He's 36 years old and has been a singer/songwriter for 20 years. He has performed more than 1,000 shows and sold more than 60,000 copies of his 11 releases. He started his own record company, Dharma Pop, and has his own reality TV show. He's completing his first book, "Sex, God, and Rock 'n Roll," and is developing a new language called "IS."
With Tuesday's release of "Something Simple," Stuart Davis is about to break through to a much larger audience. The harmonic convergence of the conception, writing and recording of this album was sprinkled with fairy dust from the start. This record was meant to be, and it moves Davis from his self-described slightly underground "post-apocalyptic-punk-folk" style to an artist vaulting into the mainstream.
Through associations with film director Steve Brill ("Mr. Deeds Goes To Washington," "The Mighty Ducks," and "Little Nicky") and record producer Alex Gibson (Jane's Addiction, Keith Urban), Davis got a call to write a tune for an upcoming movie. He was sent five minutes of footage, wrote something and didn't think much more about it.
A producer called back to say he didn't care for the song but loved the "humming thing" at the beginning.
Davis re-wrote "Already Free" around the hummed melody and sent it back. Next came a call to come to Los Angeles to cut the track for "Drillbit Taylor," a movie starring Owen Wilson that opens Friday. An album seemed a logical extension so Davis and his family spent two months in L.A. while he recorded "Something Simple."
Some tunes were done, others were written during the recording and a couple were re-recorded from earlier projects. The tracking took place in Jim Henson's studio, the former A & M studio, where superstars wander in and out.
The unwritten rule is that no one ever is solicited to work on your project, but "Something Simple" still drew Wendy Melvoin (from Prince & the Revolution), John Shanks (Sheryl Crow, Santana, Fleetwood Mac), Brendan O'Brien (recently produced Bruce Springsteen), Dave Levita (Alanis Morrisette), Eddie Kowalczyk (Live) and others.
All of them volunteered to help when they heard the work in progress, Davis said. This record wasn't sprinkled with fairy dust, it was drenched.
Davis, who also plays guitar, departs just a smidge from his usual menu of God, sex, life and death. His wife and two daughters are the prime focus of his writing in this album. "Already Free" is a tribute to his wife and the enlightenment he has attained through their relationship. No longer the nomadic mystic, Davis has settled, albeit kicking and screaming, into married life in Boulder, Colo., and everyone benefits.
"The River" shares his love for his kids. The day-to-day experience of family life has completely redefined Davis' thinking on what it means to be a fully realized human being. He bathes in the love of his family: "Feel a million arms around me when I get in the river, every color of light surrounds me when I get in the river."
Going into the darker places is a Davis hallmark, and he goes there on "Fear Of Light." Though the tone is poppy and accessible, it probes real phobias (dark vs. light) that haunt many people: "This fevered dream, this suffocating night keeps my heart asleep in fear of light."
The birth of Davis' first daughter showed him what it was to be in the presence of something holy. "Miracle" shows a father's love "... that night your comet fell into our wishing well, it made your mother laugh, it cut your dad in half."
With major-league distribution from Ryko/WEA, this will be the first exposure to Davis' music for many people. He dipped back to his "Self-Untitled" disc and re-recorded "Universe Communion" that delves into the alien abduction phenomenon. Audiences have consistently responded to this song that says we live with our heads in the sand "... we stifle and smother the mystic wonder, is our arrogance a deafening fear of what we'll have to hear?"
Not only does Davis have his new release, he also brings to his fans a nationwide tour, the last five minutes of the soundtrack to a major motion picture, a new book, his television show and his own language. After 20 years of honing his craft, Davis is poised to be the next overnight sensation.
John Ziegler has worked as program and music director KUMD-FM for 31 years. He's produced seven compilation discs from some of his 3,500 in-studio sessions. He reviews music for the News Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.