Jordan Davis
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The Songs That Changed My Life: Jordan Davis

By Ross Jones

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It's safe to say Jordan Davis has made 2022 his own.

Having already cemented himself as one to watch with his gold-certified debut album Home State, Davis ensured he was here to stay with Buy Dirt, his supremely popular 8-track project whose title track went straight to double-platinum, before you could even get that dang catchy chorus out of your head.

It's all come full circle this past week, with Davis winning the CMA Award for Song of the Year for the aforementioned hit. "Oh man, I did not expect that!", Davis exclaimed on stage upon accepting the award. "We wrote a song about faith and family, and if that’s not country music, I don’t know what is".

While Davis' sound has the sort of breadth needed to succeed in the hybrid model the genre is adopting today, it's his writing that's truly speaking to his fanbase; an uncontrived, almost pensive, yet hopeful observation of life and its many hurdles that encompass the mood as much as his sound intends to.

Where 'Buy Dirt' embodies Davis' ability to write saccharine, heartfelt songs about credence and finding contentment in life, songs like 'What My World Spins Around' and 'Slow Dancing In A Parking Lot' take that candid sentiment around romantic love and weave it into rocking, HARDY-esque anthems. He's certainly not afraid to let loose and release grooving, 'Tangled'-esque pop bangers like 'Drink Had Me' and 'Almost Maybes', or join Seaforth for their cans aloft smash 'Good Beer', either.

So, when it comes to the Songs That Have Changed His Life, his choices should really not be as much of a surprise as you'd think.

"My base in music is songwriters: Don Williams, prime Jim Croce, Kris Kristofferson," Davis explains one mid-week summer morning. "When I was a kid, we'd go to the pool on the weekends. I liked whoever my friends were playing, because that's what you do as a kid. I was probably listening to TLC or Beastie Boys or something like that, you know? But, my dad didn't have any of that".

"He had a 1969 Jeep Wagoneer, a car he actually ended up passing down to me and my brother as our first car", he continues. "On the weekends, we would drive an hour and a half to our hunting camp, right outside of Shreveport. He would have control of the radio, so he would put these CDs on that I'd never heard of; I didn't know any of them".

"My dad's a history buff and, over everything, he's a huge music fan. So I would hand him a CD and he'd start playing it. It would be Neil Diamond - 'Cracklin' Rosie', or something like that - and he'd reel out whatever year it came out; he'd just spit it out and start humming along with it".

Davis' dad would gift him the foundation and love of country music songwriting that grounds him today; introducing him to legends both inside and out of the genre, names including Neil Diamond and, most impactfully, John Prine.

Not only would Davis pay tribute to both Prine and his dad with 'Blow Up Your TV' - the Buy Dirt opener where he covers Prine's own 'Spanish Pipedream' - but he would give us a subtle insight into his own musical upbringing; showing not only the artist he's become, but the direction he could perhaps take in the future.

"That was the first place I heard John Prine. I was sitting in the front seat, handing my dad CDs and he's throwing them in the player. That was the first place I heard a lot of these songs."

From his Dad's 69 Wagoneer to the childhood boat he would go out on on the weekends with Mr. Bill, here is Jordan Davis' Songs That Changed My Life.

John Prine - ‘Hello In There’

The first artist to just blow me away with their songwriting was John Prine. I first heard 'The Great Compromise' when I was 10 years old, and it was totally lost on me; I didn't know what he was talking about and he was just jumping all over the place. But, on that same CD was 'Hello In There'; one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking songs I've ever heard in my life.

I think songs that really impact me are the ones that I remember first listening to; that's one of them. It's not necessarily because the production of the song is crazy good or that the vocal run sticks in my head, but I just remember thinking, "wow, this guy is singing about this old couple that are sitting around waiting to die", and that stuck out like a gut punch. John Prine was so good at that, it was one of his strong suits.

He could write a song like 'Hello In There' that's so heartbreaking and beautifully written, then also write something like 'My Mexican Home' or 'Donald and Lydia'; these goofy, half tongue-in-cheek ones. I've always been blown away by just how seamless it was for him to write whatever he was feeling.

