Keith Davis is one of those musicians who has been the backbone of Texas Music as we know it over the past decade. He’s played blistering lead guitar for a number of well-known acts and many interesting stories to tell. Keith is currently in the midst of his second solo album release and is growing his fanbase steadily. Check out this edition of 20 Questions to see how to cure the Sideman Blues.
1. What’s new and exciting in the world of Keith Davis?
Got the new record and single out. And, I just found out that my wife and I are going to have a girl. She’s due in November.
2. Your music showcases quite a bit of depth, much more so than most of your contemporaries. You put your life on display and project a reality that most of us can relate to all too clearly. Has it always been a conscious decision to avoid beer-ridden cliches and write about your life?
Yes, from the beginning I tried to set my self apart in the Texas Music movement by avoiding topics that other guys write about. There’s nothing wrong with party songs, I just can’t pull it off. I write about what I know; and I think people appreciate that I’m not afraid to lay my beliefs on the line and talk about faith, God, my kids and how the road isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think if you let the listener into your life a little more, they really understand what you are writing about. It’s definitely a give and take type thing.
3. Name association:
-Cory Morrow- Second chances.
-Kevin Fowler- Genius
-Charlie Robison- Hot wife.
-Walt Wilkins- Wisdom.
-Josh Grider- Honorable.
-Rich Oâ€™Toole- Determined.
-Larry Joe Taylor- Storyteller.
-Django Walker- Comedian.
-Robert Earl Keen- Career
-Aaron Watson- If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
-Billy Joe Shaver- Preacher.
4. You’ve played lead guitar for many acts including two very talented ladies, Bonnie Bishop and Pauline Reese. Unfortunately, I’ve heard horror stories from female artists about club-owners and other acts treating them unfairly. What was it like working with them in a scene that is dominated by men?
They are both completely different, but equally tough. Neither one of them would let a male take advantage of them. Pauline would talk it out. Bonnie would throw down. That’s why other female artists come and go and those two stick around and keep putting out great records.
5. Your music has big dashes of the blues and gospel in it. To what do you attribute that influence?
You are what you eat, musically, that is. I listen to everything from Jazz to Country, but I grew up playing in the church so everything I write tends to have a gospel influence. I thought about dumbing it down for the new record, but it didn’t work. It ended up coming out even more and I am glad about that. I think people identify in some way or another with blues and gospel and I think that they are as much a part of Texas Music as country.
6. If they were to make a movie of your life, who would you pick to portray you on the big screen?
7. With that question in mind, what’s your favorite musical biopic? And what do you feel is the worst one ever produced?
The Buddy Holly Story with Gary Busey is good. Ray with Jamie Fox was great because of the detail. Coal Miner’s Daughter is still the best, though. The worst one would probably be the movie they made about M.C. Hammer. It was so bad that I would actually watch it again just for the laughs.
8. If you could eliminate one trend from music, what would it be?
Besides Big & Rich, I would eliminate pitch correction in the recording process. I think that if all singers had to actually sing, there would be a lot more gigs for some of us new guys.
9. Favorite touring memory of the following towns/clubs:
-Corpus Christi- Parking the R.V. on the beach and staying up all night partying when I was in the Django Walker Band.
-Ft. Worth- First time I played Billy Bob’s with Fowler and my parents came.
-Austin- Hill’s Cafe with Brandon Rhyder.
-Lubbock- Opening for Merle Haggard with Brandon.
-Kerrville- Opening for Reckless Kelley with my band.
-Beaumont- Antone’s with Django. We always had a good time there.
-Firehouse- This is probably the club I have played the most. The thing about Houston is that I have some of the best friends in Houston, but I have gotten into more trouble with these people. I love Houston!
-River Road Icehouse- Had some good times there playing with different bands. One of my first solo shows was Greenfest there a few years ago.
-Adair’s- Asked my wife to marry me there. What was I thinking?
-Woody’s- This is my home. I’m from the D/FW area, so I love playing Woody’s as much as I can.
10. Your new record displays a great artistic leap from your first effort, Sideman Blues; and you’re on the record as saying you want to push the limits of what Texas Music should and can be, especially lyrically. Do you feel that you’ve accomplished that with this new record?
