If Joshua Davis wasn’t yet on the national radar when he emerged an unlikely contestant on NBC’s The Voice, his finish in the top three turned the indie singer songwriter into a household name. Davis logged nearly two decades of playing music before taking that fateful step into reality TV. As the first artist in the show’s history to play original material in eight seasons, Davis broke through the iTunes top 10 several times during his run.
It was refreshing to see an artist of his caliber break down the walls and play into the hearts of the public with truth, honesty and artistry. His stirring composition ‘The Workingman’s Hymn’ tugged at the public’s heartstrings and gave fans a taste of his gritty, vintage appeal.
The Michigan troubadour is going back to his roots with a wider audience and a renewed spirit. Davis previews his new material and showcases the core of his vast catalog of original material May 14 at Jack Rabbits.
“My shows are intimate, even if it’s in a big room. I do a lot of talking about the songs. I tell a lot of stories. I’ve got a really great percussionist who travels with me and a keyboardist from time to time. I try to think of every show as a new beginning. Even if you’re playing the same songs every night, it’s a different gathering of people, a different community. I’m always excited to see who is out and just to feel that energy in the air.”
Davis taking great care to preserve the integrity of his music by releasing his new 7” single on the vinyl. It was a thoughtful decision, says Davis, because that’s what he listens to with his family at home in Michigan. It’s also currently available in the digital format with preorders stacking up. Davis says he plans to travel through his back catalog and release it on vinyl so “this is a good start,” he says. “Records force us to be more thoughtful about our music. You can’t just hit shuffle and go on cleaning the house. You’ve got to give it its own space.”
Recorded in Ann Arbor in November, 2015, the release features the original songs “Always Going to be Here” and “Let Me In.” Davis’ soulful vocals are laid bare on his new singles. The production is stripped down, showcasing the heart in the raw imperfections which he hopes will translate well on vinyl.
“It’s not dissimilar from a lot of my previous material pre-Voice. They’re very rootsy. I go into the studio and I record most everything live, do a few takes of each with very few overdubs. For me, it’s all about the energy. If the energy’s right, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I think a lot of music on the radio these days, they’re looking for absolute perfection and I think a lot of times that tends to sound too overproduced. I like things to be a little more raw,” says Davis.
As a full-time, touring musician for almost 20 years, Davis has always operated in a very kind of grass roots way. He traveled all around the country and played “more shows than I care to remember” but with a young family, he’s channeling his energy into his music in a different way.
“I think the big difference now is that I’m using my voice in a different way and I’m writing for it. Before I think there was more of a utility instrument. I wrote a lot on the show and worked with a lot of the really incredible vocal coaches they have on staff there and they kind of taught me how to use my voice in a better way. I kind of discovered it as an instrument. So I’ve been writing for it a little better and I’m really proud of these songs.”
Davis previously released a trio of solo albums which offer earnest musings on life, love, change, and growth, culminating with his 2013 A Miracle of Birds inspired by a life-changing voyage to the Middle East to raise money and awareness for fair-trade olive farming communities in Palestine’s West Bank.
When The Voice called, Davis says he almost didn’t audition. “I’d never even seen the show. Looking at music in a competitive way is totally against the way I was raised. Collaboration is what it’s about. Music brings people together. So the competitive aspect of it was really foreign; to be judged like that,” he says.
“After The Voice, it was such a joy to be able to record again on my own terms. It was a joyful, fluid, organic process and I hope that comes through,” Davis says. “This has put me in front of a much wider audience which has been wonderful. And fortunately, that wider audience just embraced what I do. So I think for me, it’s about harnessing that momentum but doing it in a way that’s consistent with how I’ve run my career the past 20 years. It’s about the songs. It’s very value-based. I’m trying to maintain that integrity. Sometimes I think this business is a little tricky but I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”