Local musician Dan Davidson is watching his profile rise in a new atmosphere. Formerly of rock band Tupelo Honey, Davidson has entered the country scene with a smash. He recently won the 2017 Edmonton Music Prize and four Alberta Country Music Awards is currently the supporting act on Brett Kissel’s record breaking We Were That Song tour. The Nugget chatted with Davidson ahead of his show Sunday, Mar. 4th at the Jubilee Auditorium.
The full interview:
Q: “First of all congratulations on your recent accolades. Your latest record Songs for Georgia is doing very well earning you a new stake in country music – why do you think it’s had such an impact?”
Davidson: “It’s been awesome. The record was a collection of singles I had put out already. It was something that a lot of people who were fans of the project already knew, and if anyone had seen me live they would’ve seen the other two songs that weren’t singles. So they’re the songs that really launched the project. I’m definitely more of a singles type-of-guy. I’m not really too focused on records. For me, I can stay fresh and always try to one-up myself and respond to the challenges. I like to be able to stay current quicker. It’s nice to have a record to put out, and tour, and play live. But I think the reaction has come from the success of the singles.”
Q: “Would you say that was the same approach you had with Tupelo Honey? Where you’re looking to write singles and capture a sound in one song, instead of sustaining more of a collective sound?”
Davidson: “That was sort of the mentality of Tupelo. But we did end up trying the record route. Mainly, because of the systems that are in place in Canada to qualify for certain awards and grants you need to have that record out. But it was nice because we hadn’t focused too much on a proper record and it was an interesting thing for us to try. We were really proud of it. It didn’t do the best – it didn’t really crush it out there in the market – but we thought it was the best of our records. Kind of a funny time.”
Q: “How did the opportunity come about to tour with Brett Kissel?”
Davidson: “The tour was funny. Coming into this scene I had a few friends in the industry like Dallas Smith, we used to tour with him and his old band, and then the Wilkinson’s in the Small Town Pistols were really cool and supportive. And then there’s Brett. We played in his hometown of Bonnyville when he was just a kid and he was the only kid in town with a PA so he’d show up, wait outside the show, and then pick it up after it was done. Then years later he turns out to be a big country star. It’s nice to have those in-roads. Then I started to hang around at a couple of his shows because I know his tour guys from Tupelo, and then I ended up with the same management company as Brett. So with my new single out and Brett’s record just coming out, he was looking for an opener on the tour so he picked me. And that’s awesome. It’s great to know you’re becoming a part of a circle.”
Q: “What’s been unique about this tour for you?”
Davidson: “This tour has been cool because we’re playing all sorts of different rooms from 1200 person clubs, to 2000 soft-seaters like the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina, and the Jubilee this weekend [in Edmonton]. Then we’re playing tiny small town markets which is great because they love when something comes through, especially with someone with a bit of a name like Brett. It’s a big deal for a town like Melfort [Saskatchewan], which is a 200 person seater, and we played a couple shows there to make it worthwhile.”
Q: “What are the takeaways when you’re watching Brett perform each night and what can he take away from you?”
Davidson: “We have a lot of crossover as far as fans and the types of things we try to do live. But our deliveries are very different. He runs a different show than I do. It really goes hand in hand though. If we’re playing a soft-seater, I try and make sure everyone’s standing and having a good time and dancing and singing-along; just trying to get them in that headspace. While Brett has a little more time with his set, so he’ll do the high energy stuff but he also does the broken down acoustic thing. He’s got a little something for everyone on his set and usually, I’ll come up a sing a couple songs with him. I think we’re pulling little tricks off each other just to see what works. The odd time he’s hanging out watching our set and that’s nice when the headliner does that. It’s been great and everyone’s getting along well. The crews have known each other for a long time so there wasn’t that weird first week of ‘Who do I not piss off’ so it’s nice.”
Q: “You have that background with Tupelo Honey: How has that helped you in this process as you’re becoming more and more a part of a new scene?”
Davidson: “It’s awesome. There’s no learning curve for me in the touring process. I can jump right to what I’ve always done. That gives me a leg up as far as knowing how to construct a live show and those situations. I came in as a new artist with the setup as an experienced artist. That’s helped me cut the front of the line in some cases.”
Q: “What excites you the most about the position you’re in right now? You’ve got the tour, the awards, is there anything in particular that’s made you go, ‘This is why I’m doing this’”?
