A tried and true Michigan musician, Joshua Davis, released The Way Back Home in September 2017. Produced by Steve Berlinof Los Lobos, The Way Back Home is Davis’ latest full-length studio album and first since his 2015 appearances as a Top 3 finalist on NBC’s “The Voice” (season 8). The 11 original Americana songs featured on The Way Back Home reflect an honest, hardworking family man scribing scenes of the cycle of life through dark, broken, hopeful, and triumphant times. Interviews and hi-res photos are available upon request.
An upbringing residing in the city of Detroit while spending summers on the southern tip of Lake Superior in Marquette, MI brings into view the backdrop of Davis’ latest works. The Way Back Home follows a series of singular recordings (Fool Rooster, Magnolia Belles, A Miracle of Birds) by the prolific songwriter who has shared the stage with a “Who’s Who” of American folk music icons such as Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Greg Brown, and Abigail Washburn. Recorded in East Lansing, MI by legendary engineer Glenn Brown, The Way Back Home highlights Davis’ longtime collaboration with Jack White’s bassistDominic John Davis, pianist Mike Lynch (Willie Nelson, Leon Russell), and drummer Mike Shimmin (The Olllam).
Already a heavily touring/recording artist with his previous band Steppin’ In It (who have released five albums) and as a solo act with five albums under his name, getting a call from “The Voice” was completely out of the blue for Davis. Unfamiliar with the show, he initially rejected the inquiry but the producers were persistent. After being convinced by his wife and allowed to skip the auditions, Davis signed up for an incredible six months in the national TV spotlight. He went on to sing high profile duets withSheryl Crow (Live Finale: “Give It To Me”) and Adam Levine (Live Finale: “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shows”), and he helped break the mold of original material being showcased on “The Voice.” Davis was the first artist to sing an original on the show, which spawned the later segment, “This Week of Original Songs.”
During Davis’ tenure on “The Voice,” the production team produced a new version of his single, “The Workingman’s Hymn” (Magnolia Belles) and a companion music video. The newly recorded single landed in a Nissan car commercial, and formerFlorida Governor Jeb Bush co-opted the song without permission during his bid for the U.S. presidency. Davis’ team quickly terminated the use of the song that’s well known for its hooky chorus, “I know that we can turn it around.” His work with renowned vocal coach Trelawny Rose also proved to be a remarkable opportunity while on “The Voice.”
Davis entered the recording sessions for The Way Back Home with a well-oiled machine of a voice primed for the collaboration with Steve Berlin. His rough-n-tumble grit mixes with an undeniable Midwesterner’s charm for a soaring vocal performance onThe Way Back Home. With his voice taking center stage, Davis’ signature lyricism and deft acoustic guitar work is backed by a trio of Michigan’s finest musicians.
“The Way Back Home” is a very personal look at where I’ve been and who I’ve become,” says Davis. “In my 20’s, I felt like a disconnected ghost going town to town performing every night, and it just wasn’t a healthy life. I’ve learned many valuable lessons in how to be a better person, husband and father. Home grows and changes with or without you. If you don’t pull it together, it’ll leave you behind. I feel very reassured to have found stable ground in life and in a career that isn’t necessarily filled with security. The album takes listeners through my own trials and tribulations.”
Original Compositions Featured on The Way Back Home
Destined for topping the AAA radio charts, “Just Getting By” opens up The Way Back Home with a contextual table of contents for the entire album. Davis reminisces about the nostalgia of summertime fun as a kid and the early honeymoon period of a romantic relationship with its extreme highs and lows. The piece evolves into cherishing stability in love and life; that even though you can’t return to your past, you can create amazing new memories.
The standout single “Let Me In” traces broken promises, missed chances and longing for the one you love; themes that are all too common in life on the road as a touring musician. Davis belts “honey won’t you let me in, I swear that I’ve been true. Maybe I’ve seen it all, but there’s nothing at all like you.”
Set in his 20’s, “Nowhere Without You” mulls over the moments being without the one you love most and needing them close now more than ever. Alone and looking back, Davis walks in circles remembering all the things he misses about his companion. “Good Love Last” turns the page in seeking the advice of your elders; specifically family members who’ve had hard times, but endure and keep love alive in their marriage. The song serves as an homage to those who stick it out and stand side-by-side with the one they love.
While on a writing retreat on Mackinac Island (Michigan), Davis found himself in his hotel room when the movie Titanic came on TV. While not his favorite movie, it served as a reminder that films can spark the writing muse and he went on to pen “Change The Game.” Based off of three movies Casablanca, Harold & Maude, and The Princess Bride, Davis sings of lovers stuck in the past who must keep it fresh and change it up. Each verse is a subtle reference to these films he loves.
“Shine A Light” and “Always Gonna Be Here” carries the album’s narrative to his two kids with the sentiment of no matter what happens, they can always depend on him. As kids take chances and risks, knowing they have a lighthouse keeper at all times allows for them to grow and be unconditionally loved and supported by Davis and his wife. And for his wife, he wrote “The Little Things,” a song about truly appreciating the nuances of marriage. Savoring the sweetness of time spent together as it’s referenced in the final lyric of the song, “It’s in that easy silence when there’s nothing (that’s all) we need to say, just a beautiful transcendental ending to a perfectly ordinary day.”
The final three compositions on The Way Back Home complete the life cycle through hard times, dealings with death, and seeing people for who they really are. “Trouble” finds its way with those who seem to only walk on air; behind the veil of superiority lays difficulties that everyone faces. If challenges are not confronted, “Trouble” asserts it can ruin the soul. Penned by childhood friendAaron Allan, the lyrics of “Rosarita” show the paradox between faith and death as the narrator struggles with the loss of his son. “The Ballad Of Lawrence Wotkyns King” is a classic folk ballad co-written by Tom Bourguignon about a couple in love, and upon the death of the woman, the man takes his own life. The heartbreaking tale exhibits the openness of joy and the inherent pain in the loss of a partner.
Joshua Davis’ Non-Profit Work
While not of the road, Joshua Davis continues his work bringing Michigan musicians to Michigan students (K-12) with his non- profit On Stage 4 Kids. He appears with Earthwork Music showcases, a collective promoting original music in the state of Michigan and beyond. Davis also gave a TEDx talk following the release of A Miracle Of Birds, focusing on his experience as a Jewish-American in the Palestinian West Bank. His singular work resulting in the recording of A Miracle Of Birds was with the non-profit On the Ground for the Run Across Palestine (5-day, 129 ultra-marathon) helping to raise funds in support of fair- trade olive farming communities in the West Bank.