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Jordan Davis ‘Buy Dirt’ Interview: Working with Luke Bryan, Gaining New Perspective, Writers’ Retreats, John Prine’s Influence + His Busy Year Ahead

In our interview, Jordan Davis and I talked about what inspired “Buy Dirt,” getting Luke Bryan on his song, how the past year gave him new perspective, writers’ retreats, John Prine’s influence on him, working with Julia Michaels and Hailey Whitters + more. 

“I’m just a dude that moved to Nashville in 2012 that hoped that one day he could get a song on the radio, and not even as a singer. I was just trying to write songs.”
— Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis has just released his new EP, Buy Dirt, and the response has already been massive. His appreciation for music and the greats who came before him serve as a solid foundation for the kind of artist that Jordan is. He is daring and bold with some of his stylistic choices, but he never neglects to pay respect with his appreciation of the finest staples of music. Davis is a multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter, but if I wasn’t already a fan of his and you hadn’t told me that before our interview, I would’ve thought I was just talking to a really down-to-earth and nice guy.

In our interview, Jordan and I talked about what inspired “Buy Dirt,” getting Luke Bryan on his song, how the past year gave him new perspective, writers’ retreats, John Prine’s influence on him, working with Julia Michaels and Hailey Whitters + more.

When it was first announced earlier this month that the EP was titled “Buy Dirt,” I was immediately interested in why he chose that title. Jordan gave me some insight into the inspiration behind it and how being home during the pandemic made him think about what really matters:

“A lot of it was coming out of this year, music going away, and having this thing that I’ve been doing for coming up on six years, every year, going out playing a bunch of shows and this really important part of my life taken away. And then being at home, it really kind of showed me what truly was important, and that was my family and my faith and my friends. Pandemic or not, those things aren’t going anywhere. To me, ‘Buy Dirt,’ is a reminder kind of to myself to just focus on those things that are truly gonna last, and try to build those up and not get caught up in the stuff that can just go away.”

When he was young, he always heard the saying that “you gotta buy land, ‘cause they ain’t making any more of it.” That saying ended up finding itself in the EP’s title track as one of Davis’ favorite lyrics in the song. When I asked him why he chose Buy Dirt to be the title of the entire project, he said he did it “kind of selfishly” so that he “could always look at it and remember what [he] learned through all this [life during the pandemic over the last year].” Before the project was even complete, he had already decided what to title this EP: “I actually named the EP before we even had all the songs for it. I was like, ‘Whatever this project’s gonna be, it’s gonna be called ‘Buy Dirt.’’ Fortunately I was still in that headspace with a lot of these songs, like ‘Trying’ and ‘I Still Smoked.’”

“I Still Smoked” is track 7 on the EP, but he has had the song in his back pocket for a while now. “‘I Still Smoked’ was an old song that’s always been hanging around, and I just thought it was perfect for this project.”

“I was kind of looking back on my past music, and I was like, I’m proud of all this, but I haven’t put that song out yet that I feel like I’m gonna look back on and be really like a staple song for me.”
— Jordan Davis

While he has had success with hit singles like “Singles You Up,” “Take It From Me,” and “Slow Dance in a Parking Lot,” he knew he needed to release “Buy Dirt” to fulfill his artistic passion: “I know I needed that. I was kind of looking back on my past music, and I was like, I’m proud of all this, but I haven’t put that song out yet that I feel like I’m gonna look back on and be really like a staple song for me.”

We started talking about some of the co-writers on this project, and I realized that the song “Buy Dirt” was actually written by two pairs of brothers (Jordan Davis, Jacob Davis, Josh Jenkins, Matt Jenkins). Jordan said that Josh and Matt are some of his and Jacob’s “best friends in town” and that they “usually turn a writing session into a small group, kind of Bible study, sometimes.”

He really brought it all together when he explained the significance of what the song “Buy Dirt” symbolized for the four of them in their careers as songwriters:

“That song came from us sitting around and talking about just how blessed we are and what truly, when this is all said and done, and people look back on us, nobody’s gonna remember how many number ones I had or how many records I put out. But they’re gonna remember what kind of person I was and what kind of family I left. That’s really where ‘Buy Dirt’ started.”

“I feel like a lot of people see the country star Luke and “American Idol,” and don’t get to see how really good of a dude Luke Bryan is.”
— Jordan Davis

Collaborations can sometimes feel artificial or lack a real connection between the artists, but not in this case. The stories behind Nashville collaborations are always some of the most interesting, so I had to ask Jordan Davis how Luke Bryan ended up on a song of his: “I actually sent Luke the song. I sent it to him in a text message. I’ve known Luke for probably four or five years now, just from meeting him crossing paths, and we’re on the same label.” Davis went on to say that he thinks that “a lot of people see the country star Luke and “American Idol,” and don’t get to see how really good of a dude Luke Bryan is.”

When he finished the song, he knew Luke Bryan would be a perfect addition to it: “It just kind of felt like Luke. I knew that everything we talk about in this song is, without a doubt, just as important to Luke as it is to us.”

