dnk.: Scat Raps and smooth R&B soul from Nashville?

Scat Raps and smooth R&B soul aren’t generally associated with Nashville’s illustrious music scene. However, dynamic rap/pop duo dnk. has found a niche by applying the city’s songwriting roots to their melodic blend of throwback soul and lightning fast rap. DNK., a monogram for key members David Davis and Kayla Fisher, formed in 2013 and have been rocking college campuses and arenas non-stop ever since. Fisher, dnk.’s silver-tongued superwoman, is a master of tempo and belts rhymes with an Missy Elliott pitch and Nicki Minaj flow. Davis reigns in Fisher’s speed by pouring smooth soul over the backbone of dnk.’s sound. The duo has signed with Kobalt Music Company  in 2013 and is currently working on a soon-to-be released second EP.

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DL: How did the two of you meet and come together to form DNK?
KF:  We met in 2009 while we were in college at Belmont University in Nashville. But, we didn’t start working together until the summer of 2013.

DD: At the time, I was doing more throwback Motown stuff and Kayla was singing jazz. We took a class where we had to perform the opposite style of what we were normally doing. Kayla came in and rapped a Nicki Minaj and Trey Songz song that just blew me away. So, the next year I asked her to rap in a show I was doing. It just-so-happened that our now publisher, Becki Devries, was in the audience. She convinced us to quit what we were doing and form a band. We started working together and developing our sound in 2013. Then we started touring in March 2014. Since then, we’ve done over 300 shows and spent about two years traveling.

DL: You each have unique but different styles that really complement each other. Can you tell us about your roots and music background?
KF: I grew up in Spokane, WA and did a lot of musical theater. But, I knew I didn’t want to study musical theater in college. I also did a lot of church music, choir, and I had a lot of classical training. I got a commercial degree from Belmont and I was able to study more contemporary styles. I’ve always been interested in jazz. My dad listened to jazz when I was growing up. So, that’s what I listened to. I was in a select jazz group in college and I worked on Mackinaw Island in Michigan at the Grand Hotel. I was the vocalist for a couple of summers and sang jazz songs for two hours a night. I was really attracted to the rhythmic portions of jazz. So, sometimes when we write I end up scatting it before we add words to it. So, that has a lot of influence on my tonality as well.

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DD: I grew up in Wheaton, IL right outside of Chicago. I started singing in church at a young age. I really enjoyed performing and playing piano. I did a lot of extra-curricular music stuff in middle school and high school…musical theater as well. When I got to college I focused mainly on piano/vocal performance stuff. I was going for that John Legend sound. I’ve always been super-inspired by Stevie Wonder as well. But, when K and I met and started working together we found that bringing in the elements of each of our backgrounds has created this fusion that is really fun like pop, but also, Motown, soulful throwback stuff along with melodic scatty rapping.

DL: How would you classify your style?
DD: We just say we’re a pop/rap duo and within that umbrella we kind of expand and write from there. Pop music has changed so much recently. There is a lot of soul coming out of pop singers now and I think that R&B is definitely showing itself in pop music like with Sam Smith and Ariana Grande. A lot of her album was R&B but it was still considered pop.

DL: How does your style fit into and/or stand out in Nashville?
DD: Nashville is a big country, Christian and rock town. We’ve written with a lot of country writers. If you break down a country song and an R&B song, they’re basically about the same thing. They have a lot of the same understandings and melodic impressions. We’re all sort of doing the same thing. It’s just a matter of production and variation in vocals.

KF: Our style is very pop driven. But, we have a lot of guitar driven themes that tie into the Nashville vibe. We have a guitar player and a drummer that go on the road with us for our live shows. We also have a lot of tracks with that Nashville element because they like the live stuff.

DL: Nashville and Austin are both major music towns. However, Nashville is more of a “music business” town. How would you compare performing in the two cities?
DD: We performed here last year at Red Gorilla and it was such a good time. In Nashville, since it’s a bit more music business driven, a lot of people there, can be having the time of their lives but they will stand with their arms folded and bob their heads because they are appreciating every little thing about the show and thinking and processing the music. But, in Austin, it seems that people really get music. It’s similar in Nashville. But, people in Austin are really invested in the performance and energy of the show…the ‘let’s get weird’ part of it. It’s certainly more of a party vibe here instead of a watching vibe.

DL: Are you currently working on any projects?
DD: We are currently signed to a producer out of LA named RedOne. He did the first three albums for Lady Gaga and has worked with One Direction and a lot of other big pop acts. We are working on an EP and also have kept our writing going as well. We don’t have a release date for either. We should have something out by the end of June. We have two months of shows booked out. We’ll be at The Mint LA on March 30 at 7:30. We’re really looking forward to that show.

Written by Doug Leach (doug@themusicissuemagazine.com)
Images by Alex Fitch Photography

 

Booking, tour dates and additional info can be found at:

www.dnkofficial.com

http://m.facebook.com/dnkofficial/

@thednkofficial

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