Studio Essentials: Billy Davis

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Studio Essentials: Billy Davis

Words by Will Brewster

Dive into the studio with Melbourne's neo-soul stalwart.

For the better part of five years, Billy Davis has repped Melbourne’s musical leanings on the world stage better than almost anybody else.

A virtuosic keyboardist, masterful composer and a cunning producer to boot, he’s toured the world and lent his instrumental talents to zeitgeist-defining artists such as Joey Bada$$, Goldlink, BROCKHAMPTON and Tones and I, all while proudly representing local crew The Operatives and building up a rock-solid solo catalogue that draws from gospel, future-funk, R&B and hip-hop.

Read all the latest artist features, columns and interviews here.

On his latest full-length effort This Is What’s ImportantBilly improves on his instrumental and production chops even further to present what can only be described as his most definitive creative statement to date.

Sonically, it’s about as textured and funky as you’d expect from the man – and perhaps even groovier than you’d previously assume it to be – while thematically, Davis dives into notions of love, life, family and loss as he comes to turn with the passing of his own mother.

Tracks like ‘She Is Always Going to Be Important’ and the album standout ‘Dream No More’ with Ruel and Genesis Owusu showcase Billy’s tender songwriting, while cuts like ‘Wilderness’ with Phoenix, Jordan Dennis and EMRSN and the VanJess and Matt McGhee team-up of ‘Shoulda Known’ demonstrate the danceable, hard-hitting take on hip-hop and R&B Billy’s been honing in on over the course of his career.

With the album out into the world, we linked up with Billy Davis for an insider peek at some of the most essential gear in his studio, giving us a glimpse at his creative process employed while crafting This Is What’s Important.

Steinberg AXR4 Audio Interface

Some call me crazy, some call me insane, but I’m a creature of habit.  The same interface I use whilst onstage or performing is the same I use whilst in the studio (which makes packing up and stuff really annoying) but it works for me.

I love the Steinberg AXR4 because it gives me ability to route all my different sounds through different inputs, which is important for me having so many different keyboards, vocalists, instruments etc. All the internal ability is good and helps me to be able to put forward a hot sound.

UVI Ravenscroft Piano VST

In my opinion, this is one of the most slept-on piano VSTs in the game.

For me, growing up in gospel music and listening to cinematic music for most of my upbringing, being able to harmonise emotively and also match that emotion sonically was so important. I totally believe this piano gives you the ability to do this!

It sounds so crisp and is worth the investment, as I don’t think a lot of people have this sound. For me, the sonic uniqueness is so important when it comes to pianos and patches.

Spitfire Audio LABS Soft Piano VST

Get this piano, and the tears will follow: it’s that simple.

When it comes to the sad side of things of music to the hopeful side of music, this piano is able to transmit it all. This is actually my top secret so I’m scared of sharing this, but heck, we are here now.


As I said before, I am a creature of habit. I have used Reaper since I was a teen and this DAW hasn’t failed me.

Each to their own, but I’ve been able to make my last album and my brand new album with this program. It’s pretty straight forward, and simple and easy to use.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

I always thought I would be an onboard producer / keys player but I’ve slowly come across the line when it comes to synth VSTs. Now, look no further than Omnisphere 2: the thing covers synth basses, synth leads, pads, atmospheric sounds – all of it.

If you want to take your songs to another level sonically, I highly recommend Omnisphere. The amount of content on it is amazing.

Yamaha CP73

When it comes to expressive playing and music, it’s not only about the harmonics and sonics, but also the action which is tied into the expression of the instrument.

For me personally, the Yamaha CP73’s piano sounds, Rhodes sounds and effects ability has made it the best piano-action keyboard in the game at the moment. I was a longtime Montage user for everything, but with me using more VSTs and other synths, this keyboard has become my number one right now.

Access Virus TI

I remember being at a gig a couple of years ago and seeing one of Australia’s greatest keys players, Grant Windsor, playing this keyboard. The sounds he was pulling legit blew my mind that night and I remember immediately going on the hunt for it.

Not a lot of people know about this keyboard and thats why I love this keyboard so much. The sounds and sonics on this keyboard are so amazing: the synths, pads, everything on it is completely unheard of and there are just so many sounds, especially when it comes to synth basses and leads. This thing is king.

Sequential / Dave Smith Prophet 12

Again, this thing is king. The synths, arpeggios and pads I’ve pulled from this are amazing. If you know Dave Smith, you know the history behind all these sounds and how high quality they are. This is one of the most important synthesisers in the game today, and especially for me personally with my music.

This Is What’s Important, the new album from Billy Davis, is out now via Sony Music Australia. Catch Billy on tour with Tones and I around the Australia this April and May.