Patrick Davis’ pals kept telling him he should do this – that he makes music people want to hear, that his songs and his voice are radio-ready. And, so what? Thousands of people are told such things all the time by millions of well-intentioned friends.
Here’s what’s different: Patrick Davis’ pals are some of the most influential artists coming out of Nashville and climbing the country charts. And they’re eager for Patrick Davis to join their club. Davis writes and performs songs worthy of your attention. And though he’s a newcomer to many in the country world, some of his songs are already contemporary country veterans. He co-wrote Jason Michael Carroll’s Top 10 hit, “Where I’m From,” as well as the closing track, “Be Wary of a Woman,” on fellow South Carolinian Darius Rucker’s platinum-level Learn To Live album. In 2011, his songs are being heard on new albums from Lady Antebellum, Jewel (Patrick and Jewel co- wrote 11 of the 12 original songs on the album, and Davis even sang harmony on the closing track, “Count On Me”), Josh Kelley and Carroll (he produced Carroll’s latest release).
Since moving to Nashville in 2002, he’s written with a wide range of collaborators, from contemporary voices Jewel and Dallas Davidson to formative influences such as Radney Foster, Hal Ketchum and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Guy Clark (Davis co-wrote two songs on Clark’s latest studio album, and considers that a career highlight.). Raised on a farm in the central South Carolina town of Camden, Davis was actually born near Nashville in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where his parents had moved in hopes that his father could become a full-time studio musician. The family eventually returned home to be nearer to their loved ones, with his father teaching school on weekdays and playing music on weekends. And while Patrick loved listening to music – particularly the southern rock of the Allman Brothers and South Carolina’s native Marshall Tucker Band – he didn’t begin playing until age 17.
“My dad never pushed it on me, and I was able to fall naturally in love with the guitar and with songwriting,” he says. “My dad being a guitar player – and a really good one – was intimidating, but also inspiring. He was always playing guitar. I didn’t wake up to an alarm clock; I woke up to Dad playing a Marshall half-stack with a Stratocaster on ’11,’ to Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. That’s how I knew it was time for school in the morning.”
Davis’ father later retired from teaching and opened Davis & Sons Guitar Shop in Camden. But for much of high school, Davis was an athlete. A football, basketball and baseball player in high school, Davis started fiddling with guitar his senior year. His musical tastes gravitated towards singer songwriters like Clark and Lyle Lovett, and by his sophomore year at the University of South Carolina he’d begun the Patrick Davis Group.
“I actually started playing little hole-in-the-wall bars freshman year,” he says. “I’d get $25 an hour and beer. When you’re 19 or 20, that was a kick-ass deal. I had, like, three original songs, and then we did the Allmans, the Rolling Stones, the Black Crowes and some others. But it meant that I was playing.”
Among those who saw him play were Rucker, Mark Bryan and others in Hootie and the Blowfish, the Columbia, SC-based band that had broken through on rock radio. “They jumped on my ship early on, and really got me out there moving,” Davis says. “They kept telling me, ‘You need to be writing original songs.’”
And Davis thought that was probably right. He did need to be writing original songs, and so he started doing just that. Davis began opening shows for Hootie and the Blowfish, and the band’s Mark Bryan produced his debut CD. Davis knew Nashville as a song center, and he determined to move there. He arrived in Nashville in 2002, six months after graduating the University of South Carolina and four days after marrying his college sweetheart. While Music City hemmed and hawed over downloads and digital uncertainty, Davis figured he’d concentrate on what hadn’t changed in music: the road. His first four years in town, he toured 200 dates a year, concentrating on his native southeast and on a Texas music scene that welcomed this Carolina anomaly.
“I want to connect with people, and that’s something you can only do when you’re out there, face to face with them,” he says. “I would play restaurants and bars in the Carolinas, then fly to Texas to open shows for Cross Canadian Ragweed or Pat Green.”
Davis wound up co-writing four songs for Green’s Cannonball album, including the Top 20 hit “Dixie Lullaby.” Davis signed with EMI Music Publishing in 2006, and he scaled back his touring in order to concentrate on songwriting. But he continued to headline shows in the southeast, and the connection with audiences was a constant tug.
“I want people who come to the show to feel like they know me, to see behind the curtain,” he says. “Part of that comes from the songs: I try to be as honest as I possibly can. I’m not trying to force something down people’s throat that I don’t believe in.”
Davis’ songs are peppered with the specifics of his life. “Numbers” was inspired by the death of his little brother, Roger Davis, on June 29, 2008. June 29 is also Davis’ wife’s birthday, and the couple celebrated her milestone that evening. Hours later, a red letter day turned awful.
“I felt like it was insane that the same date could mean such drastically different things,” says Davis, who raises money for the Roger Jennings Davis Memorial Fund through an annual golf tournament.
“It was a powerful, emotional, wonderful day for my wife and family, and then all of a sudden it had a completely different connotation.
Roger died on a Saturday night. Sunday morning, Davis returned home and stayed for a week. The next Monday, he was back in Nashville, keeping a writing appointment he’d made with the legendary Harley Allen.
“I sat down and told Harley what happened, and he said, ‘Son, what the hell are you doing here,’” Davis says. “I told him, ‘Maybe this will be something normal.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve got this title for a song.’” The song was “Life’s The People That You Love,” and Davis and Allen finished it in 20 minutes.
Not all of Davis’ successes have come from heartache. He unwittingly wrote a Carolina smash one day in 2010, a few days after going to a University of South Carolina football game. What started as a fun song, “I’m Just a Big Ole (Game) Cock,” has become a rallying cry, and a regular part of USC football Saturdays. Ultimately, Davis is at peace with his life as a singer and songwriter. “Lucky” is a true-to-life depiction of Davis’ pleasure with his world, both personal and musical.
“‘Lucky’ is the last song I play every night on the road,” he says. “From the first time I played it, it’s been one that people gravitate to. Pat Green and I wrote that in my house, and there are things in there that are fun and tongue-in-cheek, but the song is real. I feel lucky to do what I do. I make my living making music.”
That’s a good job to have, though Davis’ buddies keep telling him he’s about to be putting in a whole lot of overtime.

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Patrick Davis

Friday, July 19 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at The Evening Muse