Featured Interview – Dyer Davis


Cover photo © 2023 Jimmi Soldo

imageEvery so often, a young artist seemingly appears out of nowhere with a recording that gets blues fans and critics excited. Sometimes that initial burst of attention fades, never to return if the musician can’t build on the early success. Then there are artists who seem to peer far deeper into the human experience than one might expect, given their young age. We sometimes forget that you can do a lot of living in a short period of time.

Guitarist Dyer Davis (Edwin Dyer Davis III) has garnered plenty of praise for his debut release, Dog Bites Back, on Wildroots Records. The hard-rocking album is nominated for a 2023 Blues Blast Music Award in the New Artist Debut Album category. In his review for Blues Blast, senior writer Steve Jones commented, This is an exceptional album….. what a fine soulful blues rock CD….. The second time through I was even more impressed.” Over 12 original songs and one cover, Davis consistently impresses with his vocals, songwriting, and six string prowess.

Born and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida, Davis got his start listening to records from his dad’s collection.

“ I grew up with a very wide variety of different genres and bands, all primarily from the 1960s and 70s. That’s where my loyalties tend to lie, bands like, you know, Cream and Iron Butterfly and Spirit on the American side, but on the British side, the Stones and the Beatles, the Faces and the Jeff Beck Group. Specifically the British Blues stuff really stuck with me, especially when you get it in the context of knowing who the Yardbirds, and you hear pop songs by the Yardbirds that are retrofitted. Instead of swinging the grooves and playing them up tempo, the Yardbirds played them straight and slowed down, so there’s just a certain level of rawness that was always really attractive to me.

“I got turned on to that at some point when I was uber little, because I started playing guitar when I was four ears old. So there was a decent amount of influence that happened before that, causing me to want to move in that direction. Of course, I love American rock bands, but the British blues stuff, especially bands like Cream when they covered Albert King songs, provided a really cool opportunity to know where to go, This is the way that they did it, but I wonder what the original sounded like. And then you go back and you find the Albert King version of “Born Under A Bad Sign”. and all that kind of thing. As far as getting into the American blues side of things, it was very backwards for me. It started with all the British bands.

“My dad got to see a bunch of those bands back in their heyday. I know that he saw Jimi Hendrix once, early in 1970. His review of the show wasn’t great, however. I think he saw Iron Butterfly and Cream on the same bill another time. I would have loved to be able to be around for that, especially since at that time you weren’t having to pay $250 for a ticket!” When he was growing up, the Allman Brothers were still going to Seabreeze Junior High, and my aunt Diane actually went to prom with Duane Allman.

“When he Allmans were in Hourglass, my dad was too young to get into the local dance hall, so he would ride his bike there, then sit on the steps and listen to them play from outside. Hearing a lot of those stories growing up was pretty cool. By the time I was really at an age where I was ready to cut my teeth, the heyday of how cool this place used to be, the shit that it used to breed was on its way out. But it is where I come from, and the history is cool nonetheless.

Guitar was not his first instrument. He began to learn to play drums when inspiration came from a somewhat unusual source.

“I started off playing drums originally because of the movie, That Thing You Do!. I wanted to be Shades, the drummer, because he was just the coolest man on the planet. I was familiar with guitar, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing at the time. Then I saw a video of the Eagles Farewell 1 tour in Australia in 2004. Joe Walsh come out onto the stage wearing these frickin’ obnoxious Grateful Dead pajama pants with the dancing bears around the hem. He was wearing a hard hat with a camera in it, playing “Life’s Been Good”.

image“He was just being ridiculous. And I thought that is probably the coolest guy I’ve ever seen in my life. There was a certain fluidity about the way that he played and how he looked doing it. That was next level to me. So the following week, when I went in for my for my music lesson, I told my teacher, hey man, or however I spoke when I was four years old, but I told him I want to start playing guitar like this. Check out what I saw. And I told him how to find the video on the internet, which he did. He was like, yeah, man, this is cool. So he sat me down that day and taught me how to play the Ventures “Walk, Don’t Run”. That was the first thing I learned on guitar, and it was all downhill from there.

