An Interview With Songland’s Newest Winner, Singer-Songwriter, DAVID DAVIS On Being On The Show and Life After!
If you have been watching NBC’s Songland then the name David Davis should be very familiar as he was recently featured on the show. A self-described ‘pop-soul’ artist, Davis’s music not only highlights his tremendous singing voice, but also his innate and effortless sensibilities for songcraft. Quincy himself has called David an “electric energy on stage,” having a unique ability to move fans emotionally by creating an unforgettable musical experience.
David’s Songland song “Everything It Took To Get To You,“ which was recorded by Ben Platt, charted at #1 New Pop Song Chart, #5 All Song Chart, and #2 Pop Chart. His debut album, The Long & Short of It, is now available on all streaming platforms.
David has many accomplishments under him from working with the legendary producers RedOne (Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj) and Aaron Sprinkle (One Republic) and has been an opening act for Jon Bellion and headlining a 73-show residency in Dubai. Just last month on September 18th, David released his newest single “Ocean.”
Chicago-born and surrounded by seven siblings, he captured attention by belting out Motown classics, performing in church, and always finding his way to a stage. His piano and performance skills were perfected while studying at the nationally renowned Belmont University music program, drawing inspiration from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and India Arie.
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Learn more about David Davis in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time. Given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you? How have you adjusted to these times? What has changed about your life?
COVID-19 has been life changing, but musicians are used to pivoting and make the best out of whatever the circumstances. And this was one heck of a pivot. Because it’s my passion and purpose, my near-immediate response to the shutdowns and tour cancellations was figuring out new ways to be creative. This ranged from songwriting creativity, to creating new opportunities through virtual performance.
At this point, there is no typical day. I’ll have three days of intense productivity and no sleep, and then I’ll have 2 days of binging “Selling Sunset” and having tacos for every meal. And accepting that this time period allows for that!
Spending 6 months at home is a new thing for me. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for four years, and for the most part, only spent two weeks at a time here due to touring. I’m taking advantage of exploring the California parks, cooking all the things, and growing all the plants.
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now? What has that been like for you watching that unfold?
The most difficult part was figuring out ways to stay connected with loved ones. Being an uncle is one of the best parts of my life, so I’m spending a lot of time on FaceTime screaming “Let It Go” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” so they don’t forget their Uncle David! Los Angeles is not fully open, however, it’s an outdoor city. I take advantage of the nature there by camping, hiking, and running.
How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more now to stay connected to fans and other musicians? Have you changed the way that you utilize it these days?
I have been using it to do virtual events and to let folks know about my releases. It really is a lifeline to what’s happening outside of our individual at-home worlds, so I’m definitely using it keep people posted about what I’ve got coming up.
What has it been like having to reschedule all your shows this year? Are there shows getting scheduled for 2021 that you already looking forward to or you waiting to start making future tour plans?
I was scheduled to tour global prior to the COVID crisis. That was all cancelled over the course of two days. That was difficult as I get so much of my joy from performing live shows. Because of that, I’ve done many virtual events. They range from doing my own nights called “Evening Inn with David Davis”, to doing events as a featured vocalist with other artists, such as Leona Lewis.
Since we are all really missing live music, can you recall a favorite show of yours from the past? What do you think ultimately makes for a great show for you? What has been a favorite show of yours by another artist?
My favorite show was one of the nights I performed in Dubai at Quincy Jones’ club, “Q’s”. I did 73 shows over the course of 3.5 months. The day of one performance, I woke up with a stomach virus. I was nervous before the show because it lasted 2 hours, and when I arrived, I was told that we had a dignitary from a foreign country in the audience. In that moment, I had to decide if I was going to stay true to the set, which included songs about social justice and my views on the world. I was nervous as I didn’t’ know how it would land (on top of being really ill). I made it through my song, “Ordinary Day”, which is a song about the numbness we feel upon hearing acts of violence and racism because it’s so commonplace. I looked out in the audience and saw they were moved, and found out afterwards, that they found that particular song to be beautiful.
My favorite show by another artist was seeing Stevie Wonder perform “Songs in the Key of Life” in its entirety, for three hours. I know all the deep cuts, so I was standing up and screaming at the top of my lungs for all three hours. Eventually, I was told if I didn’t let the man sing by himself I would need to be removed. I can’t help it – I’m a Stevie stan!
