Biography: Almond&Olive (A&O), comprised of singer-songwriters Natalie Alms and Ollie Davidson, creates inspiring songs that span the folk and Americana genres, while also incorporating Alms’ timeless vocals and the duo’s distinct songwriting. Blended together, Alms and Davidson’s voices sound made for each other, soaring and guiding the music through all the ups and downs of these finely crafted songs.
The music on their recently released debut album, called Standing at the Precipice, features Alms mostly on banjo and Davidson mostly on acoustic guitar, while also deploying highly skilled professional musicians, stalwarts of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music scene, who provide backing throughout the record. The album was recorded at Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago with incomparable producer John Abbey, who’s also recorded the likes of Robbie Fulks and Jonas Friddle. Together A&O and Abbey are creating an impressive debut for one of Chicago’s most exciting new bands. To help pay for the album, the duo successfully received funding from a Kickstarter, raising over $10,000 is 30 days from over 110 backers.
The music A&O creates comes at you in waves. Together their voices lay down a solid base and tone, funneling you into succinct chorus melodies that build into a crescendo of rich and powerful harmonies. The end result of each song is satisfying and expressive, weaving together themes of love, fear, hope and loss. Each song’s purpose is to mark a moment in time, and give the listener a glimpse into the lives of these prolific songwriters. It’s a vulnerable look at times, though for the most part the music resolves itself to the basic emotions of hope and love, and let’s you know that no matter how low things get, there is a lift coming soon.
Alms and Davidson met while working in animal welfare. They both share a common interest in helping those less fortunate, including helping abandoned and stray animals rehabilitate and find new homes. The duo first got together to record a theme song for an animal welfare podcast, and quickly discovered after a couple practice sessions that their chemistry together was unique and fulfilling. At each subsequent practice session, Alms and Davidson brought new songs to the table and in what seemed like effortless work, churned out over a dozen songs, many of which are featured on their upcoming debut. After it became obvious that they were meant to play together, they came up with their stage name, Almond&Olive, by combining their real names Alms (Almond) and Ollie (Olive).
One of the first conversations they had about music revolved around their shared love of Bob Dylan. They gushed over his storytelling and simple melodies, and the way he could conjure up imaginative tales and elicit complex emotions. They swapped favorite bands and influences, including Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine, Matthew Sweet, today’s pop hits and yesterday’s standards. At first, and ever since, they constantly share YouTube links of songs they love via text, getting each other inspired and excited for new and old music.
Seemingly from a very young age, both Alms and Davidson were immersed in music. Their respective families nurturing their love of songs by playing music constantly throughout their childhoods, and providing musical instruments for their own creations. When they both started creating on their own, the songs they wrote were in a sense entries into a diary, cataloguing the loneliness and heartbreak of youth, but also the fighting spirit of the young and invincible. Aside from personal traumas and joys, activism and political messaging intrigued them both. Exploring the issues of the day become a staple in their individual songwriting forays, and that expression quickly become a favorite well to draw from.
Davidson, for example, decided to start using his music to give back at an early age. In what would be a theme later in life, he organized his high school’s first band festival, called Angst Fest, to benefit the Youth United Way. In the year’s that followed, Davidson formed a nonprofit called Compassionista Productions to put on dozens of shows and events, and even a CD compilation, to help groups such as Katrina survivors, the Lost Boys of Sudan and many animal organizations.
Alms and Davidson believe that, when possible, using their platform of musical creation and performance to give back to those in need is a natural extension of their personal goals – to make the world a better place for those who live in it. With that charge, once finished, their debut album will be also be used to help give back. Alms and Davidson have decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the initial sales of the album to the Jackson Galaxy Foundation (JGF), a foundation founded by Animal Planet’s Jackson Galaxy. JGF will use the funds donated by A&O to help animal shelters bolster their animal adoption programs, rehab crumbling animal housing and enhance vital community animal welfare programs.
The partnership and friendship the duo have formed is genuine and special. They push each other, getting the most out of their experiences together and the music they create. It’s evident every time you see them perform together or just goof around in practice – there is a bond there that is deep and everlasting. They trust each other and trust their ability, and the result leaves all doubts and fears behind. Together Alms and Davidson, Almond&Olive, are standing at the precipice, ready and excited to jump eyes-closed into great unknown.