David is most recognized for being the Platinum Mixer and Engineer behind ‘Sky Walker’ by Miguel, ’20/20′ by Justin Timberlake, ‘Blonde’ by Frank Ocean, just to name a few (see an impressive list of David’s work history charted below).
Vocalstar: Who is David Davis?
DD: I am David Davis and I engineer, produce, and mix songs.
VS: Where are you from? Do you think your upbringing has contributed to your style of engineering and production?
DD: I am from a really small town called Tazewell, TN. It’s by Cumberland Gap where the first settlers came to TN and built it up. It’s amazing and kind of gave me an organic nature about everything I do that I love. An example being that I don’t like hearing overly tuned vocals, unless it’s just for an effect. I want something to feel real, analog, and human. I think growing up in a small TN definitely played into my wanting to hear people play and do the real deal more than just looping sections, etc. It’s cool to hear a person’s mistakes because it’s relatable.
VS: Are you more of a music engineer or more of a producer?
DD: I am absolutely both. I spent a long time learning how to be the best engineer I could be so I could get to my goal of being a producer. I have been in the room working with everyone from Rick Rubin to Quincy Jones to Blake Mills and on and on – just being in those settings showed me what a good producer does and why they are good at what they do. I worked as an assistant engineer, engineer, and mix engineer to some of the best producers of our time.
VS: Describe the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a music engineer/producer?
DD: I’m sensitive. It sucks. I get my feelings hurt because I go so extra most of the time. And sometimes the things I do aren’t taken all the well. Like, ‘hey so I revamped your vocals through these distortion pedals and then into this weird stereo thing. Sometimes people hate it and sometimes people end up leaving it and it’s on the record. ‘Skywalker’ was like that with Miguel and the intro. He loved most of the weird things I did, but I had to remember that I was the engineer and not the producer a lot. It’s just my nature to want to elevate good stuff. Miguel is the best.
VS: What’s a typical day like for you as a music engineer/producer? What inspires you musically?
DD: Controlled mistakes. I have heard so much ‘perfection’ that I love to hear the mess-ups and I love how people react to honest. I want to be in this for the long haul and I want to make sure I’m hearing what’s supposed to be the next thing. I think it’s mistakes. I love hearing how jacked and clipped up the 808’s are in something like a Lil’ Uzi song or when someone is a little flat but it still sounds awesome.
VS: When do your ideas come to you?
DD: In the moment I’m hearing it or just kind of navigating my way through a session or a piece of gear. I love thinking of how it’s going to sound if I run it through a space echo twice then lay them both in or if I can widen something up in the stereo on the automation or something wild. It depends, but they are all in my head waiting semi-dormant just ready to go to work when I access them.
VS: What is your favorite song you have worked on and why?
DD: Skywalker. It was my first big one. It went to the super mixer and then he was like…’nah man, this sounds great’ and then Miguel used it and I worked so hard on it with him and we just went out and listened to it in the car at 3AM night after night along with all the other songs. I remember hearing it mastered the first time and just thinking ‘holy shit, this will be massive’ and then it came out. I love it. When it’s on the radio and people send me videos I always smile and dance. It launched me into whatever I am supposed to be and validated all the hard work and overdraft Bank of America fees and weeks where I could barely eat.
VS: What’s your favorite piece of music and why?
DD: I love the Deftones Around the fur. it was wild. The drums are so punchy and raw and honest and the whole thing was sang with a 100 dollar mic I believe. He has such a thing though, chino I mean. What an awesome album. It came out when I was 18 or so, and it blew my mind. So, it makes me feel 18 again when I hear it and that is a special time for a man.
VS: Who are your biggest influences?
