For those of you who follow the entertainment section of this website, you know I’m always seeking little gems of hidden talent or expertise our readers may not, as of yet, be familiar with. Today, I have both – hidden talent and expertise – all in one story.
In passing by a little place in Whites Creek, TN – called the James Gang Company (www.jamesgangcompany.com), I heard music coming through the doorway. My husband and I decided to turn around and go back, just to see what was going on in this little general store cafe.
Who do we see when we hit the door, but Linda Davis herself waving a big hello! Well, it’s Linda Davis, so planned or not, you have to stay… I think it’s an unwritten rule. (www.lindadavis.com)
When we asked the owner of the establishment, John Grimes, what was going on this fine Sunday afternoon, and he told us Davis was hosting another of her ‘on the rise music shows.’ Another? Yes – another. Davis has been hosting her “Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show” the first Sunday of every month (none will be held this July), in order to showcase new, up and coming artists and performers she coaches behind the scenes. This particular Sunday, it happened all the artists were female, but Davis says she usually has a good mix of male and female talent. And talented they were! From the first artist on deck, to the very last, it was clear this was an incredibly well thought out event, and a great way for these young performers to exhibit their talents in front of a live audience.
In a brief interview with Davis, we talked about her coaching program and why she does it.
S&E: What is the official name of your coaching program?
Davis: The official name of the program is the “Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show”
S&E: How long have you been working on this particular program and with these students?
Davis: This is our second year, and we hold it on the first Sunday of every month. This July we won’t do a show – because it’s too close to 4th, but other than that, we’re here the first Sunday of every month.
S&E: And its held here at the James Gang Company in Whites Creek?
Davis: Yes, John is sweet enough to let us use this room and we’re so grateful to him for that.
S&E: How many students do you have?
Davis: I don’t know if I can count that high…because I believe there are hundreds. I teach something called “Stage Performance 101” (SP101) and I do private and group sessions – and I go to different cities and get to work with these young – most of them are young students – but I don’t have a problem with age”
S&E: I’ll put that in bold print.
Davis: (laughter) Please do. Its just a chance to work with these aspiring artists before they launch…and help them develop some better habits than they might already have. Microphone technique is the first thing we deal with and that’s a real issue for a lot of folks…and staying in the mic. If I can’t hear them – and they have this beautiful song – then the first thing they need to do is sing into the mic.
S&E: I noticed there are no young male performers here tonight…
Davis: Its girls night! Actually, it just fell that way. I do have a lot of guys who are quite talented- and I like having that variety. But tonight we’re celebrating our girls!
S&E: Speaking of girls – your daughter (Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum) is now having a great deal of success. Did you coach her early on also? Or was she like: “MOM, don’t tell me that…”
Davis: Well, she has taken my little critiques in the past, but I don’t know that she needs it right now. We are just very proud and a little in disbelief – how their group has taken on the life that it has; and the boys’ parents are so happy, and Lang and I are thrilled. But I still remind her to enjoy it and be in the moment, because out of a lifetime, this could be a short window of time. So we just want her to really enjoy that.
S&E: Do you still keep in touch with Reba?
Davis: Oh yes, absolutely – though Hillary still sees her more than I do now…but we keep in touch. And with technology being what it is, it makes it easier…
S&E: and Facebook…
Davis: I’m not really a big Facebooker – I tweet though….(more laughs)
S&E: Tell us a little bit about what’s going to happen with the show tonight? Who the performers are and how do you find these young people or do they find you?
Davis: They tend to find me – I’m so blessed because each one has something special and unique and most of the time, I get to meet the whole family and… I love them each and every one. Not everybody’s schedule works out for the first Sunday of the month, but for those who can say yes and come out, it makes for a great show.
S&E: And how many performers are you showcasing tonight?
Davis: There are 6 performers tonight – and they’ll do a total of 3 songs each. Caitlyn Green, Paige McCauley, Tera Townsend, Cali Rodi, Jessica Nixon and April Lynn are performing tonight. You probably noticed during our rehearsal, they all have their own spin on the music they do. Some are more contemporary, some are more country – but I’m just very proud of all of them.
