With an environmental science degree from Louisiana State University, rising musician Jacob Davis, a CMT Listen Up artist for 2017, scored a lucrative job on an oil rig right out of college.
But rig life was not for the Shreveport native, and his boss knew it when Davis walked into his office to give his notice on the one-year anniversary of his start date. At the time, Davis believed his real future was in country music.
“I was driving to an oil rig every morning and I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ I’d listen to the radio and I wasn’t full of regret, but I just knew that I had made a mistake and that I should have gone to Nashville,” Davis said during our CMT.com interview. “I walked in my boss’ office, and it felt like someone put their hand on my back and pushed me in there, and I said, ‘I’ve got to go to Nashville.’ He just said, ‘Yeah, I know it.’ It gives me chills now thinking about it.”
His boss then told Davis that he should treat his new country career like it was a 50-hour week gig.
“I learned my work ethic seeing guys working on a rig,” Davis added. “I mean, it’s hard to call writing songs and playing them real work.”
In May 2016, four years after moving to Nashville to pursue music, Davis signed his first record deal with Black River Entertainment, the label home of Kelsea Ballerini, Craig Morgan, John King and others.
Davis’ debut single “What I Wanna Be,” co-written with hit-makers Forest Glen Whitehead (Ballerini’s The First Time) and Adam Hambrick (Dan + Shay’s “How Not To”), offers a dose of Louisiana soul and vivid country storytelling about giving a woman real love instead of the same tired pickup lines guys usually try.
“What a girl wants to hear, in my opinion, that’s what this song is,” Davis said. “And I wanted to keep it classy. I wanted it to be something different than a guy saying, ‘Wassup, girl?'”
The official video is set on a sunny day in one of his favorite music cities — New Orleans. A couple bikes through the French Quarter while Davis and his band perform at Bamboula’s on Frenchman Street, which his home to some of the city’s most popular music venues.
“New Orleans was such a big influence for me because it’s not just like the food or the culture, the music down there is infectious in the best way possible,” Davis said. “I remember I loved going some of those jazz clubs down there and it being everything that you think it would be in New Orleans – hot, sweaty and swampy. There would be a guy onstage with a suit and a tie undone with three horn players behind him, and he’d dance like his pants were on fire. That’s where my live show came from — drawing from that and being so heavily influenced by that. And I wanted to get back down there.
“My guys in the band got to experience it for the first time,” he added. “When they saw a drive-thru daiquiri store, their minds were blown. I remember them asking, ‘What is that?’ And I was like, “Yeah. That’s Louisiana for you.”
Davis’ debut album is currently in the works with Whitehead serving as producer.
“I think the record is me 100 percent being myself — that Louisiana thing and that soulfulness,” Davis said. “We wanted to keep it upbeat, keep it funky and keep it happy. There’s one song that I did write about my wife, and it’s called ‘Falling.’ It sounds like a mixture of the Supremes and Elvis Presley. There are these old chord changes that are so classic and there’s a falsetto part that really pushed me to my limits vocally. That’s been the most fun and the most challenging thing about making this record is taking chances and doing things that would be against the grain.”