Music has always been second nature to Jordan Davis. Growing up in between the jazz of New Orleans and the honky-tonk of East Texas in the city of Shreveport, Louisiana, there was plenty of musical influence in his life — especially thanks to his uncle, Stan Paul Davis, a successful country songwriter in his own right, who helped pen a pair of hits for ’90s star Tracy Lawrence.
“I never realized how much music was a part of my life until I started meeting other people and I was like, ‘Wait, you don’t have music playing at your house, like, all the time?’” Davis jokes. “It was just something that was around so much that I never even really noticed it.”
Naturally, the 29-year-old took after his uncle and started writing songs at an early age and quickly found a passion for it. Yet, Davis went in a completely different direction for college, pursuing a degree for resource conservation.
Continuing to write songs as he took classes, Davis graduated and moved to Nashville in 2012 after being coerced by his singer-songwriter brother, Jacob Davis. After bartending for three years, he landed a publishing deal in 2015, and suddenly, his passion turned into a career.
“I cut some demos and my publisher, Ben Strain, told me, ‘These songs are unique to you. You need to play a show,’” Davis remembers. “I got a band together, went to Alabama, played a show, came back and was in love. I knew halfway through the first set I ever played — to the five people that may have been there — that I wanted to write songs, and I wanted to sing my songs.”
The next year, Davis signed with Universal Music Group and got to work on his debut album, putting together a collection of songs that he felt was a great representation of what he wanted to bring to the table. Just as he narrowed the pool down to two tracks from the set for single options (“Take It From Me” and “Slow Dancing in a Parking Lot”), Davis got in a writing room with his Stephen Dale Jones and Justin Ebach — the latter of whom had recently gotten engaged.
“We were congratulating him on it, and the term, ‘He was smart not to single her up’ got thrown out,” he recalls. “We just kind of looked at each other and we were like, ‘Oh man, we should try to write that!’
That phrase ended up the inspiration for Davis’ breakout hit, “Singles You Up,” which is currently sitting comfortably at No. 5 on the Country Airplay chart (dated March 24). Davis had a good feeling about the song when he was writing it, but even after his manager urged him to go with it as the first single, he needed one more bit of reassurance. The week after he wrote “Singles You Up,” he played it at Watershed Music Festival in Washington to test it with the most important market: the fans.
You could say it went over well. “I remember walking off stage that night being like, ‘That’s my single,’” Davis says.
Two years later, the singer-songwriter still gets a rush when he performs “Singles You Up,” yet admits that the life the song has taken on was something he never expected. Perhaps it’s because the “life” he’s referring to isn’t just a top 10 hit — Davis is also playing inadvertent matchmaker with his clever little love song.
“I’m fixin’ people up all over the country,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve had a buddy of mine say that his friend sent the song to a girl, so I need to follow up with him — I’m anxious to see if he got a date, or if she told him he was a creep.”
Despite Davis’ concern, there’s actually nothing creepy about the lyrics of “Single You Up” — in fact, most of the lines are about as endearing as they come. As he explains, it’s a simple tale of a guy telling a girl that he’s the right guy for her, but with cute lyrical mini-twists (i.e. “If he ain’t holding you tight, if he ain’t treating you right/ I’ma be the first one calling him crazy,” “He hasn’t even looked your way since you walked in/ But I can’t help it that I can’t take my eyes off of you”).
If you see those sentiments as a little assertive, don’t worry — Davis makes sure to follow them up with an apology: “I’m sorry if I’m overstepping boundaries, I don’t mean to be.”
“We got a little ways into writing the song and realized that the guy just kind of looked, for lack of a better word, like an asshole,” Davis laughs. “We definitely had that mindset, like, ‘Let’s be careful in the way that we present both of these people.’ We wrote it in a respectful way.”
It’s that kind of thoughtfulness that results in a genuine delivery in his music, which is now presented in more than just a single thanks to Davis’ debut album Home State, released last Friday (Mar. 23). He set the scene with a crafty love song, but proves he’s capable of much more, through a mix of fun sing-along anthems (“Sundowners,” “Tough to Tie Down”) and heartfelt ballads (“Leaving New Orleans,” “Made That Way”). “I hope that we did our part on Home State to show that we’re not a one-trick pony,” he quips.
There’s no magic formula to the way Davis writes his music, but if you ask him, he may tell you there’s a secret weapon. His beard has been with him from the start — initially the result of simple laziness — and as conversations with labels continued, he realized his not-so-subtle facial feature helped him stand out.
“I’m not shavin’ this thing. Until I start struggling, this beard is stuck with me,” Davis declares with a laugh. “I think everybody’s kind of dug it. It is a great beard. It might be my good luck charm — it’s here for the long haul.”
From the looks and sounds of it, Jordan Davis is too.