(This interview was conducted for Columbia Free Times’ online edition but not posted; The show’s in a few hours so I figured it ought to get read by somebody.)
Athens, Georgia musician Corey Smith takes the stage Friday night in front of a crowd stacked with hometown UGA fans among the Gamecock faithful, his opening act will be celebrating a homecoming of his own. Camden native Patrick Davis has been a resident of Nashville for six years now, and his persistence and hard work as a songwriter is beginning to pay off. Pat Green has become a fan and frequent customer, with songs such as “Dixie Lullaby” not only appearing on his albums but getting significant radio and chart action. Other artists are also coming to Davis now for songs or co-writing sessions. Davis is the first to admit that there has been a fair share of luck among the years of hard work, however.
“With anything, you do enough of it and you get lucky,” Davis says of his songwriting success. “I’m in Texas this week at a songwriting retreat with Jewel and five other songwriters, writing for her next album.” That particular gig is a result of personal connections Davis has nurtured while in Nashville, he says.
”My wife manages Jewel and works with Irving Azoff,” Davis explains. “It’s really crazy how everything has worked out so far—the relationships I started out with right there in Columbia started it all. I knew Mark Bryan’s wife’s cousin and got to know the guys in Hootie and they helped me out when I was starting to play my own original music; now Darius’ country album is coming out and I wrote one of the songs on it. If Mark hadn’t sat me down and told me I ought to write some songs and not just play cover songs, I never would have gotten to this point.” Davis is realistic about where his career is, and that he still has a long way to go, but he sounds comfortable with the process.
“It’s not about making a lot of money, just enough to do what I love to do. It’s a snowball effect—I’m still the new kid; I’ve been in Nashville for six and a half years but I’m still learning the ropes.”
The next Patrick Davis song you’re likely to hear on the radio will be sung by rising star Jason Michael Carroll, who cut “Where I’m From” for his next album.
“That’s going to be a single, it should be out sometime in October,” Davis says, “It is one of those songs that will always hold a special place in my heart—It was Roger’s favorite song.”
Roger is Davis’ younger brother, who was killed in a single-car accident this summer when his vehicle ran off the road—the younger Davis brother was not wearing his seat belt, a mistake that probably cost him his life. It’s a song about Camden, of course, but it has the kind of lyric that makes it nearly universal in appeal.
”Wherever you grew up, whether that’s Columbia, South Carolina, or Buffalo, New York, that story seems to resonate with people,” Davis says. “The week after Roger died, I went to the Grand Old Opry for a night that had Jewel, Darius Rucker, and Jason Michael Carroll all playing; Jason played it that night, which meant a lot to me.”
The artist who has meant the most to Davis’ career so far has to be Pat Green, the Texas country singer whose grassroots success mirrors Davis in some ways. Their connection was even forged on the club level right here in Columbia.
“I was playing 200 shows a year after my own indie album came out, and we played a show with Pat at Headliners,” Davis says. “A little while after that, he called me out of the blue to co-write some songs with him, that was the first co-writing I’d ever done.” The results were good enough to convince Davis he ought to be writing more and performing less, and he has continued to have a co-writing role on subsequent Green albums.
“We’ll see if he keeps using me,” Davis says of the two artists’ professional relationship, “Almost every artist co-writes with others, and we hit it off pretty well so far. He plays three or four songs I co-wrote with him, which is really cool.” The relationship with Green has been a positive one for Davis’ family finances, something he humorously acknowledges.
“We have a decent little house in Nashville, I call it the House that Pat Green Built.”
For his opening set this Friday, Davis will be joined by both family and friends on stage. His band is slated to include Jonathan Gray of Jump, Little Children, Les Hall from Sourwood Honey, Crossfade, and others, as well as his father Rusty Davis. The hometown spirit is starting to get to Davis, even over the phone from Texas, as he expresses a specific wish for this particular show.
“I just hope enough South Carolina fans show up so I can give Corey Smith some grief for being a UGA fan,” Davis says, revealing that no matter how far his career takes him, Gamecock country will always be where he is from.