Moot Davis: A Man About Town
Man 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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