Moot Davis: A Man About Town

Juli Thanki | March 14th, 2012

mootdavisMan About Town may be Moot Davis’ third album, but it’s also responsible for several career firsts: it’s the first album after the singer-songwriter’s split from Pete Anderson’s Little Dog Records, the first project on his own label, Highway Kind, and the track listing includes both his first duet (recorded with Elizabeth Cook) and his first murder ballad. It’s also his first album in nearly five years, a hiatus that found Davis, burnt out from “the wackiness of four years of super-heavy touring and the drama from being on [Little Dog],” moving to New Zealand and getting work as a stage actor.

The change in scenery and time spent on the stage rejuvenated Davis’ passion for music. After half a year in New Zealand spent acting and occasionally writing, he relocated to Austin to further work on the songs that would become Man About Town, which ended up being recorded in Nashville. “I don’t know what the connection is, but doing a play or something is healthy for your songwriting,” he says. “It frees up something in you and allows it to come out.”

That “something” includes some of the year’s most compelling Americana music, including songs like “Rust” and “Queensbury Rules,” which have a classic rock-influenced sound that breaks away from the unadulterated country music found on his previous records. “I didn’t want to continue to make the same album over and over again, because it just wouldn’t have been very fulfilling for me…I just wanted to give it a bit more of a wingspan than just doing another straight up, throwback honkytonk album,” he explains.

Country music, however, is still the heart of Davis’ sound, and he draws upon one of its finest traditions on Man About Town. “When I was in New Zealand, a friend of mine out there who is pretty up on country music said, ‘Have you ever written a murder ballad?’ And I said ‘No.’ It wasn’t really my thing. I’ve certainly listened to some and thought they were cool, but it was never on the menu. I said, ‘I’ve got nothing better to do; I’ll try to write one.’ I wanted to write one that was a be-all, end-all murder ballad.” The result was the seven-minute “Black and White Picture,” a gripping mass murder ballad that unfolds like a film. If that composition was the only thing Davis achieved while in New Zealand, his time there would have been a success. But most importantly, his time away from the industry allowed him to reignite his passion for making music.

Now that he’s back in the music business for the foreseeable future, Moot Davis is going full speed ahead. Helming his own label, Highway Kind, brings with it an increased workload, but for Davis, it’s an additional burden he’s more than willing to shoulder, because it leaves him “completely responsible for all the good and bad things that could happen,” he explains. “You’re as in charge of your own destiny as anybody can be. Before, when I was on Pete’s label, I very much felt that I wasn’t in charge of my own destiny.”

His destiny is currently looking, well, busy, with several European tour dates scheduled, U.S. dates falling into place, and another first on the horizon: an upcoming appearance on NPR’s Weekend Edition.  No longer burnt out on the industry, Moot Davis is optimistic and excited about his bright musical future, noting that “every positive, good thing that happens is a major victory for us.” If the quality of music found on Man About Town is any indication, Davis better get used to celebrating, because there will be many more successes to come.

Enter to win a copy of Man About Town on the Engine 145 Facebook page. The deadline is Monday, March 19, at noon.

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  1. Dave W.
    March 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Moot has a great sound – very traditional and heartfelt. Country fans will love the album especially fans of Dwight Yoakam and honky tonky music. Rags To Rhinestones – one of the tracks on the album – is as catchy as songs get.

  2. Jon
    March 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    We did a little European tour with Moot back in 2006, I think it was – Chris Jones had just released his Little Dog record, so we were kind of labelmates – and he said the funniest thing I have ever heard anyone say on stage ever. To get why it happened, you have to know that Dutch audiences, at least for roots music, tend to be kind of reserved, and we were playing in a little club in the middle of nowhere, The Netherlands. Anyway, Moot and Pete and a drummer and bass player got up and did a few numbers, to not much response, following which Pete had to switch guitars. Ao he kind of hollered over at Moot and said, “Talk to them -endear yourself!” and sidled off to find the other guitar he was going to use for the next song. So Moot steps up to the mike and says, “Well, I guess I’m supposed to talk to you, but frankly, it kind of creeps me out.” And stopped.

  3. Jon
    March 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Maybe you had to be there.

  4. Mad Dog
    March 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    LOL! That’s sounds about right. Moot is definitely one of a kind, the songs are all so great.

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