TEXAS SINGER • SONGROCKER
Hunter Tynan Davis
“If you follow an artist purely based on looks, then shame on you; but if looks are what you would call a nice bonus added to already talented musicians, then I would suggest checking out Hunter Tynan Davis. Sporting a country-Adam Levine sort of style with a half-buttoned shirt and blue jeans, Davis jumped up on stage looking like the ever-ready rock star.
He started off the night with a few solo songs on his electric guitar, which was a nice change after the acoustic sets. The lyrics to his songs are uncomplicated and simple but are riddled with deeper meanings and relatable content. And while his solo set was charming, it didn’t grab the attention of the crowd like I wish it had. Davis then made a decision that completely changed the direction of his show: he invited a backup band onstage.
Suddenly it was like the world had turned on its axis and everyone was moving along (whether subconsciously or not) to the bluesy rock music. Davis’s grinding voice mixed with the detailed musical nuances one doesn’t normally hear in live music was intoxicating. Despite there being no spotlight on Davis, he didn’t have trouble catching the audience’s eye: his raw energy while playing and singing was electric. Whether it was a hard blues/rock song or a slow jazzy number, Davis seemed to take on the role of rock star like he was born into it.
Not one to take life too seriously, though, Davis displayed a joking manner just like the artists before him. When a crowd member demanded that he unbutton another button on his shirt, his pianist promptly did so for him, tearing at his shirt until it was open down almost to his belly button. Davis shrugged, smiled, and acted like he was bringing the low-cut shirts – made so popular by Led Zeppelin in the 70’s -back in style.
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.”
No Country For New Nashville
Things were looking good for Hunter Davis on March 2nd, 2020. The self-described “singer-songrocker” had quit his bartending gig one week earlier, ready to completely immerse himself in the music career that had already earned him a national audience and opening slots for iconic artists like Aretha Franklin. With a new album in the can — Ferris Wheel, produced by Wilco co-founder Ken Coomer and stocked with sharply-written songs that split the difference between Americana, roots-rock, and folk — he was eager to hit the road again.
Everything changed just after midnight, when a tornado swept a devastating path through downtown Nashville. Hunter and his fiancé were asleep at the time, waking up to the startling sounds of their apartment building being ripped apart. By the time the winds died down, their home — and countless homes like it in middle Tennessee — was ruined.
“One week before the tornado, I had an apartment and a job,” he remembers. “The next week, I just had a guitar and the songs I’d created. It gave me a new perspective that everything can be taken away from you in a moment, and it strengthened my decision to keep making music, because that’s all I had left. When I left town several days later and began touring, I knew I couldn’t let the trauma of the tornado affect my shows. You’re getting onstage in front of 100 people, and you have to turn whatever you’re feeling — even if it’s pain — into something you can use as fuel.”
Hunter’s wildly diverse life has been full of similar turning points. Born on the Gulf of Mexico, he spent his earliest days on his maternal grandfather’s shrimp boat on the waters of southeast Texas. The Davis’ were an accomplished bunch. Hunter’s paternal grandfather, Walter Buddy Davis, was a championship basketball player in the NBA and an Olympic gold medalist in the men’s high jump at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. Meanwhile, Hunter’s father had played college and semi-pro basketball in Alaska and Hawaii before moving back to Texas, where he chased down success in music (earning a cut as a songwriter with “A Candle Burns in the Window of My Heart”) and politics (working on the staff of east Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson).
Hunter, like his father, excelled at music and athletics from an early age. Although he accepted a Division 1 scholarship to play football in college, he found it increasingly difficult to stop prioritizing music. Between practices and games, he sharpened his songwriting and widened his regional touring, building an audience throughout Texas even as his sports career was becoming more and more demanding.
“We’d have a football practice at 5:30 am, and I’d get into town at 4:30 that morning, after playing a show in New Orleans or another city,” he remembers. “I was playing football for a big school, but my heart and head were all about music.”
When a knee injury temporarily forced him to the sidelines, Hunter did some soul-searching… and ultimately made the decision to ditch football in favor of a music career. He switched schools and changed majors, eventually winding up at Tennessee State University in Nashville, where he buoyed his music education by playing in local blues trios. He’d made things official: athletics were in his blood, but songwriting was his biggest passion.
“I knew I had to make a choice, even at that young age, so I pursued my true calling,” says Hunter. “When I started focusing on songwriting, it was like I was taking over the family business. It was very seamless in its transition.”
Hunter began making a name for himself as an acclaimed songwriter whose music delivered melodies and stories in equal measure. He continued growing an audience that stretched beyond his native Texas and his adopted hometown of Nashville. One of his newest fans was Ken Coomer, a Nashville-based producer and drummer who’d kicked off his career as Wilco’s co-founding drummer. After bonding over old-school country ballads and modern-day roots music, the two made Ferris Wheel, distilling Hunter’s richly-layered worldview and diverse life experiences into a similarly kaleidoscopic sound.
At the center of that sound was Hunter’s songwriting, which imbued the traditional hallmarks of his Americana heroes — the laidback charm of Jackson Browne; the heartland rock & roll swagger of Tom Petty; the Texas-sized storytelling and troubadour twang of Hayes Carll; the raw, rootsy delivery of Jason Isbell — with an unembellished account of his own trials, triumphs, vices, and victories. It was an honest sound, from the country waltz of “Magnolia” to the soulful sweep of “Best Is Yet To Come,” boosted by powerful performances from lead guitarist Guthrie Trapp (Vince Gill, John Oates, Dolly Parton), harmony vocalist Maureen Murphy (Zac Brown Band, Will Hoge), and slide/steel guitarist Laur Joamets (Sturgill Simpson, Drivin N Cryin).
Writers of all stripes are often told to “write what they know,” and Hunter Davis — born on the bayou, raised in southern Texas, and reared on both the football field and the stage — has lived an eclectic life that’s rich in experience and deep in diversity. He sinks that background into his music. Ferris Wheel is the newest chapter in an autobiographical story that continues to unfold, introducing Hunter as his own kind of Americana heartland hero: a songwriter whose warm voice, inviting melodies, and detailed stories might unfold like the stuff of fiction, but are the real product of a life that’s been as rewarding as it is unorthodox. The ferris wheel will keep turning, but for now, Hunter Davis has found a worthy destination.