Dan Davidson Series No.1
Like a bull riding event at a rodeo, Tupelo Honey frontman, Dan Davidson, comes charging out of the gate with his first solo effort riding hard and hitting the ground running with the highly contagious and energetic first single “Unkiss Her” due to be released on July 13th, 2015 on iTunes. (see below for album art)
‘and then all of a sudden I was booked to play for 10,000 people at Big Valley Jamboree!’ -Dan Davidson
by Randy Wayne Belt
“Unkiss Her” is a fun, energetic, and upbeat song that will grab your ears right away. With it’s highly memorable song melodies and ear grabbing guitar riffs, you will walk away smiling after hearing this song just once – and you’ll be addicted after hearing it twice!
I caught up to Dan Davidson recently on the phone and interrupted his pleasant bike ride to chat with him about his new single, its lyrics video, and what his musical plans are ahead. I found Dan to be an easy to talk to kind of guy with a good sense of purpose coupled with a good sense of humor.
Being a recording artist and songwriter myself I wanted to get right down to the nitty gritty so the first thing I just HAD to ask about was the song lyrics. That’s what intrigued me about the song. So I figured I’ll just skip all the typical interview formality questions for a minute and get right to the heart of the matter:
Randy (That’s me): “The concept of ‘you can’t unkiss her’ is intriguing and a unique take on things. So the big question I’m sure many will want to know is this: Did you think it could have ever been possible to unkiss her??”
Dan: “Hah, well the song is just about seeing your buddy make the same dumb mistakes that you make with the same girl. Its kind of a fun take on a situation that I think people can easily picture. It’s basically about a girl that makes dudes fall in love so hard, when she just wants a casual flirty fling.”
Then I asked Dan about the line in the song which describes the girl as a “.38 special got no safety”.
Randy: “I thought that line was clever because all of the .38 Specials I’ve ever handled, in fact, have no safety and it’s a good descriptive line for this girl in the song.”
Dan: (laughs) “I’ve only handled shotguns and not handguns or .38 Specials, so when I came up with that line in the song I had to “Google” it to make sure .38 Specials had no safety (button/switch.) I thought they didn’t but had to check to make sure.”
So we had a good laugh about it, and showing his good humored nature, he poked fun at himself about it and his ‘Canadianness‘. Then we got into a discussion about the lyrics video that’s already out there for the single “Unkiss Her”. And I will say, this lyrics video could well set a new standard for lyric videos: It’s more than just your average lyric video. See for yourself. (Unkiss Her on Starlight Music Chronicles)
I could tell a lot of time had been spent on getting the lyrics video together! It turns out Dan has gotten pretty good at making these things, and unbeknownst to the other, we have both been experimenting with lyric videos. (I told him I was going to borrow some of his ideas *laughs*) When I asked him about the lyrics video we also had a good little discussion about the importance of lyric videos these days, especially for the Indie Artist on a limited budget. And I learned he also designed the lyric video for his fellow Canadian artist Lexi Strate
I should mention that Dan let me in on a little inside info: There’s another single that will be following “Unkiss Her” titled “Slow Dance”. So keep an eye out for that next! -Randy Wayne Belt
With my own intrigued questions about the song answered, we now get to the other big questions:
Randy: “Obviously, no stranger to the music industry, a lot of people know you as the energetic and charismatic front guy for the band Tupelo Honey out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. So the big question is – what led to your decision to “go country”? Or, in other words, how did this all come about?”
Dan: “Basically, my good friend and top selling Canadian country artist Dallas Smith pulled me aside after one of his stadium shows with Florida Georgia Line and suggested I think about making the switch if I was into the country stuff. He said I had the looks for it too. From there he became a great sounding board and advisor as I wrote and recorded some material over the next year and a half. After I started writing with my long time collaborator Jeff Dalziel, labels and industry started noticing, and then all of a sudden I was booked to play for 10,000 people at Big Valley Jamboree!”
Randy: “I have always said a great song is a great song in any format, and I can see plainly that your songwriting ability can easily transition from one format to another in production. So the next question is: Do you plan to stay in the country genre or is this a “testing the waters” kind of move, an experiment, or a genre you just fell in love with?”
Dan: “Nope, I love this stuff! I do have involvement in some other projects as a producer, and song-writer (aside from Tupelo Honey). So even though country is a main focus of my writing, I still get to explore other sides of my creativity through artists like Bryan Finlay of Edmonton and others.”
Randy: “Great! I’m all about creative exploring! So, I guess I should ask, When did you FIRST become interested and/or exposed to country music both as a fan and also as an artist?”
Dan: “At first I probably was exposed to it by way of my dad and grandpa who loved Willie Nelson, Merle, and Johnny Cash. My dad was also a massive Blue Rodeo fan. I always dug Blue Rodeo’s blend of country and rock. It started creeping into my world as a professional musician as I became focused on being a technical guitar player. Guys like Brad Paisley always had a million incredible licks to try and learn and steal. His guitar playing drew me in, but the songwriting and lyrics are what got me really thinking that it was a genre I could get pretty deep into.”
