Once that beat kicks in, you can’t help but get up and move. Passed down through the ages, it’s a phenomenon that doesn’t discriminate. You’ll see it happen in the pews of a church just as regularly as you will on the Polo Fields of Coachella. By the same token, you could just as easily hear Davie’s 2017 debut EP, Black Gospel, Vol. 1 in a revival tent or a festival tent, and it’d incite the same reaction—raw, rapturous, and rare ebullience. Like Pharrell producing a collaboration between Sam Cooke and The Clark Sisters, the singer, songwriter, and performer delicately balances R&B rhythms, stark soul, and gospel spirit into a sound that’s wholly his own…
“I connect with the simplicity and movement of gospel and soul,” he explains. “The music just moves you. You want to clap. You feel inspired to participate. You don’t just listen with your ears; you listen with your hands, your feet, and your whole body. That’s how you respond. I hopefully make records people could respond to in more ways than one.”
He started chasing this feeling as a child. Quite literally surrounded by music, his grandmother Genee Harris recorded the fifties hit “Bye Bye Elvis” for ABC/Paramount, while his preacher pops led the family’s traveling gospel band. By the age of 12, the New Jersey native had already toured half the country, cutting his teeth by performing in churches from Alabama to Texas. During high school, renowned vocal coach Brett Manning [Taylor Swift, Leona Lewis] became something of a mentor, encouraging him to move to Los Angeles. The budding singer had other plans though.
“This is the weird part of the story,” he laughs. “I actually wanted to go to school instead. So, I went to college like a normal person. That’s where I lived life and discovered myself. I found more stories. As a kid, I felt like I was being groomed for music, but this was my chance to be a normal teenager.”
Upon graduating, he headed to Los Angeles and went on to perform backup vocals for everyone from Chris Brown and Cee Lo Green to Childish Gambino. Releasing music under the name of James David, he caught the attention of Selena Gomez who personally invited him to open up her 2013 arena tour.
The experience quietly sowed the seeds for what would become Black Gospel, Vol. 1. “I was in front of a lot of people every night playing music, but I had to give more,” he admits. “I needed to tap into something I’d lived with for a long time, yet hadn’t necessarily shared.” In order to do so, he took a trip back to Jersey and visited the churches that defined his formative years. Soaking up that energy, he locked himself in the studio for a year and honed a new approach.
“I thought if I could add a pop sensibility and freshness to the musical richness of gospel, it’d be pretty dope,” he states. “I play with the foundation of what I love about music and make something for people who would never set foot in church. Black Gospel, Vol. 1 is not actually about being black or revival, it’s about bringing people together over joy and life. Whenever I went to church, I felt moved. I felt like there was something bigger than myself there. I could chill out knowing that.”
Black Gospel, Vol. 1 represents this vision. Driven by popping handclaps, an unshakable bass line, hypnotic horns, and wild vocal delivery, the first single “Testify” quickly cracked half a million streams in under a few weeks’ time. Meanwhile, it is prominently featured in a Wild Turkey commercial directed by and starring Academy® Award-winner Matthew McConaughey and co-starring DAVIE.
“You see it during protests or in church,” he elaborates. “People are airing their grievances. It’s all a testimony. I wanted to remind everybody that we may not have everything, but we have each other. When you realize that, things will be fine. That’s the message.”
Closing out 2017, he releases a show-stopping cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas” for Amazon’s exclusive Soul Christmas holiday playlist and preps Black Gospel, Vol. 2. At the same time, his goal always remains the same.
“At the end of the day, I hope my music is part of people’s moments,” he leaves off. “If this could be your graduation theme or first wedding dance, that would be amazing. It’s all bigger than the charts. It becomes a part of someone’s life. They can remember dancing their troubles away with you in the background. Music lifted me up. The objective was to do that for others.”
To listen to music by Davie, go to: www.musicbydavie.com / twitter.com/musicbydavie / facebook.com/musicbydavie/ instagram.com/musicbydavie/