On Their Debut Record, Brittany Davis Puts Sound to the Things They Can’t See

The Black, blind, and non-binary musician bears all on Image Issues.

On Their Debut Record, Brittany Davis Puts Sound to the Things They Can’t See

How does an artist detail their deepest-seated insecurities and doubts about how they’re seen by the world when they’re unable to actually see themselves? That’s the question at the heart of Seattle-based musician, producer, and engineer, Brittany Davis’ debut album, Image Issues (released on March 1). Through 26 tracks Davis, who is Black, blind, and non-binary, attempts to offer an answer.

“I have image issues and not just the obvious body image issues. I have issues with image. I don’t know how to relate to it,” Davis explained to Jezebel during a recent phone interview. “I was born without the ability to perceive it because I don’t have any eyes. Yet, I’m surrounded by it each day and I’m expected to be able to bear witness to the social norms by participating in them visually as well. I have no idea how to do that.”

Davis also has a form of synesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon where someone can experience multiple senses at once. Though it’s caused frustration in the ways they’re able to translate their feelings creatively, what takes shape on Image Issues is, well, multi-sensory. There’s a James Brown-esque funk on “Sepricon,” and penetrating blends of R&B, soul, and hip-hop on “Soft As Sand” and “So Fly.” Interposed throughout the album, however, is a series of spoken-word pieces entitled “Treadmill Memories,” where Davis reckons with the abuse and trauma they faced during childhood over a discordant piano, mantras, taunts, cries, and the rhythmic sound of a treadmill. 

“I’m supposed to be alive but I feel like I’m dead,” Davis says on “Treadmill Memories.” “I believe in God but does God believe in me?”

When Davis—whose 2022 EP, I Choose to Live, motivated and moved its audiences, including Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard—speaks about the year-and-a-half period of creating the album, they deploy metaphor after metaphor to describe their process. They say writing Image Issues was like “throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks” or a “cup of coffee spilling out” or “building a castle out of meteorites.” It sounds as if the product would be lacking in cohesion but in actuality, it plays like a measured, moving story—even if Davis had a lot of material to work with.


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At just three years old, their mother was sent to prison for a decade for murder, leaving Davis to be raised by their maternal grandmother. While their mother was in prison, Davis experienced periods of homelessness and then immense grief after their father was murdered when they were 12. The latter can be heard in explicit detail on “Daddy’s Gerl.”

“‘Will you stay with me?” Davis says, reciting the track’s lyrics aloud to me.”That whole thing is so incoherent. I love that. You know how it is when you cry so hard that you can’t get all the words out? That’s what that is. It’s the trial and error of describing the depths of pain and the inflammation of the soul that happens when you lose somebody that close.” I’ll note that “incoherent” is hardly the first adjective I’d use to describe “Daddy’s Gerl.”

So difficult to categorize Image Issues, when trying to describe Davis’ record to a friend weeks later, I caught myself using yet another metaphor: a buffet of riches. The record creates space for life’s contradictions—faith and doubt in a higher power; experiencing joy and grief in the every day; and most of all, loving and hating oneself. When I ask about how they managed to reflect all of it in a way that’s resonant while remaining optimistic, they recall the questions they’ve long asked themselves—and God.

“I’ve always known that God loves me and I always know that he loves all his children,” Davis said. “But man, I tell you what…in that moment, what you heard was like, fire tears coming out of my spirit. I was like, ‘Why would you make me everything that no girl wants to be?’ Most 16-year-olds is tripping because they got a pimple. I was tripping because I had a beard. I’m blind. I had bad acne up till I was 15. I can’t even see myself but I felt like I looked like a monster. It’s just like, ‘Why? What was your plan?”

At this point, now that the album is out in the world, what do they think God’s plan is?

“I believe he’s doing whatever he wants to do and that’s beautiful because now, it’s in his hands,” they answer. “It’s not in my heart anymore. I’m not afraid to speak from there and tell the world about what it means and what it looks to be completely deconstructed and come apart.”

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