When Jordan Davis tells his wife “You had me from that first hello” in the second verse of his current single, it may not be the most original line he’s written.
But it’s one that’s delivered with sincerity, derived straight from a chance meeting with the former Kristen O’Connor, who was indeed the subject of a love-at-first-sight moment.
“Maybe not so much for her,” Davis allows. “It was a very uncommon meeting in New Orleans. And I ended up changing my flight, staying back in New Orleans to hang out with her longer. So I could definitely say that right off the bat, I was pretty hooked in.”
“What My World Spins Around” recognizes the transformations in Davis’ life since that moment. They married five years ago, grew the family to four and created an adult scenario in which the singer got the music career he longed for, only to make it the No. 2 priority in his life. That shift became a running theme in his songwriting efforts – “Spins” is, in some ways, a continuation of “Buy Dirt” – and his efforts to fully capture his sense of commitment led Davis to the title “What My World Spins Around.”
“It came from just trying to write a bunch of songs about how my world has changed,” he says. “For the longest time, I was kind of writing how me and Kristen’s relationship had changed and two kiddos have come into the picture. And I feel like it really was a title that was born out trying to write that song, but not doing it very well.”
He finally asked himself a question: “At the end of this song, what do I want the listeners to take away from it? And that’s where I think it got to, ‘Well, you know, my world revolves around my family.’”
Davis brought the title up during a 2020 cowrite with fellow artist Ryan Hurd and songwriter Matt Dragstrem (“Be a Light,” “One Margarita”) in the midst of the pandemic at a Big Machine conference room.
“We were all like 30 feet apart, had the doors open,” Dragstrem recalls. “We’re pretty much outside, and I had the speaker set up in my laptop, and I had that track. And it was just that verse part. I didn’t have the halftime thing until we started writing the chorus.”
That verse part used a syncopated guitar riff to create minor-sounding tension amid major chords. It was only after Dragstrem played that idea that Davis brought “What My World Spins Around” up as a potential title, even though it wasn’t the setting he originally envisioned.
“I thought this was probably going to be more of a ballad song, something midtempo at best,” Davis says.
Hurd kicked into a melody, mostly mumbling random words and syllables. As they polished it, the mumbled phrases became a series of blue-collar images, most of them taking place in the great outdoors. That’s appropriate for Davis, who earned a degree in environmental science at Louisiana State. Still, he had some uncertainty about whether “Spins” was actually a song they were writing for him until Hurd suggested a line about taking a trip to Baton Rouge.
The chorus shifted into a halftime feel with power chords setting an anthemic tone while the singer’s verbal appreciation moved from his outdoor pursuits to the woman who shook up his life. As the stanza ended, the writers pulled the couple and his tastes together as he celebrates their “Back 40 view on our piece of ground/ Watching you watch the sun going down.”
That chorus required a sizable 14 lines to reach the hook, though its ‘90s power-pop texture kept its energy moving all the way to the payoff. “I didn’t care how long it was because it kind of felt natural,” Dragstrem says. “I think it’s always important to follow that stream of consciousness. If it feels right, then it is right.”
Davis sang a vocal for the demo before they parted ways, trimming words in the chorus in a few spots to allow space for a breath. Dragstrem dug in further on the production at his studio, adding real drums and bigger guitars to bring it closer to its final shape. Davis brought it out during a master session at Nashville’s Backstage Studios with producer Paul DiGiovanni (Lauren Alaina, Justin Moore), who took note of the demo’s aggressive stance. He considered toning it down a bit – they may have even tried recording a lighter version – but ultimately decided it need to keep its edgy quality.
“A lot of the tricks with that song is it’s two chords — pretty sure [it’s] the entire time,” DiGiovanni says. “It’s the one chord and the four chord, back and forth, back and forth. So when it’s three minutes or whatever of that, the question is, ‘How do we keep people interested, and keep this fun, and evolving for that time?’ Because we don’t have the luxury of another chord to go to.”
Drummer Nir Z sparked much of the energy, stepping up to 16th notes midway through the chorus to propel another level of movement, and guitarist Derek Wells created steel-like swells that lent a sense of mystery. Mostly, the band stuck with much of the demo’s ideals, delivering the parts with more punch. “My favorite thing is when a producer takes my demo and just makes it like a pro version,” Dragstrem says. “It has a cleaner, better guitar player; a real drummer, Nir Z; and then just a cleaner vocal take.”
Davis knocked out the vocal over two days, doing just a few takes each day to keep a fresh sound on the chorus. He was challenged, he says, by “how high that chorus is and getting the flow right, to where I can get my breathing down and not sound like I’m about to blackout at the end of the chorus.” Late in the process, DiGiovanni layered a tremolo guitar into the solo section, setting the effect so that it works like 16th notes, moving the energy forward a bit more and providing a contrast mid-song.
“It just felt like we were just straight-up rock, like ‘90s rock land, so I’m like, ‘I need something else weird,’” DiGiovanni says. “Often, just to add to creativity, I’ll pull up a few plugins without even [an] intention. That day, I pulled up a tremolo. Sometimes I’ll pull up some reverbs and stereo widening things, just to break free of what I would normally play for a guitar solo.”
“What My World Spins Around” is definitely connecting. Released by MCA Nashville to country radio via PlayMPE on May 26, it reaches No. 37 on the Country Airplay chart dated July 9.
Though it was written before “Buy Dirt,” “Spins” seems to have found its right timing by serving as a follow-up single – and by signaling where his heart is, establishing a theme for Davis’ forthcoming album.
“It’s a song that could have been on Buy Dirt,” Davis says. “But I’m glad we didn’t put it on that one, because it’s a staple in this new record.”