Dutch singer Davina Michelle has made her mark on the music industry in a relatively short period of time through eye-catching collaborations and unique performances. Her breakthrough came when she posted a cover of P!nk’s ‘What About Us’ on her YouTube channel. The cover went viral, caught the attention of P!nk and launched her career. In the short period of time since, she’s earned countless awards and the title of one of the best Dutch artists ever.
Davina, your career started through posting covers of songs from artists that inspire you on your YouTube channel. Why did you decide to start your YouTube channel with covers?
Back when I started my YouTube channel, I already wrote my own songs, but I found that releasing music and creating music can be very expensive when you don’t have a label or don’t have a fan base yet. To really get your music to the audience is definitely one of the most difficult things when you’re just starting.
My production team is a few guys that I produce and make music with. Altogether we are Davina Michelle, as I like to say it. Back then we wanted to release music, but we didn’t have a fan base, we didn’t have a label. There was no label interested because I hadn’t done anything yet, so we started a YouTube channel to actually build one, get myself out there and actually create an online portfolio. The covers allowed me to really also practice my singing, but also to develop my own way of singing and my own brand and style. People liked it. They started following and whenever I’d release my own songs, they’d be waiting for them. They fell in love with the videos or fell in love with the voice. I think that was the idea behind creating the YouTube channel and I always have an amazing time creating those covers and making my own versions of it.
Your cover of P!nk’s ‘What About Us’ went viral and even caught the attention of P!nk herself, who said “That’s better than I will ever sound”. How excited were you when you saw that P!nk not only saw your cover, but praised you so much?
Oh my goodness. I was blown away at first when I saw the video of P!nk reacting to my cover. I didn’t really believe that it was actually her. It took me a few seconds to really realize what was happening. It’s such an honor to have someone like P!nk say something like that, about that beautiful song. I also very quickly afterward found out what a huge influence she is and what an incredible audience she has because my cover completely went viral. I got to perform all over the world on incredible stages and share my cover with people around the world, which was such an incredible experience.
It’s insane because before the ‘What About Us’ cover I think I had like 5.000 followers on YouTube. And after, I went up to 150.000 followers, it completely blew up. It really gave me a boost also in Holland. I got to perform on different TV shows, tell the story, got a lot of media attention and release my own song. We started the YouTube Channel to get attention for my own music and it worked. That was amazing and I am so thankful for P!nk.
From there, your career exploded. You’ve earned countless awards and have been named one of the best Dutch artists ever. What do all these awards mean to you? How much do they inspire you for the future of your career?
To be honest, I don’t really care about awards. I’m very thankful for awards when I receive them for something that I’ve worked on or worked for really hard. I’ve received awards for covers that I’ve done in Holland, but I’ve also received an award for a song I wrote here in Holland. I wrote a song with my boyfriend and I got an award for the lyrics and for the music. We’ve worked on that song for so long and then to actually receive an award for it was probably one of the most honoring things ever. So that’s when I care about it. It also kind of depends if it’s the fans that decide who wins or if it’s just a random jury. It’s all very difficult, but it motivates me when on Friday night I receive an award for something and on Saturday I’m going to write new music.
You are a typical representative of the 21st century music generation, you understand very well how social media is important in the industry today. What is your own relationship with social media? Why do you believe social media holds such an importance for an artist?
I have such a love and hate relationship with social media. Honestly, if I wasn’t in the music industry and if I wasn’t an artist, I probably would not use social media that much because I’m not naturally good with it. I really have to push myself to do it because I think social media, especially like you said, for this generation, is incredibly important for artists. You really get in touch with your fan base, you can keep them updated, and you can really promote your music with very low costs. And that, especially for young upcoming artists that don’t have the highest budget or don’t have a label yet, can have a huge kickstart to their career. By just having one viral video of you singing some lyrics that you wrote and putting it on TikTok all of a sudden you have a hit. You don’t really need that much money for social media. The only thing that you really need to do is pay attention and put a lot of time and effort into it. It’s super important.
It’s also for your profile, for your brands. You can really get yourself out there, show yourself to the world, show what kind of person you are, show your face with the music and make people love you. Not only your music but also you as a person. Music is key for me, but I always like it when an artist is not only a good artist but when an artist is also a nice person and also has a nice story. I always like it when an artist explains their music and tells us why they wrote something or what’s the story behind it. It makes it more personal. Music’s not only hearing it, I always feel like it’s also a bit of seeing, so that’s why I think social media can be really important for the full picture.
In 2019 you got to open for P!nk in the Hague. That was like coming full circle for you. How excited were you for that opportunity? And how was it meeting P!nk?
I was so nervous. I got the invitation to do the support act and I completely lost my mind because I didn’t expect it at all. I wasn’t that big yet in Holland, so I was completely blown away that I got the opportunity to support such an incredible artist. I think two weeks before the show, I couldn’t eat. I was so excited.
On the day of the show, I actually had a festival show planned, so I had to do another show before that concert. I had a very chaotic day and at the first performance I was just saying to the audience “If something is not going well this morning, it’s because of P!nk”. After that show was over I had to drive to the Hague so quickly and my hands were trembling. I was very new in this industry and so I was very nervous. The audience was very supportive and very loving, and they knew the story.