“In the beginning, I didn’t want to take lessons. Because you’re a kid, you don’t want to have to be somewhere and listen to somebody else. So I was sort of against the idea of it. But my parents saw something in me that I didn’t see because I was only four. So they signed me up for music lessons. I wasn’t very happy about it, but I very quickly realized this is awesome. So there’s always some motivation, but I don’t think I was thinking about that at that age.

“I took lessons until I was about 12 years old, in a store called Yancey Music Center, and I still know the family very well, although the store is no longer there. They used to do concerts once every six months to showcase all of their students. And so I would do those. I didn’t really see myself ever doing anything else. It was a very much of a full time pursuit for me and I never really questioned it. Then I stopped taking lessons. This isn’t a dig at my teacher, but he just didn’t have anything to teach me on guitar anymore. From there, I got into a bunch of different genres of music, had my Randy Rhoads phase and my Steve Vai phase and all that kind of thing. Eventually I was able to hone in a way to play that I was actually happy with.”

A few years later, Davis signed with a marketing company out of Philadelphia, and they immediately put him on tour. They were able to get some commercial placements for him with NASCAR and ESPN. In the meantime, there were some other cool things that happened as Davis was invited to be on The Voice and America’s Got Talent television shows, although he ultimately turned down both of them because he didn’t feel they were his thing.

“Then I came back home and I cut a record, but only certain things off of it ended up being released and licensed. Eventually, I put together my last rock band, Rubber Soul Child. That was when I realized that what I considered rock and roll isn’t considered rock and roll anymore. I was sort of at a loss. Dog Bites Back is the antithesis of what I had been about. I had spent the previous eight or nine years trying to effectively do what that record was, but do it in rock mode. And I sat there scratching my head wondering why it wasn’t working.”

In 2018, Davis had a band that he had thrown together, playing the usual long hours for low pay at bar gigs. A friend, producer Billy Chapin, was able to get Davis in touch with Tony Battaglia, a very well decorated producer who had been responsible for for breaking Shinedown and Mandy Moore. They ended up writing songs together in Wautoma, Wisconsin.

“Yeah, we wrote some songs up there and then tracked them in the studio once we got back to Florida. The original band fell apart, It was like, okay, do you want to do a solo thing like you’ve been doing, or do you want to actually throw together a band with a proper band name? I’d been doing the solo thing for long enough, so let’s try the band thing. Throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks. So I called the group Rubber Soul Child. It was intended to be a showcase band. We did pretty well for ourselves. Our music streams did well, up in the six figures worth anyway. We had some really killer opportunities, like getting invited to play the Kiss cruise.

image“But it wasn’t an easy band to be in. It was a very weird dynamic between me and management, and me with the band. I felt like I was getting torn in two directions all the time. And there was just a lot of politics that were going on that I wasn’t happy with, making it pretty un-enjoyable. But our track record up to that point was good enough that it was worth staying in it. We had a series of gigs scheduled. I had a drummer that had been with me for two years, right from the start on that project. The band, when it started, was a trio for the first two and a half or three years. I went through 11 band members, making it extremely hard to keep that thing together. I had been through the ringer on trying to find new members, constantly on the prowl all the time, just getting tired of it.

“It was to the point where if somebody else quits the band, I’m not looking again, because this is just not worth it to me. I don’t like what we’re doing enough, don’t like how this is going. So we had these gigs lined up, and the drummer sent me a text that said, “Hey man, this is a waste of my time. I’m not happy. This is ridiculous, and I quit”. And that was it for me. I called up the management at the time and I said, I’m out. We’re terminating this whole thing. And that was how Rubber Soul Child ended right at the end of 2021. Everything fell apart just about the time that things were starting to be fully opened up again after COVID.”

That left the guitarist adrift. As a lover of the old British blues rock sound, he found it increasingly difficult to find his place in the music scene, which led to some serious personal tribulations.

“It’s not always been a walk in the park. I started drinking when I was 13, dealing with a lot of anxiety for the first time. Then I got sent off to this private school that was effectively a prison. I got bullied by my teachers all the time, couldn’t really do anything about it. That kicked off the drinking to alleviate my stresses. And then that devolved into much more serious issues.

