Linda Davis Interview

USA Today said she’s “ Nashville’s best bet for stardom”.

Kenny Rogers said she’s “One of the best singers in the business”.

She’s the recipient of a CMA Award for “Vocal Event of the Year – Does She Love You”.

She’s won an ACM award for “New Female Vocalist of the Year”.

She’s a Grammy Award winner for Best Country Vocal Collaboration for “Does He Love You” with Reba McEntire.

She’s appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Today Show, the Late Show with David Letterman, Regis and Kathy Lee, Phil Donahue, and the list goes on and on.

She’s played to sold-out audiences with people like Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, George Strait and Kenny Rogers.

And- she’s a wife and mother.

Her name is – Linda Davis.

Q – Linda, I guess the Big Question has to be, how do you balance a career in Country Music with being a wife and mother? They would seem to be equally demanding aren’t they?
A – (Laughs). Well, it’s so funny. It’s like these hats keep coming on and off to be what I need to be at the moment. As crazy as it is, I still have a healthy balance. It’s not like one thing that I live to do. I live to do all of it. And, I do my best at all of it. Let the chips fall where they may, but first of all you take care of you family. I feel like that is my first priority. Somehow, because I’ve always had a passion for my art and music whether it be performing, recording, writing, playing piano. It’s all a part of who I am. I think what makes me a good mother is I have all of those other qualities.

Q – How did you get interested in singing?
A – You know what? Music found me. It sounds cliché – but it’s true. Since I’ve had memory I have always sung. And in my memory Gary—–I was always good! (Laughs). I don’t know if that’s reality or not.

Q – If you don’t believe in yourself—–who will?
A – Exactly. I’ve always believed. I’m one of the fortunate ones. I had family and close friends who believed. They have always encouraged me and told me I could go all the way, and never batted an eye when Linda said, ‘I’m going to Nashville to be on the Grand ‘Ole Opry. (Note: Something which Linda Davis did!!). I mean they were right there with me in spirit if they weren’t physically with me. I still feel that. I’m from a real tight family in East Texas. The community that I grew up in were so supportive, unbelievably supportive. And none of ‘em knew anything about Country Music, but they knew that I had talent and I had the passion for it and I could do it. I proved them right and I proved myself right.

Q – When you were a teenager you performed on the Louisiana Hayride. How did that happen? That’s quite a big deal.
A – It is a big deal – and it was. Being from a little town called Carthage, just across the state line, we only had about an hour to drive over there. That was just a legendary place. Everybody who was anyone back in the 50’s, and early 60’s, started at the Hayride. That was what they called the ‘Cradle of the Stars’ which meant you would start out at the ‘Hayride’ and if they liked you there and you did well, the next step was the Grand ‘Ole Opry. By the time I came along I think the show had become something a little different, but, it still had that name and that history. I was so proud that I was invited to sing on it and I guess you could call me a regular for quite a few years before moving to Nashville.

Q – What kind of a city was Nashville when you arrived there in 1982? How does it compare to the Nashville of today?
A – Oh, heavens. Well, I first compare it to the town I came from, if you don’t mind. The town I came from, if you didn’t have your bread and milk by 5 o’clock you weren’t gonna get it ‘til the next day. They closed the stores and rolled up the sidewalks. Nashville had Kroger’s that stayed open 24 hours. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I got up here. But, I also found that I was 19, and I had done everything I knew to do back home. Everybody that I thought needed to hear me sing. I did my best to get before them, so maybe they could take me to the next level. I feel like I’d exhausted everything regionally. When I got to Nashville it was like starting over, because you have to pay your dues here. I needed to. I needed growth. I truly needed to mature in the ways of the world and grow up. I needed to earn my place in Music City and by doing so; it made me feel a part of the fabric of this town. I wouldn’t trade a thing. I’m so proud. My daughter is following in my foot steps and she is in that process as well. I’m so happy to see her form relationships and make friends that are her friends, not just mine or her daddy’s friends. It’s just beautiful to see it because that’s when it’s really gonna matter to you. You’re gonna have a fan club around you of peers that are so proud when doors open and opportunity shines on you.

Q – You were singing and playing piano in a hotel lounge. You were also doing demos and jingles. How did that lead to you getting a record contract?
A – Well, a lot of the musicians that play on jingles and who play on demos – play on records. A lot of the writers who do the demos, then they are friends with the producers of the artists, so, it’s a small little community here. It’s a big town, Nashville. Actually, it’s a city; but it has a town feel. But, the music industry is a small community. Word gets around. Even singing at the piano bar, people would come out and hear me ‘cause so and so told ‘em about this young lady that’s down at the Sheraton that you oughta go out and hear. They’d come out and have a drink and listen to me. That just kind of created what we call a ‘buzz’ about me and the talent I had. It just kind of grew from there. The nice compliments that kept coming back to me from Reba and other peers and people that I admired were just overwhelming. I felt so excited that, Reba McEntire likes my voice and she even asks people who is this girl. It just kind of helped keep me pumped up. Not necessarily big things were happening for me on the contract front yet, but, when you hear things like that it kept me hopeful. When the jingle work came in that helped with the potatoes and the rent. (Laughs). Times were lean for myself and my husband during that time.

Q – Did you ever work a non-singing job?
A – Once I came to Nashville I actually did work in an office, a promotion office. It was a small co. I answered phones. I worked at a restaurant as a hostess. Then I went to a Country club and worked as a waitress and I wasn’t good at any of that. I just couldn’t keep my mind on it because I wanted to be singing somewhere. So, I wasn’t a real great employee. I probably would’ve fired me, (laughs), if I were the owner of the establishment.