Davidson: “It’s been great to see such an upward trajectory of momentum in the past two years. I’ve only been rolling for a short amount of time and already having CCMA nominations and ACMA’s is pretty insane. I’m coming off the longest tour in Canadian country music history, we’re doing 36 of the 50 shows Brett’s doing. And now we’re rolling up to more festivals and better guarantees. We’re playing Europe for the first time in my life. Then in the fall, we’re hoping to hop on another tour, hopefully, the rest of Brett’s tour. It’s going to be really exciting. For me, it’s just keeping the content up and ready to go, having something always firing so I can support these tours with lots of content and engagement. I’m getting to that point where I’m finding good problems, feeling a little spread thin, and that’s the way I like it.
Q: “Tell me about that show in Europe, is it a festival?”
Davidson: “I’m booked for this festival in France called the Tours Festival. Basically, it’s a place southwest of Paris and they have this big country music festival – it’s actually a big Americana festival. One day, there’s all rock and another it’s all country, so it’s themed. It’s pretty funny, a lot of people dress up in their best American outfit. But there’s a Canadian country night so me, Meghan Patrick, and Gord Bamford are going to do that one. I’m starting to get some more offers for one in Italy and some other places in France, I’m not sure I’ll have more than one show, but it’s a great place to start building a market there. It’s funny there’s hardly any country in Europe except for this pocket in France where people are into almost the cliche vibe of country with line dancing and all this stuff.
Q: “You’ve played different sounds in your career, but what do you like to listen to on your own time?”
Davidson: “I love that question because I try not to listen to a lot of country, to be honest. I feel like the more I start concerning myself with what’s happening, what’s in the Top 10, what the radio is playing and so on, the more of that on my radar, the more I feel like I’m chasing something and I don’t want that. I think the reason things have been working for me is because I’m closing my eyes and making what I think sounds fun and country. That’s what I like about it. It’s not through any sort of lense. That’s been working for me.
Davidson: “I try to find new artists through Spotify, and I do listen to the radio, but I try not to get too hung up on the Top 10. I listen to a lot of weird stuff. I’ve been a producer in pop music for the past 5 or 6 years, so I like the big pop writers like Bonnie McKee and Dr. Luke and Max Martin. I’m producing a couple R&B projects so I’ve been listening to a lot of Daniel Caesar which is cool, because I found out this year me, Daniel Caesar and one other band are the only Canadian independents to go gold. Now Daniel Caesar is up for two Grammy’s and he’s going to be playing at the Juno’s so pretty good company to keep.
Davidson: “Then on the other side of things, I’m always keeping my ear to the ground for new rock bands because I haven’t fallen in love with one in a long time. I really like Rival Sons. As far as country goes I like Jon Pardi a lot, Old Dominion but really my Spotify playlist is hilariously all over the map. There will be old R&B, old hip-hop, and then there’s Pantera, and Disney songs, it’s musical ADD. It’s kind of fun that way. How are van sounds too when we’re touring across the country, you know we’re listening to Willie Nelson, then Kelly Clarkson the next. It’s very strange.
Q: “It’s really all over the map.”
Davidson: “It’s good though it keeps you creatively balanced. When you’re making music you aren’t thinking about what to make you just start making.”
Q: “You mentioned this project you’re producing, but any plans to get back into the studio yourself?
Davidson: “I think right after the tour is done I’ve got to wrap up the production stuff. Then I’m heading off to Nashville to do some writing with a few people I like making tunes with that down there, and then I’m back and we’re gearing up for summer festivals already. A few in town, some in Quebec and Ontario, and then off to France. It’ll be tricky because some of the sets will be half-an-hour and some of the sets 90 minutes, so I have to make sure the band is in fine tune and we’re all ready to crush it on any stage we can.”
Q: “90 minutes must be a different challenge. Do you like to fuse in a few different covers, get a cover in early? How do you approach a longer set?
Davidson: “That’s a good question. I always like doing 30-40 minutes. That’s the set I can go in and it’s all high energy, and you leave them wanting more and then you get out. It’s a different art to do a 90-minute set because there are spots you can break it down and you try and take the audience on a bit of a ride. It’s a huge challenge honestly, but we try and throw in a couple covers and a medley, like some solo section stuff, and do as much crowd participating and energy tunes as we can. But it’s going to be a challenge because all I’ve been playing over the last few months is opening slots, 30-40 minutes. So it’s a different ballcap to put on.”
Q: “Good luck here in Edmonton and the rest of the tour.”
Davidson: “Awesome, thanks for the interview.”
– Michael Menzies