For the Davisson Brothers, all roads lead back to West Virginia
Country roots run deep, strong and about 325 years old in the Davisson family of Clarksburg, W.Va.
Early Davissons served in the Revolutionary War. Major Daniel D. Davisson was awarded 400 acres and the family went on to settle the town there. Family members have been buried on the land since the 1700s.
Today, the farmland still produces beans and garlic from the original strains, and the Davisson boys are still producing music derived from the original strains of their great, great, great grandfather and perhaps beyond.
“There were several generations of musicians, as well as a long line of old mountain fiddlers. We evolved from fiddling to the acoustic guitar instruments,” Chris Davisson said during a phone interview with a What’s NXT reporter. He had recently returned home from Nashville, Tenn.
Davisson is guitarist and songwriter for the Davisson Brothers Band, which Rolling Stone magazine featured in 2018 as one of 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know. In 2019, the magazine named the group’s single “Unbreak You” as one of the Best Country and Americana Songs You Need to Hear Now.
The Davisson Brothers Band will perform in concert Saturday, Jan. 18, at The Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84 on Lappans Road in Williamsport. Along with Chris Davisson, the band is made up of his brother, lead singer Donnie Davisson; their nephew Gerrod Bee on bass and backup vocals; and Aaron Regester on drums. Known for songs like “Po’ Boyz,” “Get Down South,” and “Unbreak You,” their sound has been compared to country, rock and southern rock acts including Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, Bon Jovi, ZZ Top, Neil Young and 38 Special.
The family trade
“There were always fiddle players in the family,” Davisson said. “Then my grandfather started playing guitar in the mid-1900s and my dad picked up electric guitar. Growing up, my dad was a working musician and he still tours 250 days a year.”
By the time Chris and Donnie Davisson were three years old, they were onstage with their dad and their uncle Pete Davisson.
“We started on little, small instruments and we started out early. The idea was to instill it and see if they decide to go further with it, which we all have,” he said. “In my family, we can play pretty much anything with strings on it.”
Athletics also is important to the family.
“We were all athletes, all regional champs,” Davisson said. “We did wrestling, football, baseball. We kind of grew up playing sports, playing music, hunting and fishing. And that’s still pretty much our lifestyle here today.”
Music, though, is the family trade.
“Music is what you do if you have our last name. If you are here in West Virginia and your name is Davisson, that’s pretty much related to music,” he said. “We all knew from early on that we’d be making a living making music. Since grade school, I’ve known it’s our family business. It’s how we paid our bills. It’s just what we do.”
Davisson said he has four nephews who are working musicians with touring acts as well.
Shaking hands and practicing patience
Besides just playing, the Davisson boys began to learn the ropes of the music business as kids.
“When we were just still in grade school, we’d make trips to Nashville. One of our uncles would take us down and kind of let us check out the music scene so we could understand how it worked,” Davisson said.
Coming from rural West Virginia, they did not have access to recording studios, major venues and music executives.
“Things were much different. That was a good thing for us and a bad thing for us. We had to work harder here in West Virginia, do more shows, meet more people, connect with fans on a different level,” he said.
He took to heart a piece of advice he received from southern rock icon Charlie Daniels while touring with him early on.
“He took us in the bus. He said, ‘I’ve sold millions of records. I have millions of fans. You know how I did that? I shook every one of their hands.’ That stuck with us for a long time,” Davisson said.
It was long after the Davisson Brothers Band established a reputation in the live market that they released their first album. They waited 15 years in large part due to the family emphasis on the concept of legacy.
“We demo-ed a couple things but we didn’t have the right producer. I looked at it as we didn’t want to get a record out there that didn’t really represent us,” he said. “We looked at it like getting a tattoo. It’s something you need to live with for the rest of your life.”
That patience eventually led them to multiple award-winning producer Keith Stegall, who produces for acts including Alan Jackson, George Jones, Zac Brown Band and Clay Walker. Davisson especially liked Stegall’s support for using the actual band in the recording studio rather than hiring studio musicians.
“Keith is that rare producer who lets you bring in your band that you play with live onstage. It’s been an amazing ride for us,” he said.
Looking forward to the New Year
Davisson sees the accolades the band has received from Rolling Stone magazine as validation for what they already do. Growing up as kids, he said, Rolling Stone was “our only source of the music industry.”
“We grew up with that magazine in the house,” he said. “It was an honor to be acknowledged by them, an honor that somebody picked us, chose us, to put us in the categories with the other artists that were in that.”
The group is popular in Australia, where its single “Po’ Boyz” became a No. 2 hit in 2018.
“We’ve had a couple hit songs there. We get to go and tour there. We have a record deal with Sony records there. We try to divide our time and effort between Australia and the U.S.,” he said.
For now, the band is focusing a lot on hosting the first annual Wild & Wonderful Country Fest in Morgantown, W.Va., during August 2020.
“We got a stellar group of musicians coming in,” Davisson said.
The group continues to travel with a solid tour schedule, carrying canned vegetables from the farm along with them. They’re working on a new music video and they have a new record deal Davisson said he “can’t speak of in detail.”
“We are getting ready and looking forward to the New Year for sure,” he said.
Davisson Brothers Band has a strong following in Washington County and the surrounding region.
“We get a lot of radio play and draw from a really strong fan base,” he said.
The audience at the Williamsport concert can expect to hear “new songs nobody has heard yet.”
“We’ve been woodshedding the last couple of months. We have some new material and we’ll showcase that,” Davisson said. “It will be high energy, good vibes, good friends. People should bring their dancing shoes. We are looking forward to shaking everybody’s hand after and bringing our A-game.”
Top photo: Brothers Chris and Donnie Davisson (Submitted photo)