“I was in and out of outpatient rehab programs for most of my teenage years. I ran away from home when I was 15 to go live with a friend of mine because I wanted to do drugs and my family wasn’t going to let me do that under their roof. I willingly went out and tarnished a lot of really great relationships that I had at the time, stealing money so I could go buy meth or whatever else I could get my hands on. I OD quite a few times and had a heart attack in my truck, so it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows by any stretch. I wasn’t raised in a crappy parental background. In fact, my life growing up was very much the exact opposite. But there was a lot of self inflicted struggles that that had a lot to do with how dark things were.

“I ended up having to dive into head first and then had to claw my way back out, to spend a lot of time rebuilding trust with friends and family members. No matter what I might exude outwardly, inwardly I very much focus on the negativity of things. Because of that, a lot of my music comes out pretty dark. I’m very, very critical of myself and things that I’ve done. Now that I’ve come out the back side of that, I have a hard time being able to forgive myself for it. The hardship of it is trying to make sure that, as time goes on, you don’t forget the weight of certain things when they happened, things that caused you to finally get straightened out . So now the battle is trying to make sure that I can keep everything in between my lines.”

Depressed, but working on putting his life back together, Davis got a most opportune helping hand from his long-time friend and producer, Billy Chapin.

“Billy came to me and said, look, I have this really good friend of mine named Stephen Dees. He owns a label called WildRoots Records. They were putting out a compilation album called Wildroots Sessions, Volume 2. And there’s a song slated to be on there called “The Bad Seed”. Billy went on to say that he had sent over to Stephen a version of “Oh Darling,” that I had sang on when I was like 16 or something like that. Billy wanted to to see what Stephen would say. And he loved it. So Stephen wanted me to sing on “The Bad Seed” for this record.

image“I went down there and I sang on the song. Stephen was elated enough about it that he decided that he wanted to make a record with me. Of course, through that, I very quickly met Victor Wainwright, who was, and still is, a very big deal in Daytona, but especially was when I was growing up. So I had heard his name a million and five times around here, but I just hadn’t ever met the guy. Victor and Stephen run WildRoots along with Patricia Ann Dees, Stephen’s wife. It was pretty cool when that all came to fruition. I got a date to open for Victor at the Bank and Blues club here in Daytona. That was awesome. My feet didn’t touch the ground the whole night!

“Before that initial contact was made, Billy sent me over a link, asking me to go check out these blues charts. I don’t remember which songs they were. Billy said I should just work my way down that list and listen to these songs. He felt very strongly that they represented where I’ve needed to be this entire time, that I just didn’t know it. And I was like, yeah, okay. So I go through and I start listening to everything.

“And I just lit up. It was the moment when I realized I was in the wrong place the entire time, my entire career I’ve been in the wrong spot, trying to go after the wrong things. All these songs are everything that I want to be doing. It was this really uplifting, reinvigorating moment. But it was frustrating too, because it was under my nose the entire time, and I just wasn’t even aware of it. That’s kind of how Dog Bites Back got started.”

His current band is comprised of Jay Swann on bass, Warren Beck on keyboards, and David Weatherspoon behind the drum kit, who played on a handful of tracks on Dog Bites Back.

On stage or in the recording studio, Davis has always relied on “Bella,” his 1995 Gibson ES335 guitar. He also has a Gibson Les Paul Jr. as a backup. For amplifiers, he uses two Bugera V22 tube combo amps run through Egnater Rebel 20 tube heads, one as primary and one just in case.

“ I usually play those on a clean channel and then run an overdrive through it. The overdrive stays on the whole night and I work off my volumes. Guitar-wise, almost exclusively, “Bella” has been with me since the start of my career. I’ve put her on every single session, every record. Anything that I’ve ever played on, that guitar is on.”

Life is on the upswing for the guitarist. He is excited about attending the Blues Blast Award show on September 23 as well as continuing to tour in support of his album. He keeps his tour schedule updated on his website: www.dyerdavismusic.com.

“I have a music video my song “Angels Get The Blues” that is going to be coming out on September 22nd on the Wild Roots YouTube channel, which I’ll be sharing all across social media. We shot it in the church in a really beautiful setting and we are working very diligently to make sure that visually the video is going to do that song justice. I plan to keep plugging away, see what opportunities open up for me, and then working off of those. I’m very grateful for the Blues Blast Music award nomination, and I feel like I’m in a position where the world is kind of my oyster, so I’m just going to see what I can make of it.”

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