Randy: “That’s wild! My parent’s listened to the same stuff! Except for Blue Rodeo. One of my friends introduced me to them. They aren’t as well known in the U.S. as in Canada, but should have been with hits like “Lost Together”. I love Keelor and Cuddy’s stuff. So, do you have friends in the music industry that have been helpful and supportive? (You mentioned Dallas Smith)”
Dan: “I have some very successful friends in Country. Over the years I have been fortunate to have toured, played with, or just run into artists like Small Town Pistols, Dallas Smith, The Road Hammers, Doc Walker and Brett Kissel. Brett was a supporter of Tupelo Honey back in the day and we reconnected as he started using the Tupelo Honey soundman Joel Bird as his #1 touring tech. Brett has been so encouraging and complimentary of my first steps into country. There are so many great people in this genre.”
Randy: “Is there a lot of collaboration in the music scene there in Alberta, well, and Canada in general? You know, artists supporting artists and working together?
Dan: “Definitely. Everyone wants to co-write with everyone! It is the most supportive music scene I’ve been involved with so far. It’s much more collaborative than competitive. Not just in country either. I should mention that “Unkiss Her” was a bit of collaboration using Skype with Jeff Dalziel and Karen Kosowski throwing ideas back and forth. Many pop, urban, rock and folk acts come together for events and info sessions put on by Alberta Music and other great NFP and government run organizations. We’re lucky to have some great government support for the arts up here in Canada.”
Randy: “That’s really good to hear! What artists have been your biggest influences as a songwriter, as a composer, and as a singer, say, in the last year or two?”
Dan: “Well since the last year or so have been mostly about getting my country songs together, I would say my biggest influences have been Keith Urban, Dierks Bently, Dallas Smith, Brett Kissel, and Blake Shelton. When I was a kid trying to get interested in music and songwriting I loved all kinds of rock music. Some of the bands that got me into playing when I was young were Faith No More, The Deftones, Everclear, Big Wreck, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden. Those bands are a long ways off from country, but I had to work that teenage angst out somewhere!”
Randy: “I’m with ya. What’s been playing on your iPod or iPhone lately?
Randy: “Yeah, I pulled up Lexi’s video earlier when you mentioned you did her lyrics video. Good stuff! Ok, here’s an important question: With Tupelo Honey there was a choice to avoid major labels, which are also known, at least in the U.S., to be more like major banks giving major loans, which you may or may not be able to “pay back”. As a solo artist do you plan to keep the same path of staying Independent? What’s your view on that?”
Dan: “Well, when Tupelo was going through most of the label excitement, it was a pretty bleak time in the industry. Labels were having mass firings weekly, and many bands were getting picked up and then shelved. We had some great industry friends around us that helped us stay away from the potentially scary situations. These days, I think the landscape is a bit more hopeful. If someone is interested in getting involved, there is definitely no harm in hearing what they have to say. If it’s the right deal, then I’m in. Luckily I have been around in this business long enough to know which deals ARE the right deals now.”
Randy: “Yeah, same here and I agree. So humor me here with this question for the sake of those who aren’t as familiar with the Canadian Music scene, Would you say Toronto is sort of the music capital in Canada? Or is there another city that is more “country music capital” similar to how we have Nashville, TN in the U.S., or does Toronto fill all voids?”
Dan: “Toronto is definitely the biggest music hub in Canada, that’s where all the head offices are etc. Many of the top country artists in Canada aren’t actually from Toronto though (or even Ontario). Dallas Smith is from Langley (BC), Brett Kissel is from Bonneyville (AB), Jess Moskaluke is from Saskatoon (SK), etc. Its hard to really nail down what the “Nashville of Canada” might be, but I can tell you this – Edmonton and Winnipeg have two very well respected music scenes that have produced some phenomenal export-ready talent.”
Randy: “Ok, cool, I’m moving ha ha. Being an artist myself, and I know a lot of other recording artists will probably be curious as well, I have a few more technical or recording process type questions… if you don’t mind? Since some of the biggest fans we have in music are fellow musicians and songwriters, etc. “So first: Are you the one playing all or any of the instruments on the upcoming single ‘Unkiss Her’ or were there session musicians filling in some of the spots? How did that work? And do you have a backup band assembled for upcoming shows?”
Dan: “Yep I play guitar on the songs along with a great guitar player named Pete Lesperence out of Toronto. There was also some guitar and steel done by a couple fantastic guys in Nashville. My producer Jeff Dalziel played bass and drums for the most part, and Tyler Volrath (Brett Kissel’s fiddle player) played fiddle on the record. I do have a great band assembled for my live shows. “Currently the band actually consists of mainly Tupelo Honey guys haha! I know it sounds lame to say, but Greg, Steve, Brad, and Tyler from TH are honestly some of the best players in Canada. I’ve been so lucky to try and keep up with them over the years!” (see photo below)
Randy: “How long did it take to record “Unkiss Her” and how much time did you get to spend getting your vocals just the way you wanted them? What was that process like and did you use a vocal coach or are you just a very self-disciplined kinda guy when it comes to ‘getting it right’?”
