By Andrew Miller
When Dallas Davidson moved to Nashville to be a songwriter, calling him a long shot would’ve been a tremendous understatement. He’d never been in a band; he didn’t pick up a guitar (or any other instrument) until he was in his mid-20s, and was still learning how to play when he moved to Nashville. “I used to farm,” he tells me of his songwriting pedigree. “I literally would ride around on a tractor pouring out my mind all day thinking up songs.”
But what Davidson lacked musical experience, he made up for with hard work and incredible connections. He knew Luke Bryan from Georgia, and shortly after moving to Nashville befriended Brian Cole, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Rob Hatch and Jarrod Niemann, who have all become successful songwriters and musicians. “All of us were just friends and were kind of just start making a little headway in this town. We didn’t really know what we were doing. Some of us knew. All of them were more seasoned that I was,” he says. You wouldn’t know it, though—six months after moving to Nashville he had a publishing deal, and two months after that his second cut, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” co-written with Johnson and Houser, was all over the radio.
Things might have been a lot different had the song never been released. “There was a lot of hesitation. I think Mike Dungan over at Capitol Records was the only one who didn’t hesitate on it, Mike and Trace [Adkins]. I think the hesitation was…well hell, listen to it.” What made the song such a hit was likely their unwillingness to make the song more radio friendly. “We just sat down and said ‘Let’s write this thing how it’s supposed to be.’ There’s nothing you can do to make it safe.”
Being honest rather than safe is likely why people connect to Davidson’s music. Davidson draws inspiration from life, the kind of life he imagines a lot of people live and can relate with. “I’ve lived a lot of life,” he says. “I’ve been there and done that, before I even moved to town. You’ve got to pull from those life experiences. It’s a life I think a lot of people out there have lived. It’s a country life. Not a redneck life, a country life. It’s a fun life, and it’s adventurous.” And what does Davidson think country music listeners connect with most? “Girls. Girls are in a lot of my songs. We try to put a girl in the truck every time we write a song.”
In all, Davidson has co-written six number 1 hits, and 13 others that have broken the top 100, several of which were co-written with “The Peach Pickers,” a song writing team consisting of Rhett Atkins, Ben Hayslip and himself. His success has not gone unnoticed, and he was chosen for Billboard Magazine’s Hot Country Music Writer of the Year award in 2010. “I was flattered to get that award,” he says. “That’s something I’ll have with me the rest of my life. That was really cool; I’m still excited about it.”
Recently he co-wrote Bone Collector: The Brotherhood Album, a collection of hunting, fishing, and outdoors themed songs, with Rhett Atkins, and he’s co-writing and producing an album with his wife, Sarah Davidson, which will be recorded this fall.
For any writers aspiring to his success, he has this advice: “The first thing they need to do is pack up their bags and move to Nashville. When they get here, they’ve got to work hard. They’ve got to outwork everybody in town. That’s the way I did it, so that’s the only way I know to tell anybody.”