Interview with Roots musician Brian "Voo" Davis - a gifted artist who creating emotions with lyrics and notes

"My hopes for the future is that more musicians open themselves up to different styles. I hate buying an album and the entire album sounds like the first song."

Voo Davis: Free Bird Sings The Blues

Born in Anniston, AL, Brian "Voo" Davis' love for music began at an early age. While Davis grew up with AM radio, his past was stocked old 45s of Motown, Sun, and British sensations of the 50's and 60's.  While Davis was still young, his family moved north and Chicago blues started mixing with Alabama clay. When Alabama clay mixes with Chicago flash the result is Voo Davis. The 2012 basement recorded, 2012 Release “A Place For Secrets,” spent 7 months running through the AMA & RMR charts respectively, while surprising the Blues/Americana music scene with an overdriven acoustic mix of slide based guitar songs. What genre to call it was a common problem.

The same problem will persist with the release of “Vicious Things” (2013). With influences of Blues, Jazz, Rock, & Country, & jamband it can only be described as Americana on today’s scene. With “Vicious Things” the award winning, former blues circuit guitarist moved from the basement to two of Louisiana’s top recording studios (Studio in the Country, Bogalusa, La./Dockside Studio. Maurice, La.) and added 4 other Chicago based musicians with various backgrounds to record an album on Neve boards, with an analog sound. A trait he learned on the road with WC Handy award winner Eddie King. While personal tragedy with the untimely passing of his wife in 2009 motivated the young guitarist back to music, the songs Davis has created since that time have been called “lyrically encouraging.” While Davis’ delivery sparks quote like... “understands blues deep in his soul...It is his guitar work that truly stands out as extraordinary however.” With a distinct distorted acoustic slide sound, there is a reason much of Davis’ time is spent touring states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi.

With a passion for lyrics and a gift for creating emotion with a guitar, “Vicious Things” encompasses all that is right about an independent musician in today’s field of millions. It brings genres together instead of separating them into a neat package of similarity. It’s a real album in the day of the one song release. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

Blues really means many things to me. I think about the history of the old recordings and the people who made them and think about the people that are making albums today. I love the history of the music and I guess I've learned that I'm a link in a very long line of musicians making music.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN and SONGWRITER?

The experiences in my life have helped and often times give me a place to start a song. I think playing with many of the great ones helps Like Frank Bang and Albert Castiglia did but you really have to steer off course and make your own path. After I played with Eddie, I got away from music for about a decade, I got my masters degree in education any began a very rewarding life as a teacher but always thinking about playing again. Then in 2009 my wife passed away due to a blood clot and she was so so young. I started using music as a creative outlet and started writing songs. Then, before I knew it I had all these songs and didn't really know what to do with them. Realizing that life was so short and seeing it up close made me move back in the direction of music and work harder at it than anything I've done before. Have those experience impacted my songwriting? I would say without question.

"My philosophy is not to pigeon whole myself into one particular style and to be free to explore sounds and inspirations."

How do you describe "Voo" Davis sound and progress? What characterize your music philosophy?

Well I think this is where I differ from many blues artists because I try not to limit myself to one particular "sound." I'm trying to focus on the song, the song is the most important thing and my philosophy is I don't care what the genre is, the song will take on it's own shape and in shouldn't be fit into a neat little box of one genre. I knew that with the last 2 albums blues traditionalists would say it wasn't "blues" enough and I guess I could debate what blues is but that's a fools game. I just write the songs and let the critics say whether it's blues or not. And I can tell you, it's blues in Clarksdale, Jackson, and Ocean Springs Mississippi so to answer your question, my philosophy is not to pigeon whole myself into one particular style and to be free to explore sounds and inspirations.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

You know, I remember playing a show at Eddie "the Chief" Clearwater's bar back in about 2000 and this magazine crew came in and shot some pictures and hung out and it was a ton of fun, but then when the article ran it was something to the effect of "Can Chicago withstand another Blues Club" considering that it's a dying art form.  Well, many people have been talking for years about blues dying and I would say that it's stronger than ever. I mean every other festival is a blues festival. And they are packed! I think the realness of real people making real music with real instruments without autotune and other computer aided devices lens itself to something people feel a close connection with. And you can also build a great relationship with the people making this music, very few of us feel and act like stars and are really grateful for the opportunities and the people we get to meet.

"I don't really have any fears about blues, I think it's in a great place and the people that don't are just looking for something to write about."

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had? Which memory makes you smile?