Q – Did you ever serve any Country artists when you were a waitress?
A – Actually, no. But, when I was at the piano bar they would come all the time, especially during like CMA Awards or any of the events that were taking place in town. That hotel was one of the nice ones that was in the vicinity of the Opry House. Reba would stay there. At that time she wasn’t living in Nashville yet. I could tell you when I see one of my favorite artists, I would just get so excited and nervous. What was the turning point I would have to say was when a man sat down that I did not recognize. He sat there by himself. You can tell when you do it long enough, the ones that are paying attention, the ones that are waiting for somebody, the ones that are distracted. This man was paying attention. I got through singing a song and I’ll tell you what it was, ‘It Ain’t Easy Being Easy’, a Janie Frickie song. After I got through he was close enough to the piano to talk to me. It wasn’t extremely crowded, so we had a chance to chat. After I finished that song he said, ‘I produced that record’. (Laughs). I got a better look at him and I still didn’t recognize him, ‘cause producers don’t get their pictures on the covers of CD’s and on magazines. It was Bob Montgomery. If you look on all the Janie Frickie records, his name is very, very bold. He actually is on a lot of records back in the 80’s. I take that back, I’ll tell you what I sang: I sang a song that he had written. The writers don’t get their pictures in the paper either. So, I sang a song that he had written. When he said, ‘I wrote that song’, I looked around and then I really got nervous because I changed the song. I don’t do ‘em like the people I learn ‘em from. I like putting my own spin on it. I said, ‘Well, I hope you recognize it’, ‘cause I do kind of change it up a little bit. He said, ‘I did recognize it and I’ve been very impressed’. Will you do something else? That’s when he shared with me that he had produced Janie Frickie. I did ‘It Ain’t Easy Being Easy’ ‘cause that was part of my normal repertoire. Again, it was a little intimidating, because it was the fella who helped create that sound. He became one of my biggest fans. He would bring people out to hear me. Eventually he produced my record on C.B.S./Epic. He brought out George Strait’s Manager, who signed me to a management deal back then. If I had to pinpoint one thing and a lot of people would probably say it’s that Reba duet, and yes 10 years later that was a pivotal point in my career, but if I back-up when I first started getting the attention of people in Music City that make things happen for me, it was Bob Montgomery.

Q – Do you write your own material?
A – I write some of my own material. I’ve never released any of the songs I’ve written. I’ve had some on my album, but that is something I never really had time to put as much time into. Once you get on the road and you’re busy doing radio stops and doing performances, there’s not a lot of time, quiet time to get still and keep writing. Those artists that do keep doing that and make time for that—–my hat is off to ‘em, because that is a challenge.

Q – Traveling is a full-time job.
A – Yes, it is. There’s a lot of things you need to be available for. When you get to a town, first of all you gotta rest to be able to keep up the pace. Then you probably have a morning interview at a radio station that your promotion guy from that area is gonna come pick you up at your hotel and you’re gonna go do the Morning Drive. You probably have lunch with Best Buy or Target or somebody that’s involved with your career. Then that evening you’ve got a show. So, when are you gonna write? So, that passion had to be kind of on the back-burner for those busy years. But, because I’m not as busy touring as I was, then I can write here in town, because some of the best live right here.

Q – When you do write, you write using the piano, because that’s your main instrument?
A – That’s right. When I sit down I kind of let my fingers roll and my mind go and just come up with the tune. And—–it just kind of flows. And——you got your co-writers who say let’s make that part a little more dynamic or let’s change that chord. So, everybody has input.

Q – What was it like to tour with Garth Brooks? What was it like to tour with Kenny Rogers?
A – O.k. Well, I’ll tell you. When I got to work with Garth it was at a time when his career was still growing, but, it was so obvious that he was a superstar because the audience was on fire. He just generated an energy that I can’t even put into words, but it was just undeniable. He was a team player. He was not somebody who set himself apart from his band and crew. He was a part, totally of that group. That was nice to see. That was early in my career so I didn’t have a whole lot of stuff to compare it to. So, I thought that was normal for the artist to ride the bus with everybody and go to sound check and go to catering with everybody. He was just such a part of his whole team. It wasn’t like he kept to himself. Since then, as I go around other people, a lot of artists have their bus and everybody else goes on their buses. So, everybody’s different, but that was a cool thing that I thought Garth was about. And then, by the time I got to know Kenny Rogers he had already been an icon for 4 decades. (Laughs).

Q – That’s right he has been around awhile.
A – You got your Garth who’s new and huge and then you had your Kenny Rogers, I’m gonna brag on him for a moment, he is one of the most giving artists to share his resources with. When I can soak up advice with someone who’s done it that long, I feel like I’d be foolish not to. There’s been many nights over catering meals when he’d suggest—–‘Why don’t you sit on a stool for that song’?

Q – If someone wants to pursue a career as a singer, songwriter, producer, arranger in Nashville, what would you tell them to do? What do you need to do to succeed?
A – O.k. first of all to be those things, it’s real helpful to live here. So, that’s a given now. They live here and just soak up the town and the community and get a feeling for all of the aspects of it, that is the songwriters, the musicians, the artists and the way you would do that I suggest is to come in here and go into some of the clubs and the showcase spots where you can hear the writers perform their songs, where you can get in a session and just kind of be a fly on the wall. Watch how the musicians work, how they work together. There’s just so many elements I guess you would say that are inside that it’s just a beautiful thing. You hear a lot about the competition and there is. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to do good and be successful, but I’m telling you that the bond and the friendship and the relationships that are so strong here, you never really hear enough about that part.

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