When MCA Nashville prepared for the launch of Jordan Davis‘ first single, the label had an enviable dilemma: Two different titles were in the running, and both had a plausible chance of actually working. As a result, broadcasters played a major role in deciding how his career would get off the ground.
“We kind of went to radio with both of them,” says Davis. “Half the team liked ‘Take It From Me,’ half the team liked ‘Singles You Up.’ I was kind of torn.”
“Singles You Up” clearly won out — it hit No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart dated April 21. MCA didn’t waste much time in following up. The label released “Take It From Me” on the PlayMPE platform on April 24, accomplishing two goals in the process: providing radio an uptempo song from an artist it has already embraced and further identifying Davis as an artist.
” ‘Take It From Me’ is a little bit more who I am,” he says.
Meaning he’s an artist who’s all about sex?
“No,” he says with a laugh. “The rapid-fire phrasing, the R&B influence, I think, is a little more who I am as an artist. It’s kind of one of my traits, I feel like, when it comes to songwriting. But yeah, it definitely doesn’t hold back as far as lyric content.”
Indeed, after a grinding guitar riff intros the song, “Take It From Me” finds a couple debating whether to take off for some personal time at his place. By the end of the chorus, the guy is confident in strutting his stuff: “I got what you need/Take it from me.” It’s easy to interpret the “it” as a specific body part.
“I never really thought about it until the first time I played the demo for somebody,” says Davis. “They were like, ‘Dude, that’s kind of dirty. You’re telling her just to take it from you.’ And I was like, ‘No, it’s take my time, take my T-shirt, take everything.’ He’s like, ‘You know people aren’t going to think that.’ I hope we wrote it well enough to let people get what we’re talking about, but I’m a little nervous about somebody taking it that way.”
“We didn’t put them under the sheets,” adds Jordan’s brother/co-writer, Black River recording artist Jacob Davis.
That “Take It From Me” title was Jacob’s original idea, a passing line he heard in another song that played on the radio as he and his wife returned to Nashville from a weekend trip. He brought the phrase up when the Davis brothers had a songwriting appointment in mid-2015 with Jason Gantt at Bob DiPiero‘s Love Monkey Music offices on Music Row. The original idea was to treat the phrase in its more frequent colloquial context — “Take it from me, don’t do…” — and Gantt had a soul-flavored track that seemed to fit the bill.
“That was the first one I pushed Play on,” says Gantt. “Jordan just started singing a melody on it almost immediately, so we just went with that one.”
When the original lyrical direction failed to jell, Davis suggested they turn the “take it from me” concept into a couple that’s so synched up that the guy is willing to let her take any personal possession she wants. He threw out a T-shirt as the first example, and Jacob helped flesh out the idea — “It’s my favorite, but you can keep it” — and that single clothing item ballooned into the first half of the chorus. Davis added a visual image of the woman running her finger down the wall in the hallway, and it helped amp up the sense of pheromones at play.
The verses filled out quickly, and Davis conceived a bridge that turned the woman into the ultimate taker: a thief who steals kisses — with the guy’s approval. Once the song was finished, the demo provided a potentially awkward moment: Both brothers are artists, and they’d written it without concern about who would get it.
“Jordan just sort of took the mic,” recalls Gantt. “I didn’t even have to ask which one was going to sing it. I was glad he took ownership.”
Gantt’s demo had more of an acoustic flavor to it, and after Davis signed with MCA, it influenced the first production of the song. But Davis scrapped the first round of tracks and started working with producer Paul DiGiovanni, a co-writer of Dan + Shay‘s “How Not To” and ex-guitarist with the Boston-bred pop-rock band Boys Like Girls. DiGiovanni used the original demo as a starting point as he programmed a heavier-hitting version in his home studio.
“The intro guitar lick is the same, and all the musical stuff is the same, but I just kind of tried to put it all on steroids,” says DiGiovanni. “It was a great blueprint.”
They recorded it among four tracks — including “Singles You Up” — on Oct. 21, 2016, at Sound Stage on Music Row, with the musicians working alongside DiGiovanni’s recorded foundation. The verses use a pulsing keyboard that resembles Kool & The Gang‘s “Ladies Night” or “Joanna,” but it’s soon covered by a wall of sound. Drummer Nir Z gives it a forceful back beat; bass player Tony Lucido applies choice, rolling funk lines; and Derek Wells, Bryan Sutton and DiGiovanni combine to layer multiple guitar threads. Austin Jenckes, a former competitor on The Voice, yells, “Take it from me,” in the background on the chorus. DiGiovanni tossed extra candy into the production, too, including a low tone at the end of the bridge that sounds like a cellphone vibrating on a desk.
“That’s just a moment of mass insanity before everything drops out, so there’s probably like 10 things that are showing up right there,” he says.
After living with the more acoustic demo for 16 months, Davis and DiGiovanni changed the phrasing a bit, and it proved problematic for Davis, who kept tweaking the vocal for weeks on end.
“I would get a mix back, and I was just like, ‘Man, I could sing that better,’ ” says Davis. “I probably drove him crazy. I would just be like, ‘Dude, can I resing the second line of the second verse?’ And he would just be like, ‘Ugh, all right, come over tomorrow.’ It was a whole lot of that.”
“Take It From Me” comes along at an interesting moment for the Davis brothers. Another of their co-writes is being considered for Jacob’s sophomore single, expected this summer. And after the No. 1 success of “Singles You Up,” “Take It” — which ranks at No. 3 on the current New & Active chart — is set up to do well at radio. It’s so relentlessly upbeat that it’s hard to even pay attention to the lyrics, however one ultimately decides to interpret them.
“One of the things that makes ‘Take It From Me’ special is that it’s tough to get past how good that song feels,” says Davis. “It really doesn’t matter.”