Hopefully. If you ask me if I think the guitars sound good on the new record, it’s easy for me to say yes, but when it comes to lyrics, it’s harder. I will always be nervous as a songwriter b/c I started out as a guitar player. I didn’t rush any of the lyrics on this record and I wrote three of the songs with other songwriter’s. If nothing else, the lyrics are honest and stay true to what I believe.
11. You’re known for playing some of the best lead guitar to ever hit the scene. I know you probably prefer jamming out at your own shows; but can you detail the different rush you get from leading your own band as opposed to playing the hell out of the sideman blues?
It’s different…way different. When I was playing for other people all I had to do was focus on making the guitar sound good and taking a solo every now and then. Now I have to worry about singing and making eye contact with the audience and all that stuff that singers have to do. We are entertainers first and foremost. I try to remember that. So, now when the guitar solo comes around, I’m really ready to play!
12. Who are your biggest influences on the guitar? How long have you been playing? How many guitars do you own? What’s your favorite one to play? What’s your rig consisting of?
David Grissom is the best all around guitar player ever. He has played on countless Texas Music records…everything Jack Ingram has done or Charlie Robison. He’s the guy I want to be someday. He also was the founder of Storeyville, my favorite band.
My guitar rig is an all origianl ’68 Tele through a Dr. Z Maz 38 or a Vox AC-30. Sometimes I use a Fender Dual Professional. I use a Stock Tubescreamer and a Boss Delay pedal. Pretty simple. I have a bunch of guitars, but my 68 is my favorite. Nothing else feels right. I have been playing for 16 years now. I started at 13 after I heard “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. I’ve never regretted devoting my life to the instrument. My top favorites would be: Slash from G ‘N R, The Edge from U2, David Grissom, and Buddy Miller.
13. Professional musicians do quite a bit of traveling, what is your favorite drive? What is your least favorite run?
My favorite drive is Austin to D/FW because of the Czech Stop. For those of you who don’t know about this place, it’s a gas station north of Waco, in West. They have the best kolaches in Texas! The worst drive is anywhere between Austin and Louisiana.
14. Stories behind the following songs:
– Make It Up To You-About getting in trouble and having to get your self out of the dog house. It’s about mistakes I’ve made and saying that I don’t care if anyone forgives except my wife.
-Hell Or High Water- About faith. If I had to put one song in a time capsule it would be this one.
-Just Let me Drive- About a fight with my wife. Every couple knows what it feels like to have the same fight so many times that you know exactly how it’s going to end. This song is about one of those nights.
-You Can’t Take It With You-About materialism and trying to realize that it’s all gonna stay here when we are gone.
-Angel at Home-About being on the road. It talks about good luck charms that people keep while driving, and deals with the adjustment that musicians make when they come back from the road.
-Sideman Blues- Talks about the reality of being on the road and how I almost gave it up. It makes excuses for my absence with make believe stories that a child can understand. It was the hardest song to write and I almost broke down the first time I played it in public.
15. On their annual acoustic tour, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen showcase the “worst song” they’ve ever written. What is the worst song you’ve ever written?
It was probably something I wrote in high school before I learned that you didn’t have to rhyme every line (laughs).
16. You’ve had the opportunity to play festivals all over the state. Which are your favorites and why?
The Texas Mosquito Festival. It’s one that I have played with every band I have been in and they are having us this year. It will be the first festival that I play as a solo artist.
17. What are you listening to these days that the rest of us should be aware of? What is your musical guilty pleasure? What is your favorite song right now?
I listen to a lot of Darrell Scott. He is the best songwriter/singer/player I have ever heard. I listen to Walt Wilkins a lot. As far as what’s on the radio now, I think Jack’s new song “Measure of a Man” is pretty good. I think I relate to it. I like Max Stalling a lot. His new album is great. My guilty pleasure is 80s rock. It’s the best. Sometimes you just have to laugh with what they got away with in the late 80s.
18. Rapid fire:
-Favorite pizza topping?- Black Olives
-Favorite vacation spot?- Seattle
-Fishing or hunting?- Hunting
-Chicken or beef?- Beef
-Pick or no-pick?- No pick
19. Favorite George Strait song.
“The King of Broken Hearts” written by the great Jim Lauderdale.
20. Compare the music you’re making with that of the mainstream?
I think that it is like the music of the mainstream in that I am trying to write catchy melodies and use good arrangement and tones in the making of the record. But, I think it is unlike the mainstream because it will always have a gospel influence and be guitar heavy! I’m still learning about my own sound and it is ever changing.