ERIN DAVIS, Son of Jazz Legend MILES DAVIS Opens Up About His Father’s Career and Gives Insight Into Managing His Estate
Posted On 06 Aug 2015
Tag: #Sammy Hagar, Aaron Hagar, All Access, All Access Music Group, Allman Brothers, Artist Interview, Ashley Kahn, Barry Oakley, Bloodline, Cheryl, Def Lepperd, Diana Ross, Disney, Dizzy Gillespie, Don Cheadle, Don Rickels, Electronic Entertainment Expo, EMI Records, Erin Davis, Frank Sinatra, Greek Theater, Joe Bonommaso, John Scofield, Judy Garland, Kind Of Blue, Liza Minnelli, Manny's, Max Roach, Michael Jackson, Miles Ahead, Miles Celebration, Miles Davis, Miles Davis at Newport: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4, MTV, Newport Jazz Festival, Philly Joe Jones, Robbie Krieger, Robbie Krieger Band, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Sony, Soundcloud, The Doors, The Making Of Kind of Blue, UC Berkeley, Vince, Vince Wilburn Jr., Waylen Krieger, Wiz, Wizard Of Oz, YouTube
The beloved jazz musician, Miles Davis is considered to be one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Together with his musical groups, he was at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music.
In 2006, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and was recognized for being “one of the key figures in the history of jazz”.
After he passed away on September 28th 1991, his family saw to it to keep his name and all his musical efforts alive. His three heirs include his son Erin, his daughter, Cheryl, and their cousin Vince Wilburn Jr. They strive everyday to keep Miles in the public eye and maintain his brand.
“We’re talking to everybody, because we’re involved in growing and promoting and exposure,” Erin Davis has explained. “It’s taken me 20 years to realize what we’re doing and how it affects the future.”
All Access was excited to chat with Erin about his father’s estate and what musical path he has taken as well.
I’m like a lot of people my age, I’m a MTV kid and I knew I wanted to be a musician early on and he had me choose one instrument to learn. At the time, I wasn’t taking any lessons or anything. So I said I would take guitar. He said he would get this teacher for me that was very renown and that John Scofield recommended for me. He said he was going to take me to Manny’s in New York which is unfortunately gone now but it was a great music store in New York to get my guitar and I’m thinking, I’m going to get this cool Def Lepperd looking guitar or something like that, something really rock and roll but he ended up getting me an acoustic guitar. (Laughter)
Then when I was 14, he invited me out on the road with him during my summer break and my cousin Vince too. I had dabbled around with the drums at my dad’s house and my cousin Vince at the time was playing drums in the band and the first show that I caught up with them was in the Bay Area at UC Berkeley at the Greek Theater there and I saw my cousin playing drums and I thought, man, that’s what I want to do.
So I did for awhile. I was a professinal musician. I even played in my dad’s band when I was younger. But you know, the music business has changed so much that it’s not as fun for newcomers as it used to be. I like it when people do have some success and the talent to go with it but I see a lot of stuff that is trendy and not really based upon talent. It’s based on vibe and I like vibe as much as anybody but I like to see talent too. I was kind of explaining to my daughter the other day this. We were watching cartoons and I was explaining how much they changed the voices of the singer and then we watched something like Wizard of Oz or the Wiz for that matter and I told her that they didn’t do anything like that back then. These people all had natural talent like Michael Jackson and Diana Ross and Judy Garland. Nobody sings like that anymore. It’s too hard. (Laugher) So I was trying to explain to her that the stuff on the Disney channel is not always talent. It’s kind of a middling talent that works. My point is that as a kid I always thought I was going to be in the music business somehow. I wasn’t going to have to go college, I didn’t have to worry about that. But I wish I did, I wish I had gone to some kind of music school and studied theory and stuff because I had to do it later on and it was harder to do it later and I’m still doing it.
Did your father share a lot of stories with you growing up? What experience do you think really made an impact on him and his career?
He would tell us stories all the time about those guys that he worked with, as people, that were funny. People like Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie and I got to meet some of those guys when I was in high school playing at the same festivals. There is just all these great stories and all these great quotes. As many times and I have people coming up to me quoting him, he would tell me some of the funniest stuff these guys would say. I think that he was impacted by those guys that I mentioned. Those guys really knocked him out.
It wasn’t anything personal that he told me that really impacted him early on. I think he realized at some point that as much as he loved those guys, he was going to find his own place and at the time, all that stuff was still being developed and moving through phases and I think he unconsciously realized what he wanted to do.
I recently watched a video online of you and your cousin watching Don Cheadle channel your father in his film about him called “Miles Ahead”. What was that like for you?
He was very good at that. It was kind of freaky. I went to the set to visit Don with my cousin. My sister, my cousin and I are all executive producers on the move so we flew out to where they were shooting. I was amazing at how they can recreate something in a place that wasn’t designed to film in. They shot in this church and it wasn’t being used and they turned it into this multi-set stage. There was a different location throughout the church and I got down to the process room.