And John Grimes is so nice to allow us to be here at the James Gang Co., because its such a nice way to showcase them and celebrate some of the friends that I’ve made. And for some of them, it’s just a matter of time, and if the stars line up for them, some really nice things could happen for them. Because each of my guests are very serious about their career.
S&E: Do you encourage songwriting?
Davis: Absolutely. That’s been my sermon. But I don’t expect them to be master writers coming in…I just want them to sing their songs, feel good and confident, and lets just get the ball rolling.
S&E: When an artist comes to you, what is it like for them you think – when they walk in and it’s LINDA DAVIS? Because no doubt they all feel like you’re famous…and do you think that’s a bit intimidating – or how do you think they feel?
Davis: You should probably ask them! Because I try not to be too critical – I try not to scare them…(laughter). And sometimes their idea of what SP101 is, probably isn’t the way it turns out – because my approach to teaching is different than everyone else’s. But we always leave happy and I think they always take something good away from it that they can apply and use from now on. Tonight – because they are only doing two songs, they may not really feel like they can break loose. But my goal is to prepare them so they can do a whole set of songs, like 45 minutes worth – with confidence. And some of them get to do that in their home towns or home state, and that pleases me to be able to help them feel confident that they have a good tight set.
S&E: Do you find a lot of your students emulate other artists?
Davis: Yes they do – and that’s a form of flattery – and we all borrow from people when we’re first starting out. But I try to remind them that they are good enough just by being themselves. Because when you’re trying to contrive things because you think you see other people do it, it doesn’t feel honest, so I encourage them to just do nothing. Lets just do nothing and be okay with that. A lot of my sessions is just stripping things back…and just standing there and looking confident – be confident – then we’ll add things as we need to; but never compromising our vocal though, and stay in the mic. (I preach that a lot – I should probably get a bumper sticker or something that says that.) My goal is to encourage – and maybe not everyone will make a career for a lifetime…but if you feel like you’re better prepared to perform when you leave my studio, then I’ve done my job.
Okay – now we’re going to speak with some of Linda’s student protégé’s…as they are finishing their performances here at the James Gang Company
We’re talking with Tera Townsend – age 14. She is from Huntington Tennessee, and is one of tonight’s participants in the “Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show.”
S&E: Tera, Tell us a little bit about how you found Linda and how you became part of her show.
Tera: We met at the Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center when I was about 8 years old, and I was waiting back stage for my turn to sing – and she just came up and started talking with me, and she was so nice. And then we started working together, and its just so much fun to work with her.
S&E: Is this your first show with Linda here at the James Gang Co.?
Tera: Yes it is.
S&E: And what’s it like to work with Linda? Is it intimidating at all when you first get started?
Tera: Its very helpful. When you go in there to work and think you know what you’re doing, there are always things to improve on. And she makes it easy and helps you work on different parts you may not know how to do – or may not have thought about doing them that way.
S&E: What’s your favorite part about being in the music industry?
Tera: Being on stage!
S&E: And do you have a lot of things lined up to perform this week through the CMA Festival?
Tera: I do, I perform Thursday night at the Opryland hotel and then Friday at the Nashville Palace. So it should be a really great week!
Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show
Interview W/Caitlyn Green- age 13- from Gainesboro, TN
S&E: Caitlyn, is this your first performance for the “Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show”?
Caitlyn: My first time here- at the James Gang? Yes.
S&E: How did you meet Linda Davis and become part of her ‘on the rise’ show?
Caitlyn: My neighbor actually knew Linda – and I don’t quite remember how – and he hooked me up with her so we could do a stage-performance practice, and we did that, and that’s how I met her. She is the sweetest lady ever – I absolutely adore her. And then she invited me to come watch this show in March, and I did that – and it was completely amazing and then she asked me if I wanted to participate in at some point, and I said yes, so she called me about a week ago to ask if I could perform tonight and I said yes, and so that’s how I got here.
S&E: Now Linda says you graduated from high school at the ripe old age of 12, you’re now 13 – and so you have plenty of time to pursue your music career, but do you have any plans for college?
Caitlyn: No – pretty much my music is my college education, since I’ve learned so much in songwriting and things like that, and I want to continue to do that…
S&E: Is songwriting part of your overall goals as you see them?