Naturally, Jordan’s first instinct was to pull out his phone and text the song to Luke to see what he thought about it: “I just wanted him to hear it, so I figured the best way to do that was to just put it in a text and get it to him right there instead of going through management, just mainly because I knew Luke is super busy, and you never know if they’re gonna get a chance to hear it. So I shot it over to him one day and told him just to listen to it and told him how much the song meant to me and that I thought he was gonna be able to resonate with it as well. And he did it. He texted me right back and was like, “I love this song, and I want to be a part of it,” and it was a pretty cool day.”

Jordan Davis is very familiar with Luke Bryan’s success because he was in college when Luke was just starting out and dominating the country radio airwaves: “In college, Luke Bryan was country radio. There were nights before I moved to Nashville where I’d be at my college apartment, and we’d be sitting out back having some beers around a fire pit just listening to Luke Bryan songs.”

His younger self would never believe that one of his idols would one day be featured on a song he wrote: “I always think if somebody would have showed up that night and said, ‘Hey man, in twelve years, you’re gonna write a song that is your favorite song you’ve ever written and been a part of, and this guy’s gonna sing on it with you.’ I would’ve told you you were crazy as hell!”

The full circle moment was everything he’d hope it would be, too. Despite everything going on in the world, the two of them were able to be in the studio together when Luke recorded his parts for the song:

“We were actually able to get together, and I was there when he put his vocal in on it, and it was pretty wild. Just sitting there and hearing Luke Bryan sing some of my favorite lyrics I’ve ever put on paper, it was a cool day, and I’m very grateful to him for being a part of this.”

Some songs take off out of nowhere, while other songs may have felt like surefire hits that never panned out, but Jordan Davis knows that music is an unpredictable and sometimes random business:

“Music is tough to predict. You never know what’s gonna happen, but all you can do is put down the best song you can do that day and be proud of it. The good thing was we all left that day and were all like, no matter how good or bad this song does, it’s one of those that we could care less, we’re so proud of it. That’s a good feeling to have about a song.”

“Music is tough to predict. You never know what’s gonna happen, but all you can do is put down the best song you can do that day and be proud of it.”
— Jordan Davis

Three of the songs on this EP — “Buy Dirt,” “Need to Not,” and “Lose You” — were written on the same five-day writing retreat. He set the scene for what a writers’ retreat looks like with him: “It was a good five days right outside of Murphysboro. We rented a cabin and just went down there. We got up every morning, drank coffee, talked about life, and tried to start writing by noon.”

That kind of environment really forces a songwriter to get down to business and write some songs without the distractions that come along with everyday life. Jordan Davis says writing retreats are some of his “favorite ways to write” music: “I love it. To me, that’s one of my favorite ways to write. I think you can kind of get away from the everyday hustle and bustle. If you’re out of town, you don’t have nearly as many distractions or things that could pop up.”

Don’t get it twisted, though. These retreats sound fun, but the goal is still to be productive and write the songs like you came to do. Davis cleared up a common misconception people sometimes have:

“I think a lot of people hear writer’s retreat, and it sounds like a bunch of friends go down and hang out in a cabin for five or six days and grill out and just kind of turn it into a party, which, don’t get me wrong, we have fun. You want to be productive at them. When you get there, you kind of are like, ‘Alright guys, let’s get to work.’ And I just kind of love that it kind of feels like you’ve gotta put a hard hat on. As much fun as they are, it’s actually one of the only times that songwriting does feel like work, and to be honest with you, I kind of enjoy that.”

“I remember ‘Slow Dance in a Parking Lot’ got pitched around a little bit and got put on hold a couple times. At the time, I heard that David Nail had heard it and liked it…”
— Jordan Davis

Reflecting on songwriting and thinking back to earlier in his career, he remembered that one of his hit songs almost ended up going to another artist entirely:

“I remember ‘Slow Dance in a Parking Lot’ got pitched around a little bit and got put on hold a couple times. At the time, I heard that David Nail had heard it and liked it. Man, that was a long time ago.”

When I asked him about his wishlist of dream collaborations, he said that getting to work with Julia Michaels on their 2020 collab ,“Cool Anymore,” checked off the top spot on that list for him: “I remember Julia was at the top of that list for the longest time. I wrote with her a long time ago. It’s unbelievable how talented she is as a songwriter, artist, singer; the whole nine yards. Julia was up there for so long, and when I got that, I thought I kind of reached the pinnacle.”

Shortly after that, Jordan was featured on a song with Hailey Whitters titled “The Ride” on her album, Living the Dream. He explained how that collab came to be: “Me and Hailey became friends and took her out on tour. I remember when she sent me the song and was like, “Hey I want you so sing this with me.” I just sent her back, ‘I’m in,’ and I hadn’t even listened to the song yet. If it was coming from Hailey, I’ll do it. I knew it was gonna be a great song.”

His third and most recent collab with Luke Bryan had its own unique origin story, like we talked about earlier: “With Luke, it was just a shot in the dark and a prayer that he would be able to do this. Not just his schedule-wise, but want to be a part of it as well. So it’s crazy to even think where do I go from here.”