Congratulations on winning this season of NBC’s Songland! I’m curious to know what was the biggest lesson you learned from being on the show? What was it like Quincy Jones’s protege? How has being on this show changed you as a musician? If you could do it all over again, would you and would you change anything about your performances?
Thank you! I learned that no matter how far you go in your career, serving the song always comes first. In working with an array of writers, both new to seasoned pros like Ryan Tedder, you can tell when both people in the room just want the absolute best song possible. No ego attached, no personal agenda. Just service to the art and to the song.
If I had to change one thing about how my performances on Songland, I would remind myself to take more pause to acknowledge the honor it was to perform for some of my heroes. I really did savor it, but those moments are worth completely marinating in it (can you tell I’ve been quarantine cooking?!)
Do you remember where you were and what it was really like for you when you first saw that your official Songland song “Everything It Took To Get To You” charted at #1 on the New Pop Song Chart, #5 All Song Char and #2 on the Pop Chart?
I was lying in bed the morning after the show aired and saw it charted at #1. I was like, “Welp. This is a dream come true”, and then kept replaying the song because Ben’s performance was so stellar. I was on cloud nine and then realized I hadn’t walked my dog yet or eaten because I listened to it for an hour.
Let’s talk about your just released newest single, “Ocean.” What was the inspiration for this track? How do you think it compares to anything else that you have put out before and your debut album, “The Long & Short of It”? What was it like making the music video for “Ocean” that will be out next month?
“Ocean” is a song about overcoming whatever obstacle that stands in between you and someone you love. It doesn’t matter how vast that obstacle is, or whether it’s physical distance or emotional distance. You just gotta hang on tight and hold on till you make it through. Due to COVID, my partner and I are doing long-distance right now. With a pandemic and international border between us, I’m finding myself having to take my own advice and ride these changes until we’re back together again.”
I think it’s definitely in track with “The Long & Short of It” because like that album, the production features all live instruments and tells a story.
Do you have plans to put more new music soon or a full-length album of new songs?
Yes! I’m currently in Christmas mode because I have an upcoming EP called “Hope for the Holidays” that will be out tomorrow (Friday, October 23rd). That lead song is called “Christmas Wishin’”, which will be featured on a major network Christmas special. I’m simultaneously working on my sophomore album that will be out in 2021.
How do you think future music is going to be influenced by this incredible and absolutely necessary Black Lives Matter movement that the US has been going through? How exactly is it inspiring you and your music?
The Black Lives Matter movement has started conversations about what is necessary for us to have a more equitable world. It has shined a light on the injustices people of color face every day. For years, I’ve written songs about these injustices because it has been my lived experience, and will continue to do so. My hope is that people who relate to the story will feel seen, and that people who don’t will try to understand.
Only a few years back, I’d be in writing sessions and would bring up subjects relating to social justice. Often times, it’d be met with resistance. The producer would respond with, “This is too preachy.” But there was a time when artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder used the groove to lower people’s walls, and use the lyric to drive culture forward. “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” by Stevie Wonder is the perfect example of that. I really hope that music with a social-justice message becomes widely accepted again like the way it used to be.
If you could get into the studio with any artist today and collaborate on a new song for you, who would it be and why? What musicians have continued to inspire you and your career over the years?
Janelle Monáe! She’s a creative genius that uses her gifts to elevate the lives of the disenfranchised.
While there are so many modern artists that have a classic, timeless sound (John Legend, India Arie, Janelle Monáe), I am most inspired by Stevie Wonder. I grew up on a steady diet of his music, and have found that he has a song for every era of your life. I hope that people who enjoy my music feel like my songs can be companions throughout their life journey, too.
What would your dream music video look like right now?
I have this Toto-inspired song that I’m working right now, so it’d have to be a “George of the Jungle” vibes with animals playing giant tom drums.
If you could go back in time and tell your younger musician self something about this industry or how your career was going to progress, what would you say?
I would say- “The thing you dislike most about yourself is most likely your super power, both musically and personally. Lean into it and nurture that part. Don’t ever let anyone convince you to be less of yourself, no matter what they offer you for it.”