Campbell Davis draws the notes from his guitar like a bee coaxing nectar from a flower.
Perched on a couch in his parents living room, the 16-year-old instinctively strums as he talks about the road to his new album, “Howl at the Moon,” recorded in Nashville.
If you go
A “Howl at the Moon” CD release party for Campbell Davis and concert will take place Nov. 15 and 16 at Main Street Studios, Fourth Avenue and Main Street. Performances both evenings begin at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $40. The $40 VIP price gets ticket-holders prime seating, a glass of wine and signed CD. (Valid ID for wine service is required.) Tickets are available online. For more details visit Main Street Studios on Facebook or call 520-6451.
You’d never know from the way his hands are drawn to the strings that they were ever forced to play a single note.
But there was a time not so many years ago — age being relative — that “piano” was practically a four-letter word to the bespectacled musician.
In retrospect, Davis acknowledges “it was definitely useful.”
With music practically coursing through his veins, the second son of two music majors — one of whom later became a teacher — parlayed those dreaded piano lessons, his first exposure to instrumentation, into guitar. He made his stage debut as a tween at the Farmers Market in downtown Walla Walla and self-produced his first CD a couple of years later. In the summer of 2012, due to what he chalks down to “a lot of luck” — he was chosen as one of two opening acts for Ziggy Marley in Walla Walla.
Last summer he spent half his break auditioning for NBC’s unscripted singing competition series “The Voice” (more on that in a moment) and set off for Nashville.
There he recorded his latest album under Grammy-nominated producer Jim VanCleve and with backing from members of Grammy-winning band Mountain Heart, of which VanCleve is also a member.
A CD release party and concert will be the second major performance at the newly opened Main Street Studios on Nov. 15 and 16. Davis will be joined on stage by VanCleve, Josh Shilling and Seth Taylor of Mountain Heart.
In the living room of his parents’ home during a recent afternoon, Davis unleashed his decadent, smoky voice on an acoustic sampling of his “Who Should I Be?” track.
Influences of Dave Matthews Band and Jimi Hendrix are alive in his songs, though he’s only been playing guitar about four years.
Davis first picked it up in intermediate school and enrolled in the “Guitar Karate” class taught by his own mom, ReNae, a College Place Public Schools music teacher.
Students advance to the next level every time they master a particular song. Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” for a white belt, for instance. A black belt is achieved at “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Davis and his brother, Parker, now a film composition and music major at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, were both influenced heavily by their mom and dad. ReNae and Kevin Davis both have music degrees and spent some years in Los Angeles pursuing their art before making their way to Walla Walla.
ReNae continued in teaching music, and Kevin is a designer, leading the restoration of historic homes and commercial properties.
It was after their son recorded his first CD, “On the Road,” and shared it with friends at school that things began to take off. One of his friends was the son of local music promoter Alisa Gilbert, who booked Davis as an opener for Ziggy Marley last year.
After that performance, Davis started working with guitar instructor Phil Lynch.
“We kind of learn in the same ways,” Davis said of his instructor. “We have similar senses of humor. We’re both very cerebral.”
Probably neither is the kind of person who would typically audition for a reality television show. But “The Voice,” Davis said, stood out from other unscripted talent series because of its focus on people and their gift of music.
He agreed to let his mom shoot video of him and submit it to the show. It was well received, and Davis was able to bypass the “cattle call” auditions. Unfortunately, he missed the callbacks in Seattle because the family didn’t catch an email informing them about it in time. So Davis headed to Los Angeles over the summer for an appearance in front of show producer Mark Burnett.
Over the course of about six weeks and numerous trips back and forth, Davis made it to the last 120 singers to audition for the judges. At that point, the contestants were divided in groups of about 30 people.
They were put in full makeup, interviewed and shot with their stories well documented and their families on deck.
But before Davis was ever able to perform for the celebrity judges, the maximum number of contestants had already been selected to make the show. Disappointed but not nearly done, he headed to Nashville for the rest of the summer to record.
The Walla Walla High School and Running Start student has prepared a set list of about 20 songs for the upcoming performance.
Now a headliner at his own show, he hopes this will be a step toward a long career in music.
“I’d like to be able to make a living doing something I love to do,” he said.
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.
You can find Campbell Davis at his website or Facebook.