Jordan Davis on His Nashville Firsts

Learns Why One Should Never Follow Carly Pearce

Rising artist and Louisiana native Jordan Davis first learned about the Vietnam War growing up on long drives to the family deer camp.

His father loved John Prine, and his 1971 self-titled debut was always on heavy rotation. Back then, Davis couldn’t wrap his nine-year-old brain around the “Sam Stone” lyrics, “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where the money goes.” During our interview, Davis says those long drives to Prine were his earliest introductions to true songwriting.

“I asked my dad,” Davis recalled, “‘What the hell does that mean?’ I can’t remember his answer, but I remember being fixated on that one line. It just blossomed from Prine, to Jim Croce, to Kris Kristofferson, to Don Williams. I always found myself loving those records, and I still listen to them.”

Davis is part of CMT’s 18 for 2018 Listen Up campaign, and his debut album Home State arrives March 23. He co-wrote the entire 12-song collection including his breakout hit, “Singles You Up.” His White Wine and Whiskey Tour with Jillian Jacqueline continues Friday (Feb. 23) in Dallas.

My first tour was working as kind of a roadie for my brother, Jacob Davis. He had a strong following in Louisiana, and I would help carry the equipment. Jacob played by himself with just an acoustic guitar and a P.A. system. One night in Shreveport, he was playing this place called Bear’s, and there was five or six of us working as his crew. One guy would carry the guitar. One guy would carry one of the speakers. Somebody else would carry the other. And then when it came time to play, all the bartenders would be like, “Wait, this is just a one-act band?” We’d drink on the band tab, and we would skip out on paying covers.

Music around our house growing up was either country or nothing. My dad wrote songs growing up. He’d walk around the house, playing guitar, and my mom was an incredible pianist. She played piano in the church. My uncle, Stan Paul Davis, is also a songwriter. He wrote a bunch of Tracy Lawrence hits including “Today’s Lonely Fool.” When you walked in our house, there was some type of music going. It was always around us.

My first home in Nashville was in Donelson. A dear friend who works at ASCAP and helps new writers in town had a spare bedroom. It was great because it ended up leading me to my first job at Ellendale’s Restaurant off of Old Elm Hill Pike. I was the bartender there for probably close to three years, which was killer because I would schedule myself off on the days I had big co-writes.

My first Nashville co-write was with Ryan Hurd. I hadn’t even moved to town yet. It was maybe a month before I decided I was going to move. I remember we wrote “Runaway Road” on a Saturday, which makes it even cooler that Ryan took the time to do that when he didn’t know me from Adam. I need to make a demo of it so that me and Ryan can get a cut.

I had to follow Carly Pearce at my first Nashville show. I remember my friend, Josh Dorr, inviting me to one of his writer's rounds at Taps and Tapas, which is now Belcourt Taps. I was right after Carly, and it was the first time I had ever heard her sing. And she blew everyone away. I thought, “Damn it. This is going to suck.” Those first couple of shows were brutal for me. I probably did horrible. But we’re always hard on ourselves starting out.

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