(The following interview feature originally appeared in the online edition of this week’s Columbia Free Times)
2009 may have been filled with stories of the downturn in the music business, but homegrown Camden musician Patrick Davis enjoyed his best year yet as a Nashville songwriter with several big names cutting his songs and turning them into chart hits. The biggest, “Where I’m From,” was recorded by the deep-voiced North Carolinian Jason Michael Carroll, who took it into the top ten during the summer.
“That was the biggest one I’ve done so far,” Davis says, “Songs are funny things–the ones you think are going to be on the radio aren’t, and the ones you do think will do well don’t.”
That particular song had a long road to the top ten, Davis reveals.
“I wrote it three years ago and played it at my own shows for a while–I knew if the right person heard it that it would do okay.”
The one constant in his budding songwriting career, Davis says, is that he’s kept busy.
“You have to take every opportunity you can,” Davis says. “I had ten or twelve cuts last year (songs recorded and actually officially released by someone) and I’m constantly working.”
Those who remember Davis when he was playing cover gigs around the Columbia area may not realize that he was already working his way into the Nashville industry, even then.
“You have to be willing to do pretty much anything for a couple of years,” Davis says. “I drove back and forth to South Carolina to play cover gigs for money so I could keep working on my songwriting–you have to be willing to take no for an answer and keep trying.”
2009 may have been a good year for Davis, but he’s not taking it for granted that his luck will continue.
“In general you go through ups and downs with years that are great and years that are down,“ Davis says. It’s those “up” years that help support a songwriter, however.
“When you get to add a hit song or a cut on a hit album to your resume, it helps you to write with more artists,” Davis says. “When Darius Rucker’s album went platinum it made me look better because I had songs on it–I’ve picked up five or six new artists I’ve written with since then.”
Rucker’s success has definitely been a bright spot for Davis, and he’s hopeful that the new country star will include another of his songs on his next album.
“We were on the road together a few weeks ago just hanging out, we’re getting together down in Charleston while I’m in the state this week so we can write some,” Davis says. “It’s so competitive out there with so few artists having the kind of success he has had, he’ll probably write fifty-plus songs with over thirty different writers and only pick nine or ten of those for the album–most of the successful songwriters in Nashville who have been there 25-30 years all want to work with him now, so even being friends it’s still hard to get the time to write with him.”
Not every songwriting session yields results, Davis admits.
“Charles Kelly of Lady Antebellum wrote ten songs with me last year and none of those made it to the new album,” Davis says.
One album he did get a couple new songs on was the latest release from one of his songwriting heroes, Guy Clark.
“I was really happy that worked out, that I got to write a couple of songs with him, and especially that they made it onto the album,” Davis says.
Though he’s concentrating on his songwriting job, Davis still finds time to play some shows like this week’s New Year’s Eve show in Columbia. He’s also working on an album of his own which attendees of the NYE show will get a sneak preview of.
“I’m about three-fourths done, but this show will have a teaser for the album available with five songs on an EP,” Davis says. “I’m shooting for March to have the whole thing done–it’ll have country elements to it due to my songwriting style, but somebody who’s a traditional country music listener will think it’s too rock ‘n’ roll.”
Getting to play his songs in front of an audience is an integral part of his songwriting career, Davis says.
“When you get to go out and play the songs you get to see the audience reaction,” Davis says. “When you’re pitching songs in Nashville, you sit in a room with the artist and the A&R guys. It’s different when you play it live, you hear and see the reaction.”