Take Five: an Interview with Andy Davis


Andy Davis

A native of Louisiana, Andy Davis has been making his mark in the Nashville music scene ever since the release of his first album, Thinks of Her, in 2004. Andy’s music blends honest lyrics, soulful vocals, and a variety of sonic influences, to create a relatable, yet eclectic catalogue.

A member of Ten Out of Tenn since 2006, and a successful solo artist, Andy’s singles have enjoyed significant airplay on Adult Album Alternative [AAA] radio stations.

Last year, his EP New History was the soundtrack to the prime time drama Grey’s Anatomy. Andy has also toured with a variety of artists, including Howie Day, Will Hoge, Jakob Dylan, and Nashville’s own Mat Kearney.

I asked Andy 10 questions about everything from the his take on the local music scene, and the changing nature of the music industry, to his feelings on breakfast cereal. He got to pick 5 of his favorite questions to answer for the first ever Take Five feature.

How do you think music has changed, compared to the previous generation, and where do you think it’s headed?

Technology is probably the biggest thing that’s changed over the last few generations, and it affects the way music is recorded in a big way. In the past, recording studios were in more primitive stages, so people had to work within the limitations of technology.

For example, if you only have 4 tracks to record onto, and you’re recording onto analog tape (making it very difficult to fix mistakes), you have to be very creative to make great recordings. That’s what makes records like Sgt. Peppers and Pet Sounds so impressive.
Today, in the digital world, there aren’t many limitations to recording at all–you can add as many tracks to a song as you want, digitally correct performances as much as you want….it’s both an amazing thing and a dangerous thing for music, I think. I think the humanity you hear in the recordings of the past are what make them special, and what draws people towards them.

With the ability to fix every single “mistake” in a recording, you run the risk of eliminating all the things that make the recording special and charming…..in a musical world of robotic perfection, people are starving for something raw and real, I think. I think you have to make the most of what technology offers, without losing the raw human elements of a recording. Use digital technology with an analog mindset.

What is your favorite breakfast cereal, and what does it have in common with your personality?

Growing up, my mom always made my sister and I eat plain Cheerios, skim milk, wheat toast……boring, healthy stuff. I went to a friend’s house to spend the night and his mom brought out Fruity Pebbles, vitamin D milk, white bread….later made spaghetti with chunks of cheddar cheese in it…..he also had all the coolest GI Joe’s.

Anwyay, that day my mind was opened to the world of real sugar cereals….I continued down a dark and husky path until I landed on what my soul had been longing for all along—Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

I think I resonated with it because it embodied true creativity—something very square packed with so much innovation—swirls, sugar, wavy-ness, good packaging and good commercials…..being creative within tiny limitations. Outside-the-box thinking, inside a box that is flying off the shelves.

What are the 5 Most Played songs in your iTunes?

As of 12.7.10, my top 5 most played reads as follows:

  1. Barry White-“I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Baby” (the beat extracted from the recording). This doesn’t seem right to me, but now that I think about it….Ron Burgundy has my back on this. San Diah-go.
  2. Elton John- “Susie (Dramas)”–I sing this song when warming my voice up before shows. Plus I rewind the drum fill at 2:43 every time I listen to the track. I’m sure iTunes took that into consideration.
  3. The Band- “Don’t Do It”–This song is greasy swampy funk at it’s finest, yet maintains the vulnerability of being a man that is willing to sacrifice “macho” in order to keep a girl from leaving him. Strong.
  4. Joni Mitchell- “Free Man In Paris”–Still don’t know what this songs really, but it inspires me every time I listen to it. I like to imagine myself doing a live youtube video cover of this song beneath the Eiffel Tower. It will happen.
  5. Paul Simon- “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”–I always think I’m over this song and kinda bored with it, until it comes on again and i listen all the way through. Also reminds me what a fan I am of Steve Gadd and sweet, funky song drumming.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?

Let’s see that would put me in 6th grade? Well, here are some highlights from my 6th grade experience, to give you some background:

  • Playing “Jurassic Park” in middle school band on the trumpet. I apologize to everyone present for what it sounded like, but musical minds were exploding back in the trumpet section.
  • Realizing that my English teacher got a boob job over Christmas break. Wasn’t quite sure what to do with this realization at the time.
  • Being nervous about making Little League All-Stars: big dreams of being the next Benito Santiago; also overcoming the discomfort of wearing a protective cup, for the pride of being the only kid on the team to wear a cup like a grown man.
  • Twice-cutting the grass in our yard on different mower levels, in different directions, in an attempt to make it look like the Braves outfield.
  • Walking in the woods with my neighbor friend, a BB gun, and an axe. . .chopping into a dead tree that happened to be a yellow jacket nest. . .
  • Having my 12th birthday party in a pop-up camper in the backyard with about 7 friends. . .I designed maps of the neighborhood on the Paint program of our new computer so I could give instructions to my team when we played war. A kid named Jared drank one sip from every single Sam’s cola in the 24 pack just to be annoying. Dummy.

Honestly I have nothing to say to my 12 year old self other than you have the best life ever. Enjoy it.

How has your songwriting/performance evolved?

I think a healthy path for any artist is to copy the people you find inspiring, then once you kinda get the gist of it, start in a direction that is truly your own. Learn the rules and then break them kinda thing. When I got to Nashville I got really into clever lyric writing, clever turns of phrase….this seemed to be what the successful writers in town were doing, so I wanted to get good at it. I was also really into classic crooner kinds of music at the time….Sinatra, etc. Thus, my songs began to come out as a jazzy, clever, modern versions of the stuff I was imitating.

I wasn’t really playing out much during this time–just writing and then eventually recording really raw versions of the songs. Once I got a chance to start performing these songs on the road on a regular basis, and started growing as a performer, I found certain songs that I enjoyed playing every night more than others….especially songs where I could really “get into it” on the piano.

I think all these feelings were under the surface as I continued writing for the next albums, and, not surprisingly, more and more funky piano songs started coming out. I think where I’m at now is a culmination of having figured out what I enjoy playing live every night the most, seeing what my heroes of the past have done, and then trying to come up with a way of doing it that feels original and inspiring to me.

Also, I have to include the fact that I’ve grown and changed a lot as a person along the way—I think that your art is usually a reflection of how you see the world, and my world has changed a ton over the span of my career. Different relationships, family issues, living situations….all these things factor into the way you write songs and the things you resonate with a the moment of inspiration. A hopeful love song I write today will have a lot more depth of experience tied into it than the hopeful love song I might’ve written 8 years ago. 8 years ago I would have the benefit of innocence and wonderment, writing to a girl in my imagination, whereas now I’d have the benefit of experience and depth, that will bring a whole new perspective to the song. Both mindsets offer angles that are worth writing songs from….and I think people will resonate with it as long as it’s an honest expression from where you’re at, I think.

Do you prefer hugs or high-fives? (Explain.)

I’m a hugger. High fives are mainly useful in awkward situations, and most people can’t achieve the proper smack that high-fiving is meant for. Bring it in.

– December 7, 2010

Want to know more? There are plenty of ways to catch up with Andy:

Website.

iTunes.

Facebook.

MySpace.

Twitter.

YouTube.

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