Zelda is a series known for its great and revolutionary gameplay, characters that feel fresh even after 30 years, and especially its memorable music, having inspired an entire symphony. Whether it’s gaming, film, or just entertainment in general, music always plays a major role, and nobody knows that more than violinist and musician Taylor Davis. She has become an online sensation for her violin covers of gaming tracks, anime songs, and film music. Her work is simply amazing.
Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Taylor Davis about her violin work, her thoughts on the Zelda franchise, and what we can expect from her in the way of music in the future. Throughout the interview, our guest spoke of the history behind her work, what inspired her to create violin covers, and, of course, her thoughts on the Zelda series. Fans of music and Zelda, read on and discover what drives Davis to create her amazing violin covers as well as a great example of how large of a role music can play in not only Zelda, but life in general.
: First off, thank you Taylor for joining me today. You are of course known for your amazing violin work, but for those who may not know who you are, how would you best describe yourself and your violin work?
: Thanks so much for having me, it’s great to be here! I think the best way to describe myself and what you see on my YouTube channel would be a violinist who is passionate about game, film and anime music.
: How were you first introduced into music and what inspired you to become a violinist?
: I had a moment in an elementary school Christmas assembly when I was in 1st grade where I heard a young girl perform Silent Night on her violin and for whatever reason that performance really captured my attention, and I ran home and begged my parents to let me start taking violin lessons and thankfully they let me! I never remember being interested in playing an instrument before that, so it’s a pretty special memory to me now.
: That does sound quite inspiring. You mentioned you are passionate about gaming, film, and anime music. With the bulk of your first covers on YouTube being of Final Fantasy songs, would you say this inspired your YouTube channel to begin?
: Yes, the Final Fantasy series is my favorite game series both to play and for the music, so I decided to start my channel by posting a lot of my favorite older Final Fantasy songs and went from there.
: You’ve say that Final Fantasy is your favorite series to play and for the music. How would you say music plays a role in the franchise?
: Music is a huge part of the Final Fantasy series, and I think they do an amazing job of coming up with unique themes for literally everything in the game. There are themes for each character, each zone in the world you’re in, different battle themes that signify normal or unique enemies, etc. The sheer amount of music in a Final Fantasy game is pretty incredible, and I think the music really fits so well with the gameplay and story. It’s amazing to me that the main composer from the series, Nobuo Uematsu, was able to come up with so many different and completely unique themes spanning all of the games he scored. He’s actually my favorite composer and I admire what he’s done so much.
: What do you enjoy most about performing covers that has driven you to publish so many?
: When I first started posting the covers on my channel, I was trying to choose a lot of my favorite songs that hadn’t already been covered on the violin, and it was really great to see that my channel was growing and that a lot of people were interested in hearing violin covers of these songs. As my channel has grown and I’ve been able to get more resources for my audio and video production, I’m able to perform really complex arrangements of these songs in a way that a lot of people haven’t heard them before. I always loved the original soundtracks for the older video game music but the technological limitations of MIDI at the time really didn’t do the songs a lot of justice, so it’s really rewarding for me to be able to perform these fully orchestrated and really professional sounding arrangements of these pieces. For a long time, and especially when I was growing up, video game music wasn’t very well-respected, and I used to get made fun of a lot for listening to that type of music, so it’s kind of been an extra goal of mine to bring more awareness to this genre and hopefully get other people interested in this type of music because it’s what I’m most passionate about.
: Some of your gaming covers include that of the Zelda franchise, mostly from Ocarina of Time. What inspired you to cover Zelda music?
: I’ve played Zelda games ever since I can remember, but Ocarina of Time is my absolute favorite out of the series, and a large part of why I loved that game so much was the music. I had performed a Zelda Medley on my YouTube channel and it was really well received and got a lot of hits, so I figured that there were probably a lot of other Zelda fans out there that would enjoy an album full of Zelda music. I originally was going to make a mini-album of about 7-8 songs just to see how it went in case people weren’t that interested, but my friend Landon, who was also the videographer for my Song of Time and Storms video, really encouraged me to do a full length album, and so the night that we were driving back from the video shoot we easily came up with about 20+ songs that would be great to have on a Zelda album. So then the hard part was making cuts to that list! I’m very grateful to Landon for encouraging me to do the full album since the Zelda album is actually my most popular album.
: You say the hardest part of the Zelda album was cutting songs off the original list. What are some of these songs and would you like to cover them in the future?
: There were quite a few from Ocarina of Time on the list but I didn’t want the album to be too biased towards Ocarina of Time, even though it still ended up kind of being that way [laughs], sorry! Ballad of the Wind Fish was also another one that was hard to cut, but I’m actually very glad that I did, because I tried putting that song on my latest Anime and Game Collection album and sadly got a notice from the publisher that I needed to take it off, so I ended up re-releasing the album without that song on it and I’m just glad that didn’t happen with my Zelda album.
: As a musician, what do you believe makes Zelda music unique compared to other franchises, such as Final Fantasy?
: So many of the different themes in the games are very short, especially in Ocarina of Time, but they’re also incredibly unique and I think those factors make them very memorable. The way that Ocarina of Time incorporated music as an integral part of the gameplay was awesome, and I think that most people who played that game could probably hum back almost all of the different temple themes, even if they haven’t heard them or played the game in years. Everything musically just fits really well with what’s going on in the game too, and I think that all adds to the experience of playing a Zelda game.
: How do you decide what songs you will cover, not only for the Zelda series, but also in general?