Caitlyn: Yes, it is.
S&E: Tell us a little bit about what its like working with Linda Davis – when you walk in – how does that feel?
Caitlyn: Well at first, I was kind of star struck I guess, because it’s LINDA DAVIS. And then I got used to being around her – and she’s so much fun, it’s just a blast. And she’s really down to earth, so into what she does…it’s just amazing to work with her.
S&E: Now this isn’t a competition, and there are no grand prizes handed out tonight, so what do you feel you gain from this?
Caitlyn: I gain a lot of experience performing and learn a lot from just watching other people perform and its just completely blows me away how much talent there is in there. This is just one really great experience.
Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show
Interview W/Paige McCauley – age 15 – from Atlanta, GA
S&E: Tell us a little bit about what its like to work with Linda Davis
Paige: Oh, she is such a sweetheart. I was doing a GCGMA thing (Georgia Country & Gospel Music Association) and she was helping mentor a lot of the people who were there at the Listening Room Café. And Linda spoke with me and told me she specialized in stage performance and that was something I really wanted to get into, so I did a couple of lessons with her, and then she invited me to sing on her ‘on the rise’ show. And I love working with her…she’s such an amazing influence and role model.
S&E: And is this your first time in Whites Creek, TN- here at the James Gang Co.?
Paige: Yes. I came and saw a couple of her shows a couple of months ago, but this is my first time singing here.
S&E: And what do you think?
Paige: I love it. Linda said it was quaint…but I love the intimate setting.
S&E: What is it like the first time you walk into the room, knowing you’re going to have a lesson with Linda Davis. What is going through your mind?
Paige: A lot – because my mom listened to her records, and she’s this very famous person…but its so cool. And working with her, at first you get butterflies in your stomach, but it passes because she’s so nice.
S&E: What kind of things are you learning?
Paige: We learn how to work the stage, have eye contact, how to work the mic…things like that.
S&E: And is this your first interview?
Paige: Yes it is…at least like this, where I’m speaking into an iphone.(laughs)
S&E: Hey, we reporters have to improvise when there’s a scoop to be had 😉
Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show
Interview w/Cali Rodi – age 17 – from Cave Creek, AZ
S&E: Tell us a little bit about working with Linda Davis and how that all came about for you.
Cali: Oh – she is amazing. I was actually playing at an event called “Family Day” in Nashville at Belmont – and I had a booth up (it was for the TJ Martell Foundation), and Linda came up and introduced herself. And my friend told me that she personally took lessons from Linda all the time and that I should go…and so I started with her. And it has completely changed my way of performing, and talking to crowds – because I’ve never really been very good at the interacting with the audience. You know the music came easy, but the talking didn’t – and she really, really helped me with that.
S&E: Well you certainly couldn’t tell tonight that that’s ever been a problem.
Cali: Thank you.
S&E: So what is it like the first time – you walk into the room – you’re about to work with Linda Davis; what is that experience like?
Cali: It was scary and a little nerve racking – because I grew up listening to her song with Reba and her music, and it was just surreal for me. But it definitely has changed my life for the better.
S&E: So what are your long term goals for your music – and for participating in the music industry? Should we expect to see lots more of you?
Cali: I hope so. I really want to make a couple albums and tour. I’d love to tour – I think that’s the coolest thing. And I love writing, so having a number one song would be great! I think it’s the coolest thing that I get to write songs that people can make memories to, that might remind them of their previous memories. I think that’s just the coolest thing.
S&E: And you are playing every night this week during CMA Fest? You’re playing The Stage on Tuesday w/ Daryl Worley, and for the Charlie Pride Fan club Wednesday morning, at Loews hotel on Wednesday night around 9, Thursday at Honky Tonk Central, and on Saturday at the Bridgestone Arena from 6 – 7. And on Sunday, you’re at “Ride for the Cure.”
Cali: Yes…we’ll be busy, but I love it.
Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show
Interview w/Jessica Nixon – Pharmacy School Graduate
S&E: Well you were quite comedic…and having fun up there…
Jessica: (laughter) – well, thank you – but I kept it rated G.
