On Elise Davis's new album, Cactus, she moves between lush alt-country and stripped-down folk confessionals, gluing everything together with story-driven songs about independence, liberation, and resilience as an adult woman. Cactus is the follow up to her 2016 debut, the Token. If the Token's own songs were vulnerable and diary-like, their lyrics pulled from Davis' past romances, then Cactus turns a new leaf, with Davis taking pride in her status as a single, self-sufficient adult woman. Like the desert plant that lends the album its title, she doesn't need help from others to grow tall.
Davis grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she began writing songs at 12 years old. By college, she was booking her own tours and gigging regionally across the state. It was her relocation to Nashville that kickstarted the busiest phase of her career, though, with Davis landing a publishing deal during her first two years in town. Daily co-writing sessions whittled her songwriting to a sharp point, while an ongoing string of recordings -- including the Token, recorded in Maine and released in partnership with Thirty Tigers -- all showcased a musician who shone just as brightly onstage as she did in the writing room.
When it came time to record Cactus, Davis remained in Tennessee, tapping producer Jordan Lehning (Rodney Crowell, Caitlin Rose, Andrew Combs, Birdcloud's Jasmin Kaset) to helm her most personal work to date. The two worked together for six months, holed up in Lehning's home studio, looking to albums like Tom Petty's Wildflowers and Aimee Mann's Mental Illness for inspiration. Cactus is an album about what it takes to stand alone, rooted in the hard-won wisdom of a songwriter who's unafraid to shine a light on her missteps and victories.