Dan: “It took a very long time. That was my first country tune, getting the vocal delivery just right was a delicate balance. I really was learning my new voice. It’s a different delivery than rock music. It’s subtle but noticeable. I basically sang the entire song about 5 or 6 different occasions. Basically, I recorded all the vocals at my personal studio, sent them to my producer who would edit them and place them in the song. Then we would listen back and go over it syllable by syllable analyzing the vowels, the “r” sounds, and the vibrato. Then I would re-sing it again and again until it was perfect. After we got that song squared away, the rest were MUCH easier.”
Randy: “Are there any plans you have for collaborations or duets?”
“I am looking for a duet with a female artist on a track I’m working on right now; I haven’t firmed that one up yet. I do have some writing collaborations planned for this year for sure. I will likely be headed down to Nashville in the coming months to do some writing sessions that my publisher has set up. So far for this record I have written with Jeff Dalziel (SONY/ATV), Karen Kosowski (Peter Katz), Troy Samson (Nettwerk One), Alee (Wax Records Artist), Emma Lee (artist), and Pete Lesperence (The Stellas).” – Dan Davidson
Randy: “What are the top 5-10 things in life that are most important to you.”
Dan: “1. My beautiful baby girl Georgia and my wife Jen. Music isn’t an easy passion to follow. It really can be draining and defeating sometimes. My girls keep me balanced and always make me happy. 2. Spending time with my family. I grew up with a pretty tight knit family, and its important to me to find the time to get out to the cabin with them, go on a vacation, or even just have a Sunday dinner 3. Finding a way to make music my job. It’s not easy to be an indie musician, but I’ve been able to find a way to do it combining performing, producing, writing, video editing, grant writing, etc. 4. Learning something new. While pursuing my career, I was able to get 2 degrees (Music and Commerce). I want to keep learning more skills I can use as I dive further and further into my career. 5. Staying healthy. 6. Travelling. 7. Waiting for the new Game Of Thrones episodes!!!
Randy: “If you hadn’t pursued a career in music, what would have been the next thing closest to you heart that you would be doing?
Dan: “That’s a tough one. Honestly, I think I would probably have tried to be a lawyer.”
Randy: “Do you have some upcoming events you have planned? You mentioned something earlier, I forget…”
Dan: “I do! I’m launching the project with my first show at Big Valley Jamboree in front of 8-10,000 people. Ill be playing the Saloon Stage with the Boom Chucka Boy and Mickey Pye after Reba shuts down the main stage. It should be a pretty crazy first show!”
Randy: “Yeah, a great start! Alright Dan, thanks for letting me take up so much of your time! We’ll stay in touch.”
Dan: “Absolutely. You’re welcome! And thank YOU!
You may view the lyrics video for “Unkiss Her” and connect with Dan Davidson at:
Twitter: @itsdandavidson http://www.twitter.com/itsdandavidson
*Note: ‘Unkiss her will NOT be available on iTunes until July 13th, 2015. Watch for it!
I have been behind the scenes on many occasions with this exceptional individual and I have seen Dan Davidson cover all aspects of the music industry for others: from Grant writing, Recording, Branding, Artist Development, Live Acoustic performances (even on New Years Eve at Minus 30!), and Songwriting, I have seen this man do it all behind the scenes with never a complaint. He is insatiable in his appetite to continuously expand for the artists he represents and continues to surprise me with every successful career choice and move he has made to date with Tupelo Honey and now, as a Solo Recording Artist venturing into newer genre territory and doing a damn fine job of it too!
Some do not know that Dan Davidson was also awarded the Top 40 under 40 Award by Avenue Magazine, a privilege he accepted most humbly (you must understand, this isn’t a man who brags AT ALL, so I am going to do it for him!)
This was a wonderful read for me getting another artists perspective on the consistent progress I have been lucky to have witnessed in person during the last couple years watching Dan Davidson near and afar. I was pleased to see that I am not the only one who thinks as highly of him as an individual and Recording Artist. He is an incredible performer live and I recommend anyone going to Big Valley Jamboree NOT to miss out seeing him at one of the Best Country Music Outdoor Festivals in Western Canada!
Dan, I personally wish you all the success and enjoyment going forward with your career as a Country Artist and I know you will make Canada (especially Edmonton, Alberta!) Proud! It seemed only fitting to devote this space for our Canada Day Special to one of the finest Canadians I have the privilege to know. You are Stellar!
UPDATE (July 16th, 2015): Go to: http://www.jrfm.com/new-country-challenge/2014/11/18/hot-country-challenge-song-2 to Vote Dan Davidson as Today’s Hot Country Artist!