Isn’t The Size of Our Neighborhood Anymore” (Weasel Press, 2020) and “Celestial Night Light” (Ghost City Press, 2020). Austin also leads AZ Hugs For the Houseless. Joe Allie is a local musician/music teacher. I could say so much more about them both. That Austin’s writing is stunning. That Joe’s musical talent is something that you can just feel inside you. Or just go on about how the combination of the two in this one project feels cathartic in a way that I haven’t felt in months. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, I leave you with this interview in a format that fits their personalities so well. In a quirky and down-to-earth group chat, we had one whimsical morning…
Austin Davis: Hey everyone! This is Austin 😊Joe, meet Mallory! Mallory, meet Joe! Thanks again, Mallory, for talking with us about the new record!
Mallory Smart: Hey! It’s an amazing record so thanks so much for taking the time out to chat with me about it. Where are you both writing from?
Austin Davis: I’m at my house right now in Mesa, AZ. Just made a bomb cup of tea
Joe Allie: I’m also in Mesa
Mallory Smart: That’s rad. I’m finding this way of interviewing people pretty fun. Maudlin House is in-between interviews editors so it’s pretty neat to be doing it myself. The only interview experience I have is in person, or zoom, or on my podcast Textual Healing which actually really is on point since that podcast focuses on the intersection between music and literature.
How do you two know each other?
Joe Allie: I met Austin through mutual friends from around town
Austin Davis: Yeah! I was actually set to perform some poems on Desert Spotlight, an AZ arts show. I asked if we could collaborate with a jazz musician for the show, and I was introduced to Joe! We performed some jazz poetry live and it was so damn fun. I felt like it was the easiest, most fun, and most natural show I’d ever done.
Mallory Smart: What made you want to collaborate with a jazz musician? I always find it intriguing when writers like to integrate music with their work.
Austin Davis: I feel like poetry is meant to be spoken out loud, and I think poetry and music go together so beautifully. I’m a big jazz fan and it has actually been a huge goal of mine to collaborate with a jazz musician ever since I was in high school. I love how the words can bring out a new story from the music, and how the music can expose new emotions in the poetry.
Mallory Smart: I definitely had that urge back in high school too. For me, it was because I was pretty into reading beat literature at the time and that was a concept that they explored deeply. Were you influenced by them at all or any other writers who have done things similar to that in the past? I feel like I’m neglecting Joe. Jump in at any moment. I’m equally intrigued about what got you interested in doing a project like this.
Joe Allie: It’s pretty simple for me. Someone just got in touch and said they were looking for someone to play some music for this event. It sounded fun so I did it! It sounded like a cool challenge so I had to jump on the opportunity.
Mallory Smart: I dig that! Just jumping into something is always rad. We’ve been pretty vague about your music. What exactly do you play?
Joe Allie: Well I play guitar mainly and I’ve been playing many styles of music for as long as I can remember.
Austin Davis: To answer your question from a bit ago, I think I’ve been influenced by lots of musicians, poets, and spoken word artists. I’ve always been fascinated with slam poetry and how connective poetry can be when it’s performed out loud in a shared space. I’ve loved Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and lots of other musicians for a really long time. When I was younger I really enjoyed reading my poems to famous jazz songs and acoustic guitar tracks. It was just a fun thing I used to do to relax. I remember learning about Langston Hughes and Jack Kerouac and other famous poets, and I thought it was really so cool how their performances were often accompanied or influenced by jazz.
Mallory Smart: Were you aiming for a certain style with this project?
Joe Allie: It ended up being a combination of our two individual styles and the improvisatory nature of jazz. I don’t know if we really aimed for anything in particular
Mallory Smart: I know there is definitely the narrative of it being about the streets and such. How did that inform the sound?
Austin Davis: We kind of just went into it not knowing where it was going to go, which I loved. The improvisation Joe is talking about was really fun and interesting for me. I think both of our artistic mediums compliment each other and bring out something unique and beautiful from each other. All the songs are based on real experiences I’ve had with people on the streets. I really wanted to create something about homelessness where listeners could really feel this honesty and truth, and see that those experiencing homelessness are human and deserving of just as much love and respect as you or me.
Mallory Smart: That is exactly where I was going with that question. Did you just write and allow Joe to build a sound around it? Or was there a conversation about what direction you two should take it in to help amplify emotions?