: I’ve always decided that I’ll only cover songs that I truly feel musically connected with, so that’s the main criteria, but I always tend to choose songs from games that I’ve personally played and enjoyed just because I love the feeling of nostalgia that I get when I play those types of songs. I also of course will choose songs that are popular because I want to appeal to a wide audience, and thankfully the songs that are the most popular are usually songs that I really love as well. In terms of making videos for those songs, that will depend on a lot of different factors like whether or not I do a professional music video for them, and if so, if I have a good location in mind to film it at and also if I have good options for cosplaying or at least wearing something that fits the mood of the song.
: What songs would you like to see remade in the upcoming Wii U and Zelda title, Zelda U? Are there any songs you’d like to hear performed by an orchestra?
: Some of my favorites were always Gerudo Valley, Bolero of Fire and Kokiri Forest, but really any Zelda song would be awesome to hear performed by a live orchestra.
: Have you ever attended a gaming orchestrated symphony such as Distant Worlds or Symphony of the Goddesses?
: Yes, I’ve attended a Distant Worlds performance but unfortunately have not been able to attend a Symphony of the Goddesses concert yet. I love that these types of performances are happening now because it shows that there is a legitimate demand for this type of music and entertainment.
: As for your personal work, you also perform original pieces, correct?
: Yes. So far I’ve released 2 original pieces on my YouTube channel (Nebulous and Awakening) and I recently ran a Pledge Music campaign that funded an entire album of original music that I am currently working on and will be released in February. Even though I love the covers, it’s always been a dream of mine to do original music as well, so I couldn’t be happier to be working on this project and I’m so grateful to my fans for supporting it!
: On that note (pun most certainly intended), what are some of your albums you recommend people check out?
: [laughs] Well of course I would suggest checking out my Zelda album, Melodies of Hyrule: Music from The Legend of Zelda, and then depending on what other types of music they might be into, I have 2 other game themed albums, Gaming Fantasy and Game On: 2 Player Mode which is a piano/violin album with my friend Lara de Wit. I have a movie themed album, Legendary Movie Music, and most recently I released an album of half anime and half game music called The Anime and Game Collection. I also have a Christmas album out called An Enchanted Christmas. Lots to choose from, but it’s all in a similar style so hopefully if you like any of my music you’ll end up liking most all of it.
: Moving on from Zelda albums, how were you first introduced into the Zelda franchise?
: I always credit my older brother for getting me into gaming at an early age since he was attempting to turn me into a younger brother rather than a sister. The first Zelda game I ever played was the original first Zelda game on Nintendo. At the time (and maybe even now if I tried it) I thought that game was hard [laughs]. So I only played a few levels of it and mostly watched my brother play through it. I tried again with A Link to the Past but it wasn’t until Ocarina of Time that I really fell in love with Zelda games.
: What do you believe made Ocarina of Time such a great game for you to get into the series with?
: Definitely the music first and foremost. But I also think that the graphics and gameplay were such a leap from the previous game in the series I had played that it really captured my attention, and I think because of all of those things I felt a lot more immersed in the story.
: No doubt you enjoyed the 3D remake of Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 3DS?
: I actually don’t have a 3DS and part of that is the 3D graphics really feel like they’re straining my eyes so I always avoid that kind of a thing. I’ve only ever seen one movie in 3D and that was Avatar a few years ago and sadly that was too much for me [laughs]. Some of my friends played the Ocarina of Time remake, and it was their first time ever playing Ocarina of Time, so it’s really cool that people are able to get introduced to that game now through other systems.
: Fair enough, but that brings up a point that some people haven’t even played a single Zelda game. Why would you recommend gamers check out the Zelda franchise?
: Well I think especially for the more modern games the gameplay is usually awesome, the music is beautiful and the storyline is compelling enough to keep your attention and makes you want to keep playing. I think that it might be tough to convince someone to try out one of the really old Zelda games as their first one, even though they are considered classics, so maybe starting on one of the newer ones and working their way to some of the older ones might be the best way to get someone new into the series.
: How would you best describe the future of Zelda, in addition to your work in music?
: It’s tough to say because it will all depend on what the demand is, but I think that we’ll see a lot more games where Zelda characters will make an appearance but not necessarily be driving the game in the traditional sense of the series, like Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart type games. I’m surprised it took as long as it did to get a game like Hyrule Warriors out there because the series has so many fans, and it makes sense that Nintendo would try and push to other genres with the franchise so maybe we’ll see more of those types of games in the future — maybe even a Zelda MMO someday [laughs]! For the future of my music, I’m going to continue posting on my YouTube channel for as long as my fans are interested, and I’ll keep doing a variety of covers and original songs. As I’m able to afford more and utilize more resources, I hope to make bigger and better videos on my channel.
“Thank you to everyone who has ever supported me.”
: Lastly, is there anything you’d like to add for fans of your music and what can fans do to help support your work in the future?
: I just want to say thank you to everyone who has ever supported me whether it was from purchasing some of my music or from watching/liking one of my videos or subscribing to my channel. The only reason that I’m here and able to have a career is because of my amazing fans, and I am so grateful for all of their support over the last 4.5 years I’ve been on YouTube! If people want to learn more about how to support my music or my videos, definitely purchasing my albums is a great way to do that, and also for those who are most interested in helping me create bigger and better music videos I have a Patreon page with a group of wonderful people showing support each time I upload a video. If you want to learn more about that site, here’s a link to my page: http://www.patreon.com/taylordavis
Thank you Taylor Davis for taking the time to answer our questions!
Taylor Davis is an amazing violinist, performing covers of gaming, anime, and film music as well as original content. She also has albums available for purchase on her website, so be sure to check that out as well if you enjoy violin music! With unique content and amazing covers, she has something for music fans everywhere, so be sure to check out both her and her amazing work as soon as possible!