Just two years into his career as a country singer-songwriter, Edmonton-based Dan Davidson is making a definite mark in Canadian country music.
In late June of 2016, Davidson’s latest single, “Found,” was No. 16 on the charts and climbing – the highest-charting indie song on Canadian country radio – and had been added to CMT in heavy rotation.
While Davidson is relatively new to country fans, he’s not new to music, having cut his teeth during more than a decade as lead singer of rock band Tupelo Honey. It was with the group that he first became associated with Red Brick Songs, entering into an administration deal with the Toronto-based publisher in the late 2000s.
“We didn’t know much about the publishing world at the time,” Davidson says. “We were the kind of band that put our heads down, got in the van and did all the shows we could.”
Working with Red Brick led to multiple song placements, and a major synchronization deal in the U.S. Davidson continued to work with the company as a solo artist after Tupelo Honey drifted apart in 2013, and signed a publishing deal with them in 2015.
When Davidson approached Red Brick owner and president Jennifer Mitchell, she thought it was a no-brainer. “We already had a good working relationship,” she says. “I believe in him and his work ethic. It just fit.
“I think ‘Found’ is a special song,” adds Mitchell. “It’s definitely been embraced by radio. When we first heard the demo, it was obvious to us right away; we all loved it.”
Davidson credits Red Brick as key to helping him launch his solo career as a country singer-songwriter. “Country music really seems to be something that will give me a bit more opportunity and longevity as a musician and a songwriter,” he says.
Moving from rock to country isn’t exactly a stretch for the 32-year-old artist. “Born in Alberta,” Davidson says, by way of explanation, adding that though his father was a big rock fan, he introduced his son to artists like Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Cash and Blue Rodeo. For Davidson, “Country music’s always been there. I just hadn’t gone in that direction.”
“I’m loving the vibe of the country music scene. The demographic is, like, 12 to 85, and they’re fans for life, so it’s more of a long game.”
Before deciding to dedicate his efforts to country, Davidson had a heart-to-heart talk with Dallas Smith, whose career path in the industry – first as lead singer of alt-rock band Default, and later as a successful country artist in his own right – was similar to his own.
“I saw Dallas open for Florida Georgia Line,” says Davidson. “Afterwards we were chatting and he said, ‘You’ve got the right voice for this, you’ve got the personality for the scene, and I think you’d love how supportive the country industry is.’”
During a subsequent conversation with veteran producer Jeff Dalziel (Autumn Hill, Brett Kissel) – who Davidson calls an important musical mentor – “Jeff and I decided that, creatively, we were in this together… and I’m loving the vibe of the country music scene. There’s something special about country. The demographic is, like, 12 to 85, and they’re fans for life, so it’s more of a long game, and I like that.”
‘Found’ is co-written by another singer-songwriter who also migrated from rock to country, Clayton Bellamy of The Road Hammers. Although the two had crossed paths, they’d never hung out or worked together. In December of 2015, with a chorus idea in mind, Davidson called Bellamy out of the blue and suggested they finally hang together, and write some music to boot. Over a couple of days at Bellamy’s home, they “banged out a couple of songs,” including “Found.”
Between working with Bellamy and Dalziel, “I think we’ve nailed my sound and the creative direction I want [to take],” says Davidson. While he’s a fan of a variety of country artists, his focus in developing his own sound is remaining true to himself. “I want to do what’s right for me… I’m doing my best to stay true to my voice.”