When indie-pop singer and harp player Mikaela Davis wraps up a short run of tour dates next week, she’ll go from hitting the road to hitting the books.
The 21-year-old still has a semester to go as a harp performance major at SUNY Potsdam in upstate New York. She released her self-titled full-length debut shortly before her junior year in 2012. And this week, she dropped a crowd-funded EP, “Fortune Teller,” on iTunes.
Davis has been studying the harp since the second grade, when her teachers asked her to choose a string instrument to learn in school. She thought it was the coolest one.
“I really loved the instrument,” Davis says.
Soon, she was studying with a harpist in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. A few years later, she performed with the orchestra as a member. On Sunday, she’ll headline her own show — a decidedly less classical one — at the Black Cat (while she’s on winter break).
Davis discovered the indie music she currently favors at an early age: In middle school, longtime friend Alex Cote, who now drums in her band, switched out the Vanessa Carlton on Davis’ iPod for some more mature, less mainstream tastes.
“I found Elliott Smith on there,” she says, “and I just fell in love.”
She became entrenched in the sounds of the late musician and of indie folkie Sufjan Stevens. But she thought the technical intricacies of the harp would prevent her from pursuing a career in that style of music.
Then a friend’s dad sent her an interview with Joanna Newsom, the queen of harp-based indie music. For Davis, it was a eureka moment.
“If she can do it, I can do it,” she says.
Davis’ music is more straightforward than Newsom’s long, winding structures. Take “Something Better,” from her debut, the kind of high-spirited, harp-backed jaunt that could soundtrack a commune as easily as a Target commercial.
“Fortune Teller” represents a stylistic change, Davis says. Synthesizers have come out in full force, moving her band away from the organic feel of her debut.
It’s a sound Davis hopes people will hear a lot more of, especially after spring rolls around.
“All of us are graduating,” she says of her bandmates. “We’re not going to go to grad school. I think we’re going to go on tour right away.”
Inside Track: “Feels Like Forever,” from Mikaela Davis’ new “Fortune Teller” EP, starts off with the same sort of harp flourish that pops up in her earlier work, but only takes a few seconds to head in a different, pulsing direction. Stabs of synthesizer join the mix, and end up taking the rhythm. The harp does make more appearances, but the synth — and Davis’ breathy vocals — are the stars of the show.
Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Sun., 8 p.m., $10; 202-667-7960. (U Street)