S&E: (more laughs)– it’s a family affair here at the James Gang Co.
S&E: Tell us a little bit about how you met Linda Davis – and how it feels to walk in the room the first time, when you know Linda is waiting for you.
Jessica: First of all – it’s pretty intimidating, because “Hello”- Its Linda Davis – and she can flat out sing! Weird story – I got dared to do a beauty pageant by my hairdresser, and I’m a go-getter…so if you dare me to do something, I’m going to do it. So I did it – and I guess pigs flew and cows flew that day, and I won. And so my director knew Linda; he had met her at an actual gig and had no idea who she was; but she had started doing her Stage Performance 101 around that time. And some how I ended up at her house right after my first pharmacy school interview, and we’ve been friends ever since…cause we just had a great connection –and she is just a really great teacher.
S&E: What are some of the things that you’ve learned from her?
Jessica: I learned how to be more confident on stage… (Jessica had been a real comedic hoot on stage, so we had to joke with her about this…)
S&E: and confidence was a problem?
Jessica: (laughs) – well as far as my vocal ability, I’ve had years of training, and I’ve been singing at church my whole life, but as far as how to act on stage, that wasn’t my thing. I had to learn not to “get in it” so much; because Linda would remind me and say “Jessica, you can’t forget that there’s an audience out there – you’re not singing by yourself.” Because sometimes I’d just close my eyes – and honey I’d be into it, and I’d be thinking everybody’s getting into it – you know with cell phones waving in the air and stuff – but in reality, the audience would be like: ‘well she’s just singing to herself up there.’ (laughter) So I think to ENGAGE and NOT FORGET about the audience, is what I’ve learned most from her. It’s been a great experience!
Linda Davis On the Rise Music Show
Interview w/April Lynn- from Louisville, KY
S&E: Tell me a little about how you found Linda Davis and how you got involved with her coaching program?
April: Well when I was 18, I came down here to Nashville for a competition, and she was one of the speakers at the event. And my brother happened to pick up one of her flyers, and told me: ‘April, you need to try and contact Linda Davis – because she sounds like a pretty cool lady.’ So I checked her out…and also that year, I was trying out for American Idol in Louisville, KY, my home town; but she’s just kind of been helping me ever since. And I lean on her for advice, or song selections, and things like that…
S&E: So you do you correspond with Linda a lot? How do you go about taking your lessons when you’re up there in KY and Linda is here in Nashville?
April: I drive down here at least once a month for lessons – and I try to do a lot of different shows while I’m here in town…like the Hard Rock in Nashville.
S&E: And is this your first time here at the James Gang Co. in Whites Creek, TN?
April: This is my 3rd time to be on the show…and I really like it – its really nice.
S&E: So what are your aspirations for your music that Linda is helping you with?
April: I think just to keep writing my own music. My brother writes music, so we try to co-write together a lot, and keep learning my guitar, and just growing in music in general I guess…and she encourages me to do that.
S&E: What would you say is the first thing that got you into COUNTRY music?
April: Well, I think I love Dolly Parton (laughs), and one day someone told me I sounded like her, and I thought Well, I’ll try! (excitedly), so…here I am. And I’ve always loved Patty Loveless…and all kinds of bluegrass artists. So really, I’ve always liked country music.
S&E: So you’ve had a lot of good influences in your life, and now you have Linda Davis 100% behind you.
April: That’s right…it’s really great.
S&E: One more question – What is it like to walk in the room the first time and there’s Linda Davis – and you know you’re there to be coached, what is going through your head?
April: Well, I guess anticipation and excitement….I think with her – she’s always just the same, and she’s just a really good friend to talk to for music, advice, or anything really…and I’m just glad to have her in my life.
The interviews with these young performing artists were endearing, refreshing and inspiring. It was as great an experience for me, as I’m sure they have with Linda Davis each day. And from Sports & Entertainment Nashville, ladies, thank you for letting us be a part of your evening.
If you would like to contact Linda Davis or have an interest in her “Stage Performance 101” coaching, please feel free to contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lindadavis.com for more information.
For more information on the James Gang Co. venue, please contact John Grimes at email@example.com