There are several but Chicago BluesFest 2001 with Eddie King was a fun gig.  We went on after Ike Turners band and I remember seeing Chuck D from Public Enemy in the audience. Strange but also so surreal that I can't help but smile when I think about that day. Some of my more recent shows in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana have been a blast. I really feel like I found people that appreciate and respect music there the most pure sense possible.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

I really feel those meetings with fans, photographers, club owners and people that just appreciate the music are the best experiences.  Hearing someone say thanks for the tunes, and building friendships with people you would never meet otherwise is the best reason for all of this because really it's difficult for many musicians to understand it but it's not about you, it's about helping people have a good time that's why we are there and that's why we have been blessed with the ability to play the music we play. And as advice goes, I think I learned more by watching than I did from anyone sitting me down and saying do this or that. I was very blessed and fortunate to share the stage with many people who let a 20 something year old kid get up there and give it his best. That's all you can really do, just give it your best every time you play.

"I love the history of the music and I guess I've learned that I'm a link in a very long line of musicians making music."

Are there any memories from the late Eddie King which you’d like to share with us?

Well this is a tough one, so many but I hope the memories translate.  Well one of the best stories is how I got hooked up with Eddie King. I was around 23 or 24 years old and I was playing clubs  and coffee houses a ton. In fact I was working between 5 and 6 nights a week just doing my own thing. One Saturday night I had a night off and went down to the blues club I played at called The Cafe in Macomb Illinois. I was blown away with the power and the energy of this 5 foot 5 inch man (King). After one of his sets he started over to me and he said, "Are you the local guitar player?" And I said I was and he me how long it would take me to get my guitar. I said that I would be back in 10 minutes.  We played all night and it was a blast.  He offered me a job that night and gave me his managers phone number. Well his manager said, "He says that to everyone." I was crushed by that response from his manager. Fast forward 2 years later. I was at a bar in Chicago called the Red Fish with a friend. The Red Fish was across the street from the House of Blues. I told my friend that night that if I was ever offered a gig with Eddie again that I would quite my job and take that gig.  Well as luck would have it, I walked into the House of Blues and Eddie was playing that night. I was shocked! I walked up to the stage and he looked down and pointed at me. He put his guitar down while the band was still playing and he took me off to the side.  He asked me why I never called his manager. I told him that I did but his manager turned me down. He gave me his number and said to call him Monday morning. I did call him and he offered me the job.  It was a great experience and sometimes I do believe that things just fall into place.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well I don't really miss anything about the past, I try to appreciate is for what it was. Howlin' Wolf will not play again, but that doesn't mean I can't still enjoy his old recordings. The same with Stevie Ray Vaughn. My hopes for the future is that more musicians open themselves up to different styles. I hate buying an album and the entire album sounds like the first song. But some people like that I guess. I don't really have any fears about blues, I think it's in a great place and the people that don't are just looking for something to write about.

"Blues really means many things to me." 

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That all genres and categories of music would go away. I feel that would open up the creative outlets of so many musicians. And many of these musicians would welcome it because so many are afraid to do anything different or go into a direction that their heart is telling them because they are afraid of losing an established level of respect and to take that chance would be career suicide. 

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Jazz and Country music?

Muscle Shoals, to New Orleans, to Clarksdale, MS to Memphis, to Chicago, to Detroit, and back to Muscle Shoals.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the Blues circuits?

Just the good people I'm blessed enough to meet on my journeys.  Steve Nails, the owner of Dockside Studios is a sweet man and knew I was a Sonny Landreth fan. So he gave me an autographed copy of one of Sonny's discs, and it's one of my treasured possessions. I've also played in some crazy rooms. I mean I've seen a guy trying to start my keyboard players Nord on fire once... so many memories ranging from the sweet to the crazy and everything in between.

"Well I don't really miss anything about the past, I try to appreciate is for what it was. Howlin' Wolf will not play again, but that doesn't mean I can't still enjoy his old recordings."

I saw an old picture on a door in a Hotel Room Ground Zero Blues Club. What's been your experience from?

Oh, you're talking about the old picture of the Old African-American lady holding hands with the young blond haired boy. Yeah, that picture says a lot. We played our first show at Ground Zero, slept in the bus and they were kind enough to let us use one of the rooms to get cleaned up in the next day before we left town. That picture was taped to the door and it truly speaks a thousand words. I think some peoples view Mississippi and a racially divided state and while there are those types in every state, what I have seen of Mississippi is love and unity between races and I think that picture taped to the wall spoke to that regard. It was one picture I'll never forget.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Wow I could get deep with this question so I'll assume you mean musically. I wish I could have watched Robert Johnson Record at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio Tx. That would have been a site.

  

Voo Davis - official website

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