DD: Embarrassingly I’ll have to say these influences and you’ll have to take them in without judgment until you hear me out. I have plenty, but here are a few and why:
Tool: They were innovators and artists, not just water-heads playing metal. They changed everything around so much that everyone tried to bite it and thought they were being original somehow. Stupid. Tool was a source of art when they first came out. Amazing. The same can be said for Radiohead. What in the hell are they doing?! They pushed boundaries so far that I don’t even think they knew where they were going. They were talented and educated pioneers of our times. I don’t listen to these bands anymore, but they’re always there with me in some way. I loved them for their unique qualities and the bravery to send it out into the world. Mars Volta: Again, I don’t listen to it now, but it was a force when I was younger. Absolutely ground-breaking for me.
VS: Which artist would you love to collaborate with and why?
DD: The one who is on his/her/their way, their own way. I love it when people are rad and don’t know they’re rad. This way we can kind of grow together. I’d love to work with someone like Yung Blood or Grandson. Great music, energy, powerful, the rebirth of rock but in a special way. Also, I haven’t worked with them yet, but I’d love to work with Syd or Quinn or Amber Mark. Ah, or SZA, there is so much out there that is incredible.
VS: Where can we expect to see you in 5 years? What are your dreams/ aspirations?
DD: I’d like to have a house full of kids and Grammys, working on good music with good people and with a small staff of good people who I care a lot about.
VS: What’s your idea of success? When will you feel like you’ve made it?
DD: If I can order a hot air balloon on my phone and have it pick me up from my porch and take me anywhere I’d like to go in that moment. I’d like for the person driving it to look identical to Zooey Deschanel but with Morgan Freeman’s voice, wearing Pee-wee Herman’s outfit from his big day out. We can call that success then.
|ARTISTS||SONGS // ALBUM||ROLE||YEAR|
|Miguel (feat Travis Scott)||‘Sky Walker’||Mixer // Engineer||2017|
|Miguel (feat Rick Ross)||‘Criminal’||Mixer // Programming // Engineer||2017|
|Miguel||‘Harem’||Mixer // Drummer // Engineer||2017|
|Miguel||‘Now’||Mixer // Guitar // Engineer||2017|
|Miguel||‘Shock and Awe’||Mixer // Engineer||2017|
|Miguel||‘Banana Clip’||Mixer // Engineer||2017|
|Christine and The Queens||Unreleased||Engineer||2018|
|Demi Lovato||‘Stone Cold (live)’||Mixer // Engineer||2016|
|Wu Tang Clan||‘A Better Tomorrow’||Mixer // Engineer||2015|
|Wu Tang Clan||‘Necklace’||Mixer // Engineer||2015|
|Frank Ocean||Blonde||Engineer (second)||2015|
|The War on Drugs||A Deeper Understanding||Engineer||2017|
|All Time Low||Last Young Renegade||Engineer (second)||2016|
|Wyclef Jean||J’ourvert||Mixer // Engineer||2017|
|Tyler, The Creator||Cherry Bomb||Engineer||2015|
|Haim||Live at La Fonda||Engineer||2014|
|London Grammar||Live at Hollywood Forever||Mixer // Engineer||2017|
|Superfly (Japanese)||‘A Ha Ha’||Mixer // Engineer||2014|
|Grizzly Bear||Shields||Engineer (second)||2017|
|One OK Rock||35xxxv||Engineer||2015|
|Jo Jo||‘Full Time Lover’||Engineer // Vocal Production||2015|
|John Legend||Darkness & Light||Engineer (second)||2016|
|Quincy Jones/Justin K||Dedication||Engineer (second)||2015|
|Ben Caron||Royal Heart||Mixer // Engineer||2015|
|Steve Porcaro||Somehow / Someday||Engineer||2015|
|Cailee Rae||‘Anchor’||Mixer // Engineer||2015|
|Brandy Robinson||Midnight Mockingbird||Producer // Mixer // Engineer||2015|
|Earl Sweatshirt||I Don’t Like Shit…||Engineer (second)||2013|
|98 Degrees||‘Impossible Things’||Engineer||2012|
|PSY||‘Got it From My Dad’||Engineer||2012|
|Ariana Grande||‘Die In Your Arms’||Engineer||2011|
|James Crowley||‘I love you, Jesus’||Mixer // Engineer||2009|