On Friday, Nov. 13, reality show The Voice finalist, Joshua Davis stopped in Chicago at the Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N. Lincoln Ave.) to give his fans an intimate show. He played a few older original songs, songs from his newly released album A Miracle of Birds, a preview of his upcoming album and a couple of covers.
The PHOENIX recently had the opportunity to talk to Davis about his music career. Growing up in Detroit, Davis knew at an early age he wanted a life in music. Although he didn’t have the most glamorous lifestyle growing up, he spent most of his childhood going to music festivals and theaters and being surrounded by the arts due to his mother’s encouragement. She introduced him to folk, blues, old school country and bluegrass — genres of music he may not have otherwise been drawn to.
His immersion in traditional American music is where Davis got an idea of the kind of musician he wanted to be. He blended those roots with “gritty rock n’ roll and vintage soul” to create his own sound.
Before going solo, Davis was no stranger to the spotlight and the crazy touring schedule. He was the frontman and lead singer of the band Steppin’ In It who became locally known in the Michigan area. The band started off with smaller crowds in divebars and coffee shops, but soon their recognition moved them to bigger stages and a number of local music festivals. That’s when Davis realized he could further pursue a career in music.
“The endless touring and moving from city to city every night is exciting, but I don’t think that lifestyle is for me,” he said.
He wanted to stick with the smaller crowds because it was more personal and it provided a way to connect with his audience, which is exactly how his tour is set up now.
Davis didn’t plan to audition for The Voice on his own like most people. He was actually recruited by the producers. At first, he was hesitant because he thought it was like all the other music reality shows on air: aiming to embarrass people.
“If I went on the show, I was afraid that I would have to compromise who I was as an artist,” Davis said.
But after watching a couple of episodes he realized The Voice was really about talented artists mentoring contestants. His family and friends helped him see that it would be an incredible experience, even if he didn’t make it past the blind auditions.
After The Voice, Davis was scared that people would only want to hear him play covers of popular songs on tours because that’s what they were used to. However, it’s been the opposite, according to Davis.
“People have been really receptive to hearing me play my old stuff and interested in what I’m working on next,” he said.
During his show, he emphasized that he loves playing at places such as the Old Town School of Folk Music because they value the teaching of music as an education, and not just how to play an instrument.
“The passing of the torch to younger generations is what keeps music alive,” said Davis.
For him, music has never been about the money or fame; it’s about the people. His pure intentions for this industry sets him apart from a lot of other artists out there.
Because it took place in such an intimate setting, it was very conversational. In between songs, he would tell stories and talk to the audience. He made jokes every now and then that kept the show light-hearted, relaxed and overall, enjoyable. There weren’t any elaborate or show-stopping gimmicks for “oohs” and “aahs” effects. It was all about the music, and it was evident that he was genuinely having a good time onstage and was happy to be performing.
Verdict: if you are a fan of artists such as Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Muddy Waters and B.B. King, you should definitely check out Joshua Davis the next time he’s in Chicago.