Davis Nix Interview

By on 2 January, 2014 in Art, Fun, Michael Thornton, Music with 0 Comments

Our monthly feature on music in Montgomery has followed a rotational format from event profile to artist profile to venue profile, now we turn to interview. To complete the cycle I sat down with Davis Nix, singer/songwriter and performer throughout the southeast and manager of country singers Joey Allcorn, Chad Wilson, and Kyle Wilson. Kyle will be performing in the Cloverdale Playhouse’s singer/songwriter showcase January 21, the Joe Thomas Jr. Third Tuesday Guitar Pull.

Michael Thornton: You manage multiple artists and are a singer/songwriter in your own right. How does being a songwriter make you a better manager, and more notably, how does being around those artists inform your songwriting?

Davis Nix: Well, first, being a manager can be a hard task in itself. The artists usually don’t care about the business side. They just want their music to be heard, and usually in a live atmosphere. Being a songwriter myself has helped me make that connection – the want for the artists’ music to be heard. This makes me work harder as a manager to make sure my artists stay busy and are always on stage somewhere playing their songs. I can honestly say I have grown as a writer just being around certain artists who, in my personal opinion, are amazing writers. They have helped me understand different perspectives and realize there’s no “right way” to write a song.

MT: How have those perspectives freed you up to be more yourself as a writer?

DN: For example: I am writing a song about my grandfather who I only met when I was a baby boy. He passed when I was almost 2. The only memory I have is through the stories of my father. So basically how I see my grandfather is through the eyes and stories of my father. Writing from different perspectives to capture the story you want to tell.

MT: I would argue story-telling songs are the foundation of country and folk music, and often the most simple stories become the most beautiful…how do you know which stories are worth telling?

DN: I think it’s simple. Is the story real to you? Did this impact your life in some way? I think that’s all that really matters. If it’s a hardship or a stepping stone in your life and you can put it into words and melody. Well, hell yeah, that’s good stuff. Unless you’re one of those Nashville skin deep writers trying to make a dollar and claim that song about trucks and beer was sentimental and a real deep issue for them. Sorry had to take a quick jab.

MT: The artists you manage are far from skin-deep, yet, to your credit I’m sure, have had continued success and are rising stars. How do you all pull that off in an industry that seems increasingly to be searching for easily palatable and digestible, non-challenging music?

DN: You first have to realize that there is a market out there that is made up of listeners who do enjoy quality songwriting. You also have to accept that the markets that are producing garbage are actually healthy for us to have, believe it or not. It allows for a whole range of writers to be shown and hopefully the listener picks wisely. I think Jason Isbell said it best: “There are a lot of good burgers in this town. No one is forcing you to eat McDonalds”. Something along those lines.

MT: There was a time when the likes of James Taylor, Jackson Browne, etc. were superstars. Do you hold out hope that the music industry will move back to appreciating depth in songwriting, and therefore great songwriters can achieve a tremendous level of success again, or do you appreciate the niche of being in the undercurrent, the underground, the songwriter behind the star performer?

DN: I appreciate both. The songwriter behind the star is a cool opportunity if the writer chooses to make it one. You know, their song gets heard. Then there are checks in the mail. You then hope that writer invests in other writers or puts out an album of their own for the curious folks like me and you who want to hear the “real” version. Nonetheless, I do believe the industry will get back to appreciating depth in songwriting. Earlier I said the market of garbage we hear on the radio is healthy because it pushes people to find the Jason Isbells and Lindi Ortegas. The market that has tried to push out in-depth songwriters has created an avenue and a market that is stronger and continues to get stronger every day in my opinion.

MT: Perhaps those appreciators of songwriting are then more willing to support an artist via record purchases and tickets to shows. The Joe Thomas Jr. Third Tuesday Guitar Pull at the Cloverdale Playhouse highlights depth and diversity in songwriting, and one of the artists you manage, Kyle Wilson, will be performing there January 21. What is unique about Kyle and what can the audience at the Playhouse expect to hear?

DN: I’m super excited that Kyle gets to be a part of such a cool night. Kyle is a seasoned artist, writer, performer, and guitar-picker. When you listen to Kyle you know that you are experiencing someone who practices daily at the gifts he’s been given, and wants to share a moment with you through the songs he writes. He’s one of those writers that other writers look at say “Man, I’ve been trying to say that for so long”.

MT: And yet, not to pigeon-hole him, but he’s sort of an outlaw, right? How does he walk the line of being edgy and against the grain while being so expressive and accessible?

DN: Yes, definitely an outlaw – almost to the point where my job comes into question. He spent a lot of time in Nashville listening to great writers. His older brother Chad is a phenomenal writer. They have been writing together for years and produce great songs. I think the line he walks is having lived in both worlds. It’s created a natural mixture from his vocabulary to his melodies to his style of guitar-picking. This mix of cultures, if you will, have and are molding Kyle’s writing and style, so it is accessible and will be sustainable. He might say different, but from my perspective those are strong reasons.

MT: You and Kyle are big proponents of the collaborative writing process. How does that work? How do multiple writers with varied perspectives come together to create a song?

DN: I am an advocate of collaborating for sure. Kyle is as well…some days. He has been writing a lot by himself lately. Kyle and I have spent over 100,000 miles together and have never written a song together. Maybe that should change. But most of the time Kyle is writing with someone and usually that someone is his brother, Chad. It’s hard to get together with other writers when everyone is trying to be an artist too.

MT: I imagine there are a great number of challenges that come with writing with your brother.

DN: I imagine so too. I got to experience them write a song together once. They did it with ease. It made me sick to watch. It can’t be that easy for them all the time – that just wouldn’t be right. I’m sure Kyle will play it. It’s going to be on Chad’s new record as well as Kyle’s.

MT: I look forward to hearing it. What is it like on the road? How do you handle venues and audiences and what makes you glad to return to Montgomery?

DN: Road’s simple with us. We’ve got down our routine. I handle all the advancing, stage plots, sound, lighting, payouts, hotels, expenses, etc. (as well as playing right now till we can afford someone new). Kyle makes the set-list, plays, sings, entertains, etc. It’s smooth. Then it’s complaining or celebrating. We know what venues to go back to and which ones we just can’t stand mainly because they ripped us off. Montgomery has some good venues. I really prefer to call Kyle and tell him that he’s booked for the Guitar Pull than to play a bar for 4 hours. I think Montgomery has yet to see that it’s a player in the music industry. It’s growing fast, and I believe healthily.

Alexander City’s Kyle Wilson performs alongside Montgomery’s Adam Davila (of The Fall of Adam and Hail the Titans) and Opp’s Wesley Laird in the Joe Thomas Jr. Third Tuesday Guitar Pull January 21 at the Cloverdale Playhouse. 7-9pm, $10 admission at door.

Michael Thornton studied English at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and works as a singer/songwriter in Montgomery, AL.

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