The Traverse City singer-songwriter plays St. Cecilia Music Center on Thursday with his all-star band. Local Spins checks in with Davis — and his life — several years removed from national TV prominence.
EDITOR’S NOTE: So Joshua Davis, 45, arguably is one of Michigan’s musical institutions, from revving up the popular, rootsy, Lansing-based band Steppin’ In It a quarter-century ago to releasing a bevy of lauded singer-songwriter albums as a solo artist. Oh yeah, he also finished third on NBC’s “The Voice” back in 2015. With Davis and his band playing St. Cecilia Music Center’s “Acoustic Cafe” folk series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday — tickets, $10-$30, available here — Local Spins figured it was high time to reconnect with the songwriter, exactly eight years since his run on “The Voice.”
Local Spins: Hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since your impressive run on ‘The Voice.’ With the benefit of hindsight and all of this elapsed time, what stands out for you the most from those TV appearances and what was the most important lesson you learned?
Joshua Davis: I learned to be very grateful for my family, friends, and community.
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LS: Do fans still associate you with that show and ask you about ‘The Voice’? If so, is that bothersome or a good thing?
JD: Some do, some don’t. I don’t find it bothersome. I’m grateful that it turned people on to my music. Hopefully, they’ll dig a little deeper than ‘The Voice’ and find some of my original music that resonates.
LS: Do you watch or follow ‘The Voice’?
JD: I watch little clips from time to time. It doesn’t give me massive anxiety to watch like it used to. The blind auditions are fun.
LS: Have any Michigan contestants on the show asked you for advice about performing on ‘The Voice’? What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for those appearing on the show?
JD: Yes. I tell people to be themselves as much as they possibly can. There’s a push to put yourself in a folder or simplify your art, but everyone is so multi-faceted. I think audiences really want to see authentic human beings.
LS: Have you been writing new music? What’s the plan for releasing another recording and what’s the musical direction or theme of this project?
JD: Yes I have. I’ve been writing about grief lately. Finishing up songs that I wrote for my dad after he passed away. Some pieces of other songs as well. I’m also teaching songwriting at Interlochen Arts Academy, so I eat, breathe, and sleep songs. Hoping to release an EP soon.
LS: I understand you’ll be performing with your band at St. Cecilia Music Center. Who will be part of this band and what can fans expect from this concert?
JD: My band is killer. Mike Lynch, Michael Shimmin, Zak Bunce, Brad Phillips. Wonderful humans and wonderful players and listeners. I am so grateful for these guys. I haven’t played with a full band in a while, so I’m really looking forward to this show. I hope the audience has as much fun as I will.
LS: Who’s your favorite new or emerging Michigan artist? What artists are we most likely to see on your Spotify playlist these days?
JD: Laurel Premo, Theo Katzman, May Erlewine are some Michigan artists I have been loving recently. I am head over heels for Christian Lee Hutson. I think his writing is lovely and hilarious and dark all at once. Katy Kirby, Justin Townes Earle, Joan as Police Woman are all artists that get a lot of spins. I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz piano trios (specifically Oscar Peterson), and have been loving Mdou Moctar and the Tuareg sound in general. My 2-year-old is obsessed with Vampire Weekend, so there’s that.
LS: Do you wrestle with writer’s block, and if so, how do you move forward?
JD: I don’t have time for writer’s block. Joking aside, I do go through long stretches where I don’t write for myself. I’m constantly writing at my teaching gig, though. Many times it takes a looming deadline to whip some songs into shape. I’m constantly writing little ideas down though. It’s important to always expose yourself to fresh experiences. Concerts, new books, new music, different coffee shop, etc. I think in some ways routine is a musekiller. Musekiller is an amazing metal band name, by the way. Take it. There’s a gift for your readers.
LS: What makes living in northern Michigan special for you?
JD: My family. My community. Natural beauty. Fresh water. Slow pace. All of it is special.
Joshua Davis plays St. Cecilia Music Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with special guest Ralston Bowles opening the show. Information and tickets online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Joshua Davis & Band at Bell’s Brewery (April 8)
Photos by Derek Ketchum