Singer-songwriter Sarah Davidson recently had an epiphany about her musical influences. The Valdosta, Ga., born beauty was viewing old family videos, when they would gather to sing classic folk and country songs, and something just clicked for her.
“I was watching my grandfather sing the song ‘Old Shep’ and I thought, wow, that’s my first experience of someone telling a story through song, taking a listener on a journey,” she recalls. They were profound experiences for Davidson, igniting her passion for storytelling in songwriting, a tradition she proudly upholds on her new self-titled EP.
The five-song release, recorded with producer Brian Kolb (Jerrod Niemann) and Dino Paredes, represents a journey that Davidson has undergone after leaving south Georgia for Nashville, a journey that has seen the excitement of new romance and the agony of losing love. “I want to put out music through my albums that tells a story, that is authentic to what my life is,” she explains. “Just basically living my life open and putting out music that parallels that.”
That story begins with the album opener “Drink You Up,” a swaggering come on that’ll turn heads. Davidson also belts with attitude on the anthemic “No Sad Songs,” which counters that having a good time might just be the perfect antidote for feeling lousy. “That’s what I want my message to be,” she says. “Self-love, and picking yourself up and moving on.
She shows off the delicate ache in her voice on “Get Out,” a poignant, string-laden ballad about not being able to escape someone’s memory at home or even on the radio—ironic, considering it was co-penned by Davidson’s ex-husband, hit songwriter Dallas Davidson. “It’s one of those songs that I’ve held onto over time and just knew if ever had the opportunity to cut it, I would,” she says.
Davidson also reaches back to her youth on the breezy “Ride Around,” one of three songs from the EP that she co-wrote. The ode to hitting the pavement with your sweetheart should thaw the ice from winter very quickly with its irresistible groove. “It takes me back to my high school years,” Davidson explains. “When people sing about trucks and red dirt roads, that’s my life. To some people that may sound super cliché, but that’s really where I come from and what I did.” Except the road in this song helps forge the connection between two lovers, and in a town where there isn’t much else to do, a car ride is the key to their freedom.
For Davidson, the second oldest of six children, singing began as a means to get herself noticed—even if it wasn’t always appreciated. “It was like a competition of who could get the attention,” she explains. “I was always singing in the living room and performing for my sister’s friends and trying to woo them over. She would be like, ‘Can you please leave me alone?’” she laughs.
From those early attempts to make music, a seed was planted and took root, never turning Davidson loose. She wrote her first song when she was just 11 years old, inspired by Whitney Houston’s timeless rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” “I didn’t know that it was originally a country song and Dolly Parton wrote it. I sat down at my window with a pad and paper and I was like, ‘This is gonna be about love’,” she says, giggling at the memory. “Then I took it to my neighbor and I sang it and it was probably really horrible!” But she kept at it, honing her craft the way great storytellers do.
Like many of her country heroes, Davidson traveled to Nashville and enrolled at Belmont University to finish her studies. What she found when she arrived was a shock to the system. “I got here and didn’t know a soul. I registered for classes and realized that I am one of 50,000 female, blonde singers. ‘Best of luck to you, Sarah!’” she laughs, giving herself a mock-serious salute.
If she was worried Davidson didn’t let it slow her down; she gritted her teeth and got ready for battle. “I’m gonna be busting my ass the rest of my life, working hard, so why not start now?” she recalls asking herself. “That’s when I rolled up my sleeves and was like, ‘This is happening, people.’”
Then the opportunities started pouring in. Sarah signed with Suretone for label and management representation, and the company will be releasing her debut EP. The Suretone team is comprised of an all-star group of industry veterans, including chairman Carl Stubner (manager who works with ZZ Top and Fleetwood Mac, among others) and chairman Jordan Schur (former president of Geffen Records), along with operations head Dino Paredes (A&R executive and GM of Rick Rubin’s American Recordings whose credits include The Avett Brothers and Johnny Cash, among many others).
Davidson also landed a role on TNT’s new reality series Private Lives of Nashville Wives. She had some initial reservations about the show (which, coincidentally, co-stars Erika White, wife of singer Bryan White—an early Davidson favorite) but felt it was important for her to show the tough road that awaits aspiring artists. “I had said, ‘If y’all want to tell the story of hard work and me being out on the road in a van, playing two sets until 1 a.m., I’m good with that. Let’s do this.’ And they were into it,’” she explains. She doesn’t view her turn on reality TV as a shortcut, but instead as an opportunity to spread her message of positivity and hard work. Private Lives of Nashville Wives premieres on TNT February 24 at 10/9pm CT and features Davidson’s songs in every episode. The label, along with TNT’s support, plan to release exclusive singles via iTunes as they air on each Monday’s show.
With this EP, she’s poured that message into her music and reached a milestone in her journey. “This album is kind of a closure for me,” she notes. “I feel like this whole new life is out there. I’m just excited for what’s next.”
And rest assured, there will be plenty more stories for her to tell.