I don't think I'll ever be able to write a song like Prine - I don't think many people can - but I try to write songs that make people feel the way I feel when I hear his music.

Jason Isbell - 'If We Were Vampires'

'If We Were Vampires' is one of those songs that, whether you write and sing for a living or whether you're a handyman, it doesn't matter; when you hear a lyric like that, you can't help but stop in your tracks.

Isbell did a really good job of being able to take such a sad topic of nobody getting out of here alive and making it sound so peaceful and beautiful.

I think Isbell is right up there with John Prine as some of the greatest ever to do it - there's no better feeling than hearing a song like that for the first time. You'll never get that first listen back, no matter how many times you listen back to it, but it's something you'll remember forever. That's it.

Brothers Osborne - 'Stay A Little Longer'

I'm a huge fan of the Brothers, I like everything they put out. But, the production on this one just pulls you in and makes you listen.

When I first heard it I was early on enough in my career to still be defining my sound, so I was able to mess with some different stuff. I remember thinking, "if I ever get a chance to make a record, I want to try to find that electricity", because even from the start of a track, it makes you want to listen.

You don't mistake a Brothers' song for anybody else. When TJ comes in on a vocal, you know that's TJ Osborne, and when you hear John start playing the guitar, you know there's only one guy that can play like that. It's cool to see them dig a trench as far as what they're doing.

Kris Kristofferson - 'Casey's Last Ride'

I think this was my first introduction to true songwriting. My dad was also a huge Kris Kristofferson fan.

I remember the first time I ever heard 'Casey's Last Ride' from Kris Kristofferson; it had these heavy minor chords and Kristofferson's voice sounded like he'd been smoking cigarettes his whole life. I was almost scared to listen to it; the verses are super down and depressing. But then, he opens it up with these big, bright, pretty chords in the chorus and his voice changes. It's a real rollercoaster, like two songs in one.

I'm a huge fan of Kristofferson's voice. I think he's got one of the most unique sounds out there. Again, it's a song that's always struck me and I always go back to it still to this day.

Black Crowes - 'Hard to Handle'

I was probably in sixth or seventh grade, and my cousin John Parker came into town. He had this super souped-up fast car, and that whole weekend I was bugging him, trying to get him to take me out in it to see how fast it could go. So we go out to this wide-open parkway; it's around nine o'clock at night, we hit around 90 miles an hour and I'm in the front seat, shaking.

Before he hit the pedal, he put a CD in and played 'Hard to Handle' by the Black Crowes. I was like "what is this?! Who is this band?!" From there, it was nothing but the Black Crowes and any southern rock band I could find; all the way down to Allman Brothers and those big jam, good-sounding bands.

'Hard to Handle' started my whole love for heavy, big guitars, wild out-there vocals and loud ass drums. That was the music my mom wouldn't let me burn onto CDs and listen to in my room, so when my cousin opened that door up, it was rock n roll, baby. We still cover that song to this day.

Jimmy Buffett - 'Cheeseburger in Paradise'

So this is a weird one. When we were growing up, we had a boat. Every weekend during the summer, if we were in town and I didn't have to go out somewhere playing baseball, we would always be out with our friends and my parents.

There's a dear friend of mine who's like a second dad to me, we call him Mr. Bill. He suddenly turns on 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' by Jimmy Buffett. I remember at the time thinking, "man, this is stupid, what is this all about? He's literally singing about what he likes on his burger." So, I forget about it. The next day, I woke up, we were on the boat and I thought, "I want to listen to that 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' song again".

Sometimes, with writing, I'll get in my head too much. When I feel like that, it always takes me back to 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' jamming on the boat speakers, with everybody in earshot singing every single word, having a blast. You could give me 100 years, and I couldn't write a song as good as 'Cheeseburger in Paradise'. It makes you let go and try to write songs that make people feel good. That's why that song, still to this day, is routinely on my playlist.

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Jordan Davis' new single, 'Part of It', is out now via MCA Nashville / UMG Recordings. Listen below: