On episode 90 of the Taproot Music Show, Moot Davis talks about why he had to go to New Zealand to start work on his new album, Man About Town; why he’s a suit and tie kind of country singer; and the importance of being in control of your own destiny.
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Moot Davis made a name for himself with some honky tonk CDs from several years ago.
Moot Davis talks about starting from the other side of the world to get this CD started. He says that in 2007, his second CD, Already Moved On had come out. He says he was burned out from living on the road and was struggling with his record label. So he moved to New Zealand for about half a year. Moot Davis Lived in Wellington and “had a blast.” After a couple of weeks of “not fighting with anybody” he could finally get back to writing some songs. Moot Davis says he wrote about 80-85 percent of what’s on the current CD, Man About Town.
Moot Davis sets up “Rags to Rhinestones.” Moot Davis says he was carrying that phrase around for a long but wasn’t having much luck writing a song with it. But a friend of his in Nashville was going through a career nose dive. This friend had been a high flyer and now he was getting kicked out of all the bars. That served as a real-life inspiration for the song.
[plays "Rags to Rhinestones"]
Moot Davis talks about the vocal style on that track and the CD. Mot Davis says that while they’ve been on tour he’s been hearing people say that he sounds like Roy Orbison. Moot Davis says that Orbison is certainly enjoyed his voice. Moot Davis calls Roy Orbison’s voice “almost angelic” and he didn’t think of it as something he could ever attain. So he liked that sound but it wasn’t a vocal style he ever deliberately tried to emulate. As far as the crooning goes, Moot Davis says his voice matured over time and that’s part of it.
Moot Davis talks about the backing band. The CD was produced by Kenny Vaughan who is sort of Marty Stuart’s right hand man and guitar player in the Fabulous Superlatives. Kenny Vaugn also plays guitar on Man About Town. Chris Scruggs plays lap steel and pedal steel. Harry Stinson is on drums. Paul Martin plays bass. Also featured is fiddler Hank Singer, who plays with George Jones.
Moot Davis says it was kind of an intimidating line up. Moot Davis says with that band you don’t do a lot of rehearsing. Moot Davis got together with some locals and made demo recording. He sent the songs to Kenny to help pick out the songs that went into the CD. Other than one or two meetings with Kenny there was no rehearsal. Everyone just showed up at the studio. And on the first day they had Elizabeth Cook there as well to do a duet.
Moot Davis sets up “Fade To Gold.” he says when he was a child, his family used to take weekend trips to Pennsylvania. For the whole trip, his Dad had only one cassette tape that he played over and over. On one side it had Dylan’s Desire. And on the other side it was the Greatest Hits of Roxy Music. This song is sort of a melding of all that.
[plays "Fade To Gold"]
Moot Davis talks about how he’s more of a suit and tie kind of country singer. Moot Davis says when he first got started he was in acting and was in plays that traveled around the country and Europe. When he first started doing music he was a very poor musician. So when he got up on stage in those early days he says he needed a buffer between him and the audience. And so the suit and tie kind of became his armor. Moot Davis also said that the Hank Williams image was also part of his early act. Also there was a movie called Honky Tonk that has Clint Eastwood in it. That movie plus the Hank Williams image are the two things that gave him courage to do those early shows. Moot Davis says that the suit and tie is not some sort of “retro-creep” thing, he also says that the suit and tie does command some respect. He discovered at an early age when he was trying to get into bars as an underage minor that if you wore a suit and tie people treated you completely different and that has remained true through all stages of his adult life.
Moot Davis talks about getting hsi songs placed in movies and TV shows. He says other than the traveling, its been the best part of his career. He says he’s up to about 20 placements now. His first placement was a song called “Whiskey Town” in a movie called Crash that went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. He got to the Premiere and all that stuff. Moot Davis says it’s a real, emotional thing when you’re in a movie theater watching the movie, people you recognize on screen and you hear your song come one.
Moot Davis sets up “Queensbury Rules.” Queensbury Rules are the old British Boxing rules whith stuff like don’t kick your opponent when they are down. Moot Davis then parlayed that into a love song.
[plays "Queensbury Rules']
Moot Davis talks a little bit about the bind he got in with his previous label and how he got started with his own label. He says he doesn’t have anything but good things to say about the people on his previous label. But he says that the problem was he wasn’t in control of his own destiny and that has to be in charge of his own decisions and make his own mistakes. Moot Davis talks Paul W Reed who is a business man from Texas who followed his career and went into business with him to create their label. Moot Davis talks about he admires Reed’s willingness to put his money where his mouth is.
Moot Davis talks about the advice he’d give to new aspiring artists. He says that when he was getting started with his previous label, he had a lawyer and his father helping out. But the label brought things to a head and pressured him to sign up so they could get a tour going. So he signed a contract. So his advice to artists is to not be easily bluffed or pressured into agreeing things you don’t want to get into.
Moot Davis says they are on tour right now, doing a string of shows in the US. Then they are doing a summer European tour then a Canadian run. They are also shooting for more placements in film and TV. Moot Davis also says he’s has admired Lyle Lovett’s career and would like to try to work with him in the future.
Moot Davis says that he’d like put more emphasis on roots rock on the next CD to broaden his horizons and not make the same album over and over again.