Davis Mallory: From MTV to Nashville
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
With the upcoming summer release of the music video for his original pop/EDM single Sun and Moon, the stars seem to be aligning for 34-year-old singer-songwriter/DJ Davis Mallory. After spending a season in the cast of The Real World: Denver (season 18 of MTV’s reality show), Davis spent several years working various jobs in the music industry in New York City and Chicago. Five years ago, he decided to focus on his career as a performing artist, and he made the move to Nashville.
As a kid, Davis always made up his own version of lyrics to songs he heard on the radio. “It is second nature for me to sing, and to come up with lyrics.” He also grew up with two uncles in the music business – one is a professional songwriter with cuts by Wynonna Judd and Amy Grant; the other is a successful artist manager. Davis says “seeing the business side was a driving factor for doing what I’m doing.”
He knew he wanted to be a performer after seeing NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears on MTV. Other musical influences over the years include Elvis, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, Prince, and Ellie Goulding. Davis took piano lessons for a short time and dabbled in guitar. “I feel like I’m good at coming up with vocal melodies and writing songs, but not really playing instruments.”
His parents nurtured his love of music by putting him in youth choirs; he eventually joined an a cappella group of five guys and five girls at his church when he was in high school. Davis had a passion to pursue music beyond high school, but he had a secret that he felt would prevent him from following his dream. He knew since fifth grade that he was gay, and felt out of place singing in a church group. “I didn’t see an ability for me to become a successful Christian singer being gay, or even a successful pop singer.” He says his life would have taken a different path if he had role models like Sam Smith and Troye Sivan. “I feel like if I had seen that when I was younger I would have been more straight to the point and would have pursued it more directly after high school, the way that my peers in my church choir did.”
While in college, Davis auditioned for MTV’s The Real World – a process that took over six months. “MTV put me into the public eye pretty much overnight; I went to the mall and airport and people recognized me and wanted photos.” There was a period of adjustment when the show ended and he was no longer in the limelight. Then he had an epiphany. “I wanted to be famous for my own reason, and I wanted it to be for music.” Davis had seen three of his high school choir-mates go on to get publishing and record label deals, and that encouraged him to pursue his passion. “Seeing my peers do well gave me a belief that I could also have the success they’re having because I knew I had their same singing abilities.”
In hindsight, Davis feels perhaps he auditioned for the wrong show. “I would have preferred to have gone on American Idol or some singing show over The Real World because it didn’t show my talents, and that’s what I want people to know about me.”
Davis admits to another regret about being on MTV. “I wish I hadn’t drank on that show. I was 22, so I was at that age when drinking was new and fun. That was my life lesson. It took me a long time to learn it but I’m finally sober. I wish I behaved like a responsible adult but it’s hard to do when you’re 22.”
The experience on the MTV show led to a writing position at a music blog and then to a job at a record label in New York, which Davis describes as “a crazy city; drugs and alcohol and sex are just so accessible, and those are addictions.” His parents urged him to move to Nashville to be closer to family and to live in a healthier environment.
Davis spent his early days in Music City doing a lot of co-writes (mostly with country artists and writers), where he learned the rules to songwriting. “After doing that for two years I started to get comfortable writing by myself, and I started to make goals for myself to not write with other people just because I felt more proud of the song if I could do it by myself. Sometimes if you write with other people they have different ideas of what the song is about, and then it gets split into something that’s not true to what the song was supposed to be about.”
Davis works with producers from around the world and writes lyrics to tracks they send him. “I get folders of instrumentals from an agency in Amsterdam, and when one speaks to me, I’ll write a song.” Earlier this year, DJs in India and France released songs that were co-written with Davis. Producers in Peru and Russia are currently shopping songs he co-wrote to record labels in those countries.
“Even though Nashville isn’t necessarily the home of dance and EDM and this is the home of country, I’ve found that by doing it here that I’ve made a lot of progress…there’s such a great network of songwriters and producers that are also interested in things outside of country.” Davis is also happy with the balance he has found in Nashville. He enjoys the relatively short commutes (compared to NYC and Chicago), the weather, food, and people. “I think there’s a different kind of people here; people in Nashville live healthier lifestyles.”
When Davis performs live, he sings to recorded tracks but also has a drummer and guitar player to add a live feel to his performance at places like Nashville’s B.B. Kings and the Analog at The Hutton Hotel. He is also booked to perform at Pride events this summer in Nashville and Milwaukee. (Photo at Milwaukee Pride by Jac Justice)
“I’ve been making a living as a DJ for the last three years; a lot of it is weddings and corporate events.” Davis continues to write for DJs who give him instrumentals to write EDM songs, but for the music he self-releases, he tries to make more of a “radio” song. “I feel like my music is going more and more in the direction of a traditional pop sound, and even a little bit of rock and roll.”
Davis plans to release two original songs this year, starting with Sun and Moon. Watch the video below to see behind the scenes on the set of his new music video.
Davis’s goal is to go on tour and do music for the rest of his life.
“I tell people that it’s a career where you feel grateful for every success you achieve, but it never feels like it’s enough. I always feel like there’s something I need to do next. Everything feels like a step; but it doesn’t feel like the top.”
Fun Facts and Trivia:
Favorite places for lunch: Mitchell Delicatessen, Mas Tacos Por Favor
Best coffee: Portland Brew, Dose Coffee
Best place to chill with friends: Thompson Hotel
Favorite park: Shelby Bottoms
Trivia: Davis likes to run the stairs at the Capitol building