When it came to picking who he would like to collaborate with in the future, he couldn’t come up with anybody off the top of his head and said it has more to do with the feeling of the song: “To me, it’s so much of the song. If I write something, and I can hear somebody on it or I hear somebody that it would mean something. I need to kind of start thinking if we do another collab, who that next person would be.”

He has a lyric in the song “I Still Smoked” where he sings, “I remember Eminem playing on the radio,” so obviously his taste in music is wide ranging. I asked him what he had been listening to the most lately, and his answer might surprise you:

“Patrick Droney. He’s a singer/songwriter here in Nashville. He just put an album out called State of the Heart. We were in Mississippi this past weekend for a buddy of mine’s 40th birthday party, and my wife was about to slap me because it was a six-hour drive, and I don’t think we turned Patrick off. I think he’s a great guitar player and one of the best songwriters I’ve sat down with in a long time. He just made a great, great record. In all honesty, when I’ve got in the car the past week, I haven’t turned that record off. It’s a good one.”

This October, Jordan Davis is headed back out on tour to open for Kane Brown with Restless Road on the Blessed and Free Tour. Being able to tour again has been a long time coming, and he’s ready to perform again, but it’ll be bittersweet:

“I’m not trying to wish time away, because I have a daughter, and I’m enjoying getting to spend time with her, but October cannot get here fast enough! We’ve kind of somewhat started rehearsals and had a couple of little shows here and there, and, man, it just feels so good. I think it was good to miss it for a little bit and realize how much we missed it. We are counting down the days to getting back out on the road.”

But before he can go on tour, he has another big milestone coming up. This September, Jordan Davis and his wife Kristen are expecting their baby boy (they also have a one year-old daughter named Eloise):

“I really botched the timing of this one, but you take it as it is. September and then we’re getting right into touring mode. We get a month here at the house, and fortunately we’ve got some amazing family that are gonna come in and help out. But Jordan really screwed the timing up on that one.”

With so many songs and so little time, there are always songs that feel like they would’ve been hit singles if they had the time or opportunity to be pushed to radio. Jordan Davis has two songs from past projects that he holds close to his heart:

A personal song of his, “Leaving New Orleans,” appeared on his debut album, Home State, a song of which he is especially proud:

“’Leaving New Orleans’ has always been a song of mine that I just feel is really special. I remember I almost didn’t record it because I didn’t know if it was maybe too Louisiana-specific. But it’s so crazy to be in Seattle, Washington and play that at a show and hear people sing that with you. I think it’s just the meaning of it. New Orleans could be Boston, could be Cleveland, wherever.”

He went on to say that another song of his, “Church in a Chevy,” on his 2020 self-titled Jordan Davis EP, “is another song that I put right up in the category of ‘Buy Dirt,’” It happened to be very timely during the pandemic given that around “the time of the release, we literally couldn’t go to church,” and Davis “just really thought that was a special tune.”

Across his debut album and two subsequent EPs, Jordan Davis has only ever released one song that he wasn’t involved in writing himself, and that is the Buy Dirt EP opening track, “Blow Up Your TV.” John Prine wrote the song, and he has always been Jordan Davis’ biggest musical influence as far as songwriting. Davis even went as far as to say that he believes John Prine is “the best songwriter to ever live.” He explained why that song in particular stood out among Prine’s vast catalog and what the artist means to him:

“‘Blow Up Your TV’ was kind of the catalyst for ‘Buy Dirt.’ That chorus just feels like ‘Buy Dirt’ to me. Just what he says. John Prine is why I’m writing songs. We unfortunately lost him due to COVID. In all honesty, it was kind of a selfish move on my part to be the first song I ever recorded outside that I wasn’t a part of. To me, it’s really cool to look at my record and see John Prine as a songwriter on it. Also, to me, I don’t think that we were able to celebrate his life and his music and how much of an influence he had on country music. That was just kind of my way of saying thank you to him for the influence he had on me and the music he has left us. I thought it was a great way to kick this EP off.”

John Prine’s style was very diverse, and Jordan Davis touched on the varying approaches Prine would take with his songs. Davis called out Prine’s “Hello in There” and “Angel from Montgomery” as “songs that could just absolutely rip your heart out.” On the other hand, Davis said that “The Accident” and “Donald and Lydia” from Prine have a “tongue-in-cheek, almost funny, style that I think just fit John Prine perfectly.”

Today, some country fans are quick to call out modern country artists who don’t seem familiar with the roots of the genre, but it’s clear that Jordan Davis appreciates those who came before him in music: “[John Prine]’s range and ability to seriously do whatever he wanted when he sat down to write a song… If you’re gonna sit down and look up to somebody as a songwriter, that’s the guy I’m gonna look up to. He’s the GOAT.”

“I’m just a dude that moved to Nashville in 2012 that hoped that one day he could get a song on the radio, and not even as a singer. I was just trying to write songs.”

It doesn’t get any more plain and simple than that right there to describe Jordan Davis. He went from being a college kid in Louisiana to having three back-to-back #1 platinum hit singles on the radio, accumulating over 2 billion streams worldwide, and working with big names like Luke Bryan. Buy and stream his brand new EP, Buy Dirt, here.

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