PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

May 8, 2014

PN-G grad Davis chases musical dream

PORT ARTHUR — It’s a late April morning in Nashville, and Hunter Tynan Davis is savoring the stillness after the storm.

Heavy rains have plagued the area for the past several days — collateral damage from the tornadoes that ravaged Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma. But now that the skies have cleared, Davis is sipping a cup of coffee and enjoying the sunshine.

“It’s just been hellacious weather,” Davis, a 2006 graduate of Port Neches-Groves High School, said via telephone. “But now it’s beautiful.”

Moments like this one have become a luxury for Davis. After moving to Nashville in the fall of 2010, the singer-songwriter got busy honing his musical craft. This particular bout of solitude came four days before Davis performed at The Basement, a venue famous for giving a stage to burgeoning artists on the Nashville music scene.

The gig is the most recent step on Davis’ path to leaving his mark on Music City — a path that, much like that of many musical giants, began right here in Southeast Texas.

“I tell people where I'm from, and they say, 'Oh my God, that's where Janis Joplin's from. You've got to be good,’” Davis said. “I’m just trying to harness that musicianship that is so rich back home.”

Davis has been around music since he was “in utero,” as he said. Dad Shaun, also a singer-songwriter and guitarist, would wake him up for school in the morning by singing and strumming. If his mother drove him to school, he said, she would spend the entire time quizzing him on rock and roll trivia.

“I can’t get in the car with anyone without being like, ‘Who is this? What album? What year?’” Davis said, laughing.

Davis picked up his father’s guitar at age 9 or 10. Within two years, he began composing his own songs. By 13 or 14, Shaun Davis said, his son’s guitar abilities had surpassed his own.

“Our main thing was writing and appreciating lyrics,” Shaun Davis, executive director of the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission and his son’s biggest fan, said. “Our favorite writers growing up were Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Steve Forbert — guys that really focused on good melody and lyrics.”

Sports and music competed for Davis’ attention throughout his school years, and it appeared that sports had won when he received a full scholarship to play football at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. The story could have ended there, if not for a single play that bounced outside during a practice three weeks into his freshman season.

Davis tackled the player, resulting in a heap on the field. Another player who had been pushed fell across his leg, bending it at a 90-degree angle. Davis played the following play before he knew something wasn’t right. His coach benched him the next day before clearing him to play again.

Davis continued to play until he realized that what had been diagnosed as a strained patella tendon was actually a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This revelation led him to question his future in football.

“My heart was not in the football thing,” Davis said. “I realized my passion was in music. Once I made that realization, I had to get out.”

Davis moved home and enrolled in Lamar State College-Port Arthur’s newly established commercial music program. He didn’t yet realize it, but his path to Nashville had begun.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t realize the ripple effect,” Davis said.

Davis, who has an associate’s degree in vocal performance, was part of the music program’s first graduating class. He considered several cities as the next destination for his career,  but at the suggestion of a vocal teacher, he decided on Nashville.

“She suggested that if he went as a student, it would provide him some structure and help him make some contacts,” Shaun Davis said. “That’s exactly what happened.”

Davis enrolled at Tennessee State University. Several contract opportunities presented themselves, but Davis opted to bide his time for the right opportunity to make itself available. Soon, it did, after he met a man named Ben Cooper after a performance in a local consignment shop.

“It’s a Nashville story if there’s ever one,” Davis said.

 Cooper introduced him to Gordon Kennedy, a songwriter who has penned Grammy-winning numbers with the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton and Bonnie Raitt.

“We went over to his house and put on some of my stuff,” Davis said. “He looked at Ben and said, ‘I’m in.’”

Davis and Cooper shared songwriting duties for Davis’ first album, “You Are Here,” and Kennedy has helped with guitar. Davis is funding the project through PledgeMusic, an incentive-based program that allows for donations from family, friends and fans. He had raised approximately 60 percent of the necessary funds by April 30, with three weeks remaining until the album’s release.

“It’s cool to be proactive and use some really cool resources instead of sitting back and waiting for something to happen,” Davis said.

Davis describes his sound as “old-school Americana blues.” He likens it to Ray LaMontagne and Tom Petty, but the sound is very much his own, he said.

“It’s a gumbo mixture of music,” Davis said. “It has all the elements — it’s its own take on Americana. There hasn’t been that style to come around and wave their flag.”

Evidence suggests that Davis is well on his way to carving out a niche among a sea of Nashville hopefuls. Nashville blogger Beth McAllister said of Davis, “With a sound so intense and ready to cater to the masses of people eager for new music, it seems like Hunter Tynan Davis is already gearing up for the big stage limelight. Energy and drive like his will not be wasted; perhaps we’ll see him take to selling out arenas sooner rather than later.”

Davis’ father seconded that opinion.

“I’m admittedly somewhat biased, because I thought he was awesome from a very early age, but I believe it’s Hunter’s presence and his personality that sets him apart,” Shaun Davis said. “We've all been watching him in the living room and on porches and around campfires all this years, so watching him starting to get some traction is really, really great.”

As for Davis, he will continue his pursuit of a lifelong dream that is becoming ever closer to reality — and while that dream has taken him all the way to Nashville, he has no intention of deviating from his Gulf Coast origins.

“You go to any corner store or bistro, and the waiter or waitress can outsing you and outplay you,” Davis said. “You have to focus on what makes you happy and pursue it, because if you don't, you get onto a roller coaster trying to figure out what people want.

“The only reason you can pursue an art is something higher than yourself — period, end of story,” he added. “God gave me a sword, and I’m going to swing it.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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