After the show, all of a sudden I got asked over to her dressing room and I could only bring my boyfriend with me. I still remember walking into that dressing room. I saw her, but her kid just fell so she had to help her kid up and make sure he was okay. I just turned around and I gave them some privacy. And then it was over and I turned around and she was coming up towards me. I got to thank her of course and I got to ask her if she knew what she had done because she just said some words on YouTube. I don’t know if she looks at YouTube a lot and if she checked social media that often, so I don’t know if she even knew what had happened to me after she reacted to my video. She didn’t know, so I got to explain to her that she had changed my life. I thanked her like a thousand times and got a cute picture, but the most important thing for me was to hopefully make her realize that she really changed a young artist’s life. And that was probably the best part of the whole day.
You write and produce your music yourself. What does writing songs represent to you? And what inspires your songs the most?
I write my own songs and my boyfriend produces them. He does the melody and I do the lyrics. I’m not saying I will always only write my own music because it’s stressful to always write your own songs because sometimes I have to release something in a few weeks or in a few months. If I have writer’s block, I can’t write. Up until now, I’ve almost always written my own songs and I always want to do it because I want to sing my own words, and I want to make sure that whenever I tell a story to the audience, it’s really my story. If I sing something funny, I want to make sure that’s my own joke. It’s something that I just feel like it’s more authentic and you can always in a few years look back at all the things you wrote and be really proud of it. These are all my stories and these are all my words, and it develops your writing skills.
It gives me a lot of stress to write my own music, but I always find it very rewarding. If someone sends me a DM and they can really relate to the lyrics, then I did a good job. Maybe in the future I will give myself some slack and maybe write some songs with someone else.
You’ve had the chance to collaborate with the one and only, Armin van Buuren on ‘Hold On’. How has it been working with Armin? And especially we’d love to hear how was it working on a trance song?
Armin is amazing. I had already done a Dutch song with Armin, so I knew him, but I was singing in Dutch then and I always wanted to do something in English. I was talking to Armin about it and he was like “We should do something together in English”, so that’s what happened. I went to his studio with my boyfriend and his co-producer was there too, we just started writing and that’s how we wrote ‘Hold On’.
And about trance, I think because it’s also very pop and very my alley, I wasn’t actively realizing that I was doing a pop-trance collaboration. But I’m very proud of the results and Armin is the most humble and kind person that I know from the industry. He’s incredibly talented. Everything went so organically and naturally while writing a song and it’s definitely something that I would love to do again. It was a very great experience.
In 2021, when Formula 1 returned to Zandvoort for the first time since 1985, you got the honor of performing the Dutch national anthem at the circuit. How nervous were you when everything went silent and you were about to start singing the anthem?
I was maybe even as nervous as performing the support act for P!nk, because of course, it was a very big global thing. All over the world people were watching the anthem, but the thing that I was probably most nervous about was the fact that it’s the Dutch anthem. If you’re singing your national anthem, you can’t make any mistakes because if you sing just one word wrong, your whole country will hate you. They will kick you out of the country. That was what I was feeling. The Dutch anthem isn’t very difficult to sing. It’s not very high, it’s not very low, it’s not very fast or slow, it’s just the pressure of singing the right words.
Afterwards, it’s also kind of like a funny side note, I sang the anthem two times, one time right before the race started and once after the race was finished when Max Verstappen won. And the first time I sang it, I was singing on a pedestal, on a round, very small one. We rehearsed me singing on that stage, but there wasn’t a step in between because they still had to search for the step to get on it because it was pretty high. So in the rehearsals, I crawled onto the stage and then stood up. When we finally went for the real deal, they added that step, but I was wearing very large boots. I sang the anthem and then when I finished it, I stepped off the stage on that freaking step that I couldn’t practice on and I fell down. I just fell face down on the concrete in front of like 60.000 people. The orchestra was looking at me if I’m okay, but you don’t see it luckily on TV. I was blessed by that moment not being live on TV, especially with them also filming from a helicopter.
Which one of your performances so far is the most memorable for you and why?
Oh, that’s so difficult. I have a few performances that really stand out. I also did a support interval act for Eurovision Song Contest two years ago. That was a very special project. And of course, F1 was a very big one. I got to do my own concerts in Holland in Dam. Two of my own shows with everyone in the audience buying tickets just for my show. That was something very special those two nights in a row, something that I will never forget.
Davina, tell us more about your upcoming projects. Is there a new album in the works? Any exciting collaborations?
I have a lot of festivals, but I’m focusing right now on my album. I’ve been working on an album for quite some time and I really want to push it now with the hope it gets released at the end of this year. But it depends on if I’m happy with the songs and if it’s perfect. Writing an album is like a puzzle, it should make sense and it should be perfect. I think I’ve been saying that I want to release an album for two years now and things are so busy and so hectic that sometimes I don’t get enough time to write. I’m really taking my time to write now a lot, so that’s my big project for this year.
Talent: Davina Michelle
Photographer: Daniel Sars
Stylist: Maria Mota
Hair: Arnaud Schoenmaker
Styling assistant: Dean Sanders
Editor: Timi Letonja
This interview was done for Numéro Netherlands by Jana Letonja.