By Jenn Day Thompson
“Are you going to see Ward Davis?”
People ask me all the time if I’ve heard of particular singers and songwriters.
As a musician, I feel like I’m supposed to know these artists, especially those names associated with the independent music industry. As a full time mom, however, the extent of my daily music exploration is often checking to see who the musical guest on Sesame Street is at the request of my four year old daughter.
A longtime friend recently informed me that Ward Davis is coming to Jacksonville. My friend was so pumped about the show and asked if I’d be going. While I had definitely heard the name before, I couldn’t tell you what he sang. I did some research and realized that I know many of the songs Davis has written. He’s written songs recorded by Trace Adkins, Willie Nelson and Jimmie Van Zant, to name a few.
I had to smile as I read up on Davis’ bio. He is clearly part of the outlaw country movement, the breakaway from the mainstream pop sound Nashville is producing. According to Davis’ Facebook page, he recently played to a sold out crowd at 3rd and Lindsley, a bar in Nashville where he had played years before. Early in his music career, as he attempted to see where he fit in on Music Row, he had played this same bar. He recalls in his Facebook post that the staff hadn’t even bothered to put his name on the chalkboard listing the performers for that night. He played a one-hour set to about 20 people, two of them his parents.
A Nashville executive who attended the show said Davis’ sound was good but that he needed to work on his image. This gave me a laugh as I thought about the times my sister and I have been told the same thing by managers in Music City. Davis’ sold out show at this same venue last Saturday is something he is proud of, and he laid his emotions out in his post.
Davis’ career started with songwriting and, with the help of some solid friends and his own relentless efforts, evolved into performing as well. He co-wrote a song with friend Cody Jinks that made the Top 40 Billboard charts. Davis held nothing back as he took to his Facebook page to announce the success and throw some shade at big labels. As he sees it, the Top 40 placement symbolizes independent artists’ invasion of the influential outlet that major labels have a stronghold on, radio.
Many of Davis’ Facebook posts revisit pivotal moments in his 20 year career as a songwriter. He uses some choice expletives at times. Thanks to the freedoms provided by being independent, there’s no one telling him he can’t, so he chooses to be authentic. But Davis also has quite a sense of humor. He recently poked fun at the political drama unfolding with Flavor Flav and Garth Brooks. Davis keeps it real, whether he’s laughing or reflecting on his journey. Some of his music, especially songs like “Old Wore out Cowboys”, follows suit, exploring real life experiences and struggles as opposed to fitting into the formulated pop country song in a box.
Ward Davis will play 1904 Music Hall here in Jacksonville this Saturday, March 7th at 7:00 PM. My sister and I have played this venue and the intimate setting will be perfect for a songwriter like Davis. I imagine the show will be a great mix of good music and entertaining stories from the road. I look forward to exploring more of his music, when I’m not looking up Sesame Street musical guests.
For tour dates and more about Davis, visit his official website.
(March 4, 2020)
Jenn Day Thompson performs as violist and vocalist with her sister Rebecca Day as The Crazy Daysies. Jenn’s articles have been published in a number of media, and she enjoys co-writing songs with her sister.
Jenn and Rebecca perform throughout the South in many different types of venues; their music is featured radio stations and streaming services like Spotify.
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