Exeter’s Head of Student Entrepreneurship reveals ‘double life’ as musician

Emily Davies

If being an independent musician requires an entrepreneurial mindset, then it bodes well for Emily Davies.

Emily is the University of Exeter’s Head of Student Entrepreneurship, a role in which she helps Exeter’s student and graduate startup businesses to flourish.  

But for years she has balanced the full-time job she loves with a passion for making music, which she accepts is no less entrepreneurial.

“Before I started this role I’d never considered being a musician as entrepreneurship,” she says, “but as an independent musician you’ve got to be a bit of a creative jack of all trades and the more I’ve worked with students the more I’ve recognized that some of the qualities that we try to develop in them, the ability to be tenacious and not be deterred by setbacks, to go out there and look for opportunities and be resilient, are actually quite similar to what you need as a musician these days.” 

Emily this week releases an EP of original songs entitled Start Anew.

Like many in her position, Emily not only writes and performs her own material but also does all the marketing and promotion as well as supporting with production and booking gigs. 

“It’s like what we say to our student entrepreneurs, that you’re going to have to wear a lot of hats and you don’t have to be brilliant at everything but you’re going to have to do a bit of everything – particularly in the early days,” she says. 

Start Anew is the follow up to Emily’s lockdown record Free to Roam, with its six songs reflecting on past experiences and looking forward to new beginnings.  

“It feels quite a reflective record and marks the beginning of a deeply personal journey of reflection and healing,” says Emily, who is influenced by the expressive and intimate vocal style of American songwriter Anais Mitchell. 

Davies grew up in a musical household and took piano lessons from the age of five. Her father was a musician and as a teenager she taught herself guitar and started performing in local pubs with her brother. 

She moved to London, where she performed extensively as a solo artist and with friends, even forming a short-lived girl band. She feels lucky to have had some amazing opportunities – one London gig led to an invitation to play at a festival in the Seychelles – but enjoys working full time too. 

“It’s always a case of finding the right balance, but there are certainly some very busy times of the year when we’re running the entrepreneurship programmes when music inevitably takes a back seat. My job at Exeter is also really important to me, and I love the work that I do, but it requires a lot of energy to work with students and be very much in front of them and involved in their education.” 

Start Anew comes out today (Friday 21 June), and Emily has already released three singles from it, receiving support from BBC Music Introducing in the South West, who made her a featured artist.  

She hopes the record will reach a new audience and has plans to line up some gigs for the early autumn.  

“I just hope the songs connect with people,” says Emily. “I found it quite a cathartic record to make, looking back at all the places I’ve lived and things that I’ve done and reflecting on all those old chapters of my life and preparing to start some new ones. I hope that people find something in it that resonates with them or it puts into words something they might have felt too.” 

Find out more at www.emilydavies.co.uk.