The Traverse City singer-songwriter and ‘Voice’ star releases the Steve Berlin-produced ‘The Way Back Home’ Friday and will play Michigan dates, including Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, later this fall.
SCROLL DOWN TO LISTEN TO SONGS FROM THE NEW ALBUM
Traverse City singer-songwriter Joshua Davis has been well-known around these parts since taking the state by storm with Steppin’ In It in the early 2000s.
Despite gracing stages from Telluride to Rothbury, Davis and his mates never managed to make that big splash on the national scene that so many artists aspire to reach. That all changed for the Steppin’ In It frontman and one of the Earthwork Music collective’s most recognizable roots musicians when Davis made a memorable run on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2015.
That experience sparked not only a healthy dose of national notoriety, but a very different approach for his fourth full-length solo LP (and eighth studio album overall, counting three with Steppin In It and one with Shout Sister Shout) which hits shelves Friday.
Produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, who has worked with artists such as R.E.M., Sheryl Crow, Faith No More, The String Cheese Incident and John Lee Hooker, “Way Back Home” has traded in some of Davis’ familiar raw sound for a more intentional, polished feel.
“I think it is different in a lot of ways from the stuff I’ve done before, because I gave up some of that control (in the studio) and because I’m a different performer than I was a few years ago,” said Davis, 39. “If I had been left to my own devices, it’s my tendency to not polish, to leave things pretty raw because that’s what I like when I’m listening to music.
“Steve had a lot of influence. There were some conflicts, some butting of heads, because I’ve done a lot of producing too, but there’s a lot of things I learned from Steve. Every other album I’ve released, we just recorded it, sent it to the manufacturer and put it out. This album has been a really thoughtful process and I really think that’s a good thing.”
TAKEAWAYS FROM ‘THE VOICE’
Davis has worked hard since appearing on “The Voice,” striving to find that perfect balance between the raw and emotional songwriter he has always been, while incorporating the lessons he learned on the show.
“The thing I feel I really took away from ‘The Voice’ was that I had never really looked at my voice like an instrument before. I got to work with an incredible vocal coach (Trelawny Rose) on the show really intensely, and she kind of changed the way that I sing, and through that changed my focus in a lot of ways instead of using my voice just as a utility instrument to get the words out,” he offered.
“I had never had vocal training before and it really kind of expanded the way I felt I could write. I began to focus a lot more on melody, a lot more on the way that my voice sounds in different keys and so as a result, a lot of the stuff I am writing now is a lot more melody-driven, more focused on kind of leaning on my voice rather than leaning on a bunch of guitar tricks or something.”
While Davis’ evolution as a musician – coupled with appearing in living rooms across America on “The Voice” – has led to a wider audience, some things have remained the same: He’s still working with some of the same Michigan artists in the same places. The new album was recorded in his home state, splitting time between Big Sky Recording Studio in Ann Arbor and Glenn Brown Productions in Okemos, where most of the live tracking was done.
Longtime cohorts Dominic Davis on bass, Michael Shimmin on drums and Michael Lynch on keys joined Joshua Davis in the studio. There also are appearances by Drew Howard on pedal steel, Traverse City’s Joe Wilson on Dobro, Berlin on keys and singers May Erlewine, Jen Sygit, Laura Ann Bates and Rachael Davis.
“There were a lot of different options to where we could record the record or the people we could have on the record, but for me I don’t feel the need to reach outside of this crew because they are some of the best players on this planet and the relationships we have are so strong and have so much depth,” Davis said.
Davis currently is touring the East Coast, but will return to Michigan on Oct. 19 to kick off a series of three shows in the Upper Peninsula. He then plays Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo on Nov. 10, The Ark in Ann Arbor on Nov. 11 and The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids on Nov. 18, before making a swing out to the West Coast.
“We’re definitely touring farther and wider now that the album is done,” he said. “I’ve never released an album in this way before where we are kind of trying to do it in a really big way. It’s my hope that a lot of people hear it and we get to get out to a lot of different spots and play these songs in front of a lot of different folks. I’m really excited.”
The album being released on the Earthwork label can be purchased at joshuadavismusic.com, where you can also find details about his current tour.
AUDIO: Joshua Davis, “Nowhere Without You” (from “The Way Back Home”)
VIDEO: Joshua Davis, “The Little Things” (Live)