Austin Davis: When we went to record, the poems were already written. We kind of just sat down and jammed out and talked out some ideas and played what we were feeling, I think. While we were recording, I kind of let myself get lost in the music Joe was playing. The way I spoke at certain moments was definitely informed by Joe and his guitar I felt like we kind of performed off of each other, in a way
Mallory Smart: That can definitely be heard. It feels so fluid. How did you record? Studio? Bedroom with good mics?
Joe Allie: The latter. We just did it ourselves at my place in the living room
Austin Davis: I feel really grateful and lucky to have created this EP with Joe! He’s seriously one of the coolest people I’ve ever met, and one of the most badass musicians in PHX. I felt like our artistic chemistry was really natural, and it felt easy to create with him. We recorded all the songs in one night at Joe’s place in Mesa The INCREDIBLE Brent James produced this record Brent recorded with us at Joe’s place and he really took what we had created and brought out the best in it
Mallory Smart: One night is wild! Your voice doesn’t sound rough on the EP at all. Are you used to reading out loud for long periods of time like that? I just went through an audiobook recording and we did it in short bits over the course of a few days.
Austin Davis: Woah, that sounds so sick!! I’ve always wanted to record an audiobook. Can’t wait to hear it, Mallory! 😊 I absolutely love performing and reading my poetry. Before the pandemic, I was actually on tour, doing shows and reading poems from my latest full-length book in libraries and coffee shops. It was such a fun experience and I hope to hit the road again soon.
Mallory Smart: That totally makes sense than on why your voice was able to hold up. I have noticed that due to the pandemic that a lot of writers began experimenting with different formats and styles of writing to fill that gap. Would you have done this project right now if it wasn’t for the pandemic?
Austin Davis: During the pandemic, I really threw myself into this homeless outreach work. I wrote a lot less poetry for a while because I think I just needed some time to process all I was experiencing. Some of the scariest moments of my life happened during the last year, but also some of the most beautiful. I think I still would’ve wanted this project to happen even if it wasn’t for the pandemic, but I imagine it would be a different album in some ways!
Mallory Smart: Have you worked on anything else since? Or just fully focused on promoting this at the moment?
Austin Davis: I’ve actually finished 2 new collections of poetry since my last book. Not sure when they’ll be released though. One is a book about homelessness, and the other is about love, heartbreak, mental health, and my struggles with OCD and anxiety At night I sometimes mess around on the piano and write little songs, but I’m a terrible singer and an awful pianist, so it’s mostly just self-care for me haha
Mallory Smart: Haha at least you’re constantly being creative It really is the best form of self-care, especially in the social climate we’ve been in for the last few years So now that you two have completed this project, how will it be distributed?
Austin Davis: I agree. Being able to be creative is definitely a form of medicine for me…(along with Zoloft, of course)
Mallory Smart: Lol I feel that
Austin Davis: It’ll be out on all streaming services on July 30th! Pre-orders open on July 16th. I’m so pumped
Mallory Smart: That’s so lit! I’m excited to see what everyone else is going to think of it.
Austin Davis: So am I. I hope that in some little way, it might be able to make some people look at homelessness from a more kind and empathetic view
Mallory Smart: What do you hope people are going to take from it? Asked and answered lol
Austin Davis: Haha sent that even before you asked the question! On the same wavelength here, Mallory
Mallory Smart: Total vibe check haha Well I don’t want to keep you two on here forever. As we wrap up, are there any projects similar to this that either of you would like to give a shout-out to?
Joe Allie: Nothing really for me at the moment
Austin Davis: I’m mostly just excited to get back to watching my friends perform their poetry and music live and I’m pumped to get to read new books from poets and writers I love!
Mallory Smart: I love it!
Austin Davis: Thank you so much again for chatting with us today, Mallory. This was super fun!! I’m all out of tea now, so I guess I need to go make another cup!
Joe Allie: Yea thank you for putting this together!
Mallory Smart: Haha enjoy. I desperately need to go grab some coffee. Hope you two have a great day. This was fun!
Austin Davis: Haha definitely get yourself some coffee! Caffeine is of the utmost importance. Hope you have an awesome rest of your day, and thanks again for your time, and for listening to our record 🙏❤️