I didn’t even put the headphones on but I could hear Don doing my dad’s voice and his voice was coming out of everyone’s headphone and I could hear it barely and it was kind of freaking me our. It was really weird. Then I looked at the screen and it was really cool. Then Don kind of stayed in character when he was working for awhile because I think that’s probably a good way to work. It was a great experience. He’s a competent actor and a great director too so hopefully, people will recognize him for that. I think it will be out next year. It’s going to hit some festivals this year. I think they are just going to take their time and be smart at how they want to distribute it.
Well they are celebrating the release of “Miles Davis At Newport: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4”. It’s being released Friday, the 17th which is 60 years to the day when he first performed. They are doing a Miles Celebration at Newport this year. I was going to try to make it out there this year but it doesn’t look like I can go on out unfortunately. Our good friend, Ashley Kahn who has done a lot of panels with us. He’s moderated and he’s also written a fine book called “The Making Of Kind Of Blue” and he’s going to be out there and I believe he is doing a panel. It sucks that I can’t make it. I think that I have only been once and it was really amazing so I hope they all have a great time.
What’s it like co-managing your father’s estate with your siblings?
It’s great. We all are very close and protective of the image and likeness. We all try to do the best, what we think he would want to have done. The estate business especially in the music business is definitely something that is a niche kind of thing where some mistakes will be made along the way and I don’t even call ours mistakes as much as trying new things but the hardest thing is not having the person there to actually tell us how to do things. It’s definitely different.
That’s why we put out Sony’s concept of the Bootleg series. We are trying to give people music they haven’t heard before which is hard to do when someone isn’t around anymore. We also get criticized for putting stuff out that people have heard in different form, even if we are just adding new content to it. So the Bootleg series is a well thought out way to get people music they hadn’t heard. It’s really mostly live stuff. The response has been great. People love getting to hear new performance because they never really play the same music every night. It’s not like a pop show so it’s really cool and I think that we are on the right track with these bootleg series. The team behind them is really good. They are the best. We are always proud to put them out and have people enjoy them.
Along with managing your fathers estate, are you currently writing film scores?
Yeah, I’ve written on a couple film scores. Right now, I am kind of looking into different streams of where I can find places to use music in one way or another. The internet and Youtube and things like that are great ways to work. People can get free music all over but if you give them something customized, then they appreciate it. I try not to charge people too much. I just like doing it.
I also find that I’m currently interested in the gaming world, the electronic gaming world. Theres’ a lot of money in it. Their business model still works whereas the old music business model of making CDs or record an tapes and telling them doesn’t work as well because there aren’t any places to sell them. I went to the Electronic Entertainment Expo here in LA and I just noticed that it’s not a problem for them because you cannot buy a game for play station and play it. You can’t get one unless you buy it and you have to have the console to play it. It still works. And they are always looking for fresh new music so I’ve been kinda dabbling in that.
Let’s talk about your old band, Bloodline. What was it like being in that group and how did it form in the first place?
Oh wow! Where did you find that music cause you can’t buy it?! (Laughter) Oh it was fun! That was my college years. The group formed because Joe Bonommaso’s (who is still out there singing with the same manager we had then) manager wanted to get him around younger people (he was 13 or 14 at the time) to make it more interesting. So they saw Barry Oakley Jr. and Waylen Krieger performing with Waylans dad’s Robbie Krieger from The Doors and Barry Oakley Jr.’s Dad, Barry Oakley. Barry was in the Allman Brothers but he passed away before Barry Jr. was born so Barry had this legacy of his own where he has his dad’s bass and he learned how to play it and he’s a really good singer.
So anyway, they were playing in the Robbie Krieger Band playing The Doors tunes and some of Robbie’s originals at a tribute concert and Joe and his manager were also there. Joe’s manager thought the kid was cool and that it could work so they approached him. Then they approached Sammy Hagar’s son which is Aaron Hagar who is a friend of mine and he brought me in.
We did some rehearsals and they loved us and they put the band together and then, Aaron left the band after about 8 months or so and Barry became the singer full-time. We were with EMI Records and we put out one record and we toured a lot! It was really fun! I also got an eye opening to the way the music business really works. It’s not just about record deals and advances and stuff like that. Back then it was about radio and at the time, grunge was really big and we were having a hard time getting on the radio. It was hard but it was fun.
I left the band because we were playing blues-rock and that wasn’t really my favorite genre of music. I was actually more into hard rock, like harder heavier stuff. I had a great time and learned a lot. I actually play more bluesy stuff now with my guitar but you know, it was a good learning experience and I really appreciate what our band did for us back then. They were really great. We actually had the same band manager as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and Don Rickels! All these people that were really established and then there was us! (Laughter) It was a lot of fun!
At the end of the day, what do you hope Miles Davis fans take away from his music and how you handle his social media sites?
I feel like we are trying to let people know that there was more then the myths and legends. We’ll let them know the kind of person he was. He was a very interesting person. He was the most creative person I’ve ever seen. If he wasn’t on the road playing music, he was at home painting or he loved boxing, swimming and horses. He loved cooking too. He had these secret recipes for things! We reminisce about him a lot. We have a different experience with him. Each of us. My sister grew up with him when he was still becoming who he became. When I was born, he was already well-established. So it kinda makes for a different set of circumstances.
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