Traverse City singer-songwriter Joshua Davis talks with Local Spins about staying and writing in Michigan, his “soul-soaked” new album and upcoming big shows this weekend in Williamsburg and Kalamazoo.
THE ARTIST: Joshua Davis
THE MUSIC: Indie-folk-rock
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: 6 p.m. Friday with special guest Nik Carman at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival at Flintfields Horse Park in Williamsburg ($38); 9 p.m. Saturday with special guest Megan Dooley at Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo ($17); Aug. 20 at Hoxeyville music festival in Wellston ($50 day pass, $150 weekend)
It was Joshua Davis’ singing voice that propelled him through NBC’s “The Voice” last year – a gentle yet subtly raspy tone that caught the attention of ears around the country.
But it’s his speaking voice that exudes the kind of familiarity and rich timbre that make his words land on their listener with a weight of sincerity.
Having just returned home from playing one of his few out-of-state shows this summer, at the Northwest String Summit near Portland, Ore., Davis spoke with Local Spins about the rest of his summer plans.
“I just got home from the festival and it was a blast. I flew out and played solo … but this summer I really wanted to be able to stay around Michigan,” Davis said in a most relaxed manner, adding that he’s been spending a lot of time with his daughter and hanging out on the lake. “It’s nice. I’ve been taking it kind of easy. But I have been writing some new tunes for a disc I’ve been work-shopping.”
Since his impressive third-place finish on “The Voice” in 2015, Davis has kept busy touring the country, writing songs — and now — preparing to enter the studio in August to record a new album with producer Steve Berlin, saxophonist and keyboard player for Los Lobos.
“Los Lobos has always been a huge inspiration for me. They’re pioneers in roots rock and American music; they made some really groundbreaking albums,” Davis said.
WORKING WITH A ‘WONDERFULLY CREATIVE’ MEMBER OF LOS LOBOS
“Steve is a wonderfully creative guy, so I’m excited. Most of my stuff has been self-produced in the past, so it’s gonna be interesting to work with somebody else, but I couldn’t imagine anyone better.”
The album will feature musicians Mike Lynch on keys, Mike Shimmin on percussion and Dominic Davis on bass and will be tracked at Glen Brown Productions in East Lansing. Although a number of music industry officials have reached out to Davis within the past year, he decided to go with a more homegrown approach for his third album.
“A lot of people have contacted me from record labels, and engineers and producers, people from all over the country. And they say, ‘OK, let’s make a record in Nashville or let’s make a record in L.A.,’ but for me, everything that I can do in Michigan, I want do in Michigan because we have the talent here,” Davis said.
The album which Davis said he hopes to release on Valentine’s Day next year tackles new themes for the songwriter, lyrically documenting the “hopeful side of things.” Musically, it will have a “bare bones, raw and organic” essence.
“A lot of my stuff in the past has been kind of darker material, songs about lost love,” Davis mused. “But this album is soul-soaked, its about family, it’s about relationships, it’s about community … because I feel like right now that’s what’s needed and that’s what I feel comfortable writing about right now.”
To help fund the album, and “push the material to as many ears as possible,” Davis plans to start a crowd-funding initiative, with a good portion, he said, going toward promoting the record.
“In the past,” he said, “I haven’t put all that I could into pushing the material, getting it to press outlets, getting it to radio, doing all that I could so that as many people hear it as possible.
“So instead of trying to coerce some big record label to get behind the album – who would want a very specific thing and a lot of things would be compromised – I’m asking my community to hop on board to help get this record out there.”
LOVING HIS HOME-STATE PERFORMANCES, FROM KALAMAZOO TO TRAVERSE CITY
Although Davis will dedicate most of his time the rest of the summer to finish writing and then recording the new album, he will make a handful of Michigan appearances.
Davis will play two home-state shows this weekend, the first on Friday at Flintfields Horse Park as part of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival outside Traverse City and the second pn Saturday at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo.
“The Traverse city show is gonna be wonderful. It’s an outside venue, not a large venue, but I like that, I like the intimacy of it,” he said. “And I always love to play Bell’s. I feel so comfortable there that there’s no pressure, so the shows are usually really kind of impromptu and informal and we have a great time.”
Davis said he will debut a few new songs at the shows, both of which will be full-band affairs. For details, visit joshuadavismusic.com/dates. His quartet also will once again play the Hoxeyville music festival, which takes place Aug. 19-21 in Wellston.
In the serene, creative season that Davis seems to have been relishing over the summer months, he’s kept focused on bettering his craft and growing as a songwriter.
“That’s one thing about this kind of work — and really any kind of work — is that if you don’t have a thirst for knowledge, if you don’t have an insatiable curiosity, then you’re gonna be dead in the water, your gonna plateau,” Davis said, an unwavering conviction anchoring his voice.
“You always have to be growing. So for me, I think the thing is that these past few months I’ve been really trying to expand my voice as a writer. I think a lot of my past writing was genre-based, but I’m more focused now on how I can blend all those sounds to make it sound like me and make it genuine – something that resonate with me, but resonates with everybody else too.”
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC