Nashville TN | Singer-Songwriter
In March of 2013, Elise signed her first publishing deal with Horipro Entertainment in Nashville, TN. “Where most artists wear their heart on their sleeve, Elise Davis wears hers in her emotionally-packed voice. The Little Rock native is making waves in Nashville’s music scene after winning American Songwriter’s “The Pub Contest” — a hefty publishing deal with HoriPro Entertainment — which was judged by artists like Holly Williams and Hunter Hayes earlier this month. The year-long deal will be the first venture into co-writing for the solo-singer, who has written all of her previous efforts, and was honored to have been selected for the opportunity. Often drawing comparisons to the likes of Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, Davis’ music has captured the attention of more than just those invested in the contest.” -NASHVILLE LIFESTYLES 5/30/13
Elise Davis began writing songs at the age of 12 in her hometown of Little Rock, AR. Her first song was inspired by a typical tween debacle in which she begged her parents to let her go to a grungy rock band concert in downtown Little Rock. After they denied her of this freedom, she ran away. “I got all the way down the street and sat on the corner, feeling vengeful, knowing they were at home frantically worrying about where I’d run off to,” she admitted.
After a few hours and no sign of a rescue, Davis moped home to find her parents exactly how she left them: her father sitting reading and her mother fixing things up around the house. Furious, she stomped past them and headed straight to her room. With a handful of guitar lessons and five chords in her pocket, she had enough musical ammunition to write her first song. Davis remembered: “I didn’t even think about it at the time. I hadn’t planned on writing a song and I never thought about being a songwriter before… it just happened.” And she was hooked.
In the following years, Davis worked on developing her songs and playing them out for audiences. Her high school band, The Sandbox Lizards, performed in local clubs and festivals in and around Little Rock. Of its 2006 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, that paper wrote: “Elise Davis was the star attraction …. (her) acoustic guitar songs especially made an impression on the judges.”
Davis then decided to embark on a solo career and released her first solo album as a senior in High School and continued to release an album a year throughout college.
In an Arkansas Times review of her third release they wrote, “Judged only by her rich voice and breezy, open-road arrangements …… Davis sounds mature well beyond her years. And judged even by her resume — two albums already under her belt and a third, Another Lonesome Romance, — she’s farther down the road to Sheryl Crow-dom than virtually all her 19-year-old peers.” ARKANSAS TIMES, 7/31/08.
Her song “Trouble” off her fourth album, “The Same Vein”, was dubbed by The Arkansas Times as its “favorite song to come out of Little Rock” in 2010:
“With “The Same Vein,” she’s taking a step beyond the organic folk-pop of her teenage years, into a richer, brighter world of confident indie-pop.” ARKANSAS TIMES 8/19/10.
“What the tunes reveal is maturity. This is the fourth release for Davis, and she’s grown comfortable as a songwriter.” SYNC MAGAZINE 8/17/10.
Inspired by alt-country, Americana, and rock & pop artists such as Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Shelby Lynne, John Prine, Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, Fleetwood Mac, and others, Davis brings a mature-beyond-her-years knowingness and a modern sensibility to her passionate songwriting and beautiful melodies. Following the release of “The Same Vein”, and after graduating college with a degree in English, Elise hit the road with her band touring throughout the country, bringing her music to new fans in Texas, Oklahoma, California, Florida, and of course to her hometown supporters in Little Rock; performing both with her band and as a solo performer.
In July 2011 during a flight home after touring in LA, Davis decided the next best move for her musical career was going to be to get out of Arkansas. That night she looked up apartments and applied for waitressing jobs then made the move to Nashville a month later where she is currently still located. Upon her move she recorded her fifth album, “Cheap Date”, at Beech House Recording with producer Mark Nevers. Several notable Nashville musicans are featured on the album, (Chris Scruggs, Caitlin Rose), and album was released in November 2011.
A review in SYNC Magazine writes that the album “proves disorderly emotions can be beautiful. Cheap Date is a powerful album filled with emotion, and Davis wears it all in her voice, singing beyond her 23 years.” SYNC 11/23/12.
Her most recent release came out on May 7th of 2013, a 5 song EP entitled “Big Ol’ Dreams”. The tunes were tracked in various studios around Nashville, mixed and mastered by Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mac, The Killers, ect.) It is available everywhere.
Nashville TN | Singer-Songwriter
Casey Black is the Nashville-born, Columbia-University-educated, gravel-voiced, literary singer-songwriting son of Charlie Black, NSAI Hall of Fame songwriter of more than a dozen #1 country hits. Casey wrote his first song at twelve years old, released his first "record" three years later (a cassette of songs he recorded in his basement on his father's hand-me-down equipment), and signed with EMI Music Publishing Nashville at nineteen, making him one of the youngest staff songwriters on Music Row.
There he wrote with some of the Row's greatest writers, including his father, and according to Casey, got "all the cocky, prima-donna, young-artist stuff beaten out of me by people who actually knew how to write songs." While his craft improved, his muse became aloof during his three years at EMI, and so, in order to "be as poor and lost as other people my age–to have something true to write about," Casey moved to Los Angeles.
In the next five years he made two records–Vacations, and The Glass is Half–the first of which was placed on KCRW Los Angeles deejay Tricia Halloran's top 10 records of 2005; the second having songs placed on ABC's show Greek, and Lifetime's Army Wives. He also cut his live-show teeth, playing some of LA's great singer-songwriter venues, like the House of Blues and Hotel Cafe.
In 2008, in order to finish his degree at Columbia University, Casey moved again, this time to New York, and after a school-induced music hiatus, he happened upon a show featuring Niall Connolly, the Irish-born figurehead of Brooklyn's Big City Folk scene. Inspired by the literary and honest approach to songwriting of the scene's players, he threw himself back into music and made his third record, It Shapes Me As It Goes, before playing shows in New England, the South, LA and Ireland.
Drawing a close to a circular decade, Casey recently returned to Tennessee, where he lives with his wife in a small country house outside of Nashville. His new record, Lay You In The Loam (recorded on Catbeach Music, in Los Angeles) is due out in late spring of this year. Casey, who owns more books than he does records, writes a literary lyric in the conversational, storytelling style–songs about optimistic pessimists, about the battles between the brain and the guts–and his deep singing voice is tumbled with gravel. It's a unique and compelling combination, one which may, as KCRW's Tricia Halloran put it, restore one's "faith in the lost art of damn fine songwriting." Casey recently returned from two tours in Ireland, the first with Mick Flannery; the second with Niall Connolly. Shows in New York, LA and Nashville are in the cards for the near future, and he plans on returning to Ireland later this year.
Houston TX | Rock
Mando Saenz has made a career out of watching people, haunting places, and asking questions. Studebaker, his third studio album released June 4, 2013 by Carnival Recording Company, is propelled by his self-deprecating wit, careful observation, and empathetic ability to make heroes out of outcasts. Recorded in sessions that began late last fall and spilled over into early 2013, Studebaker is a 12-song deep trek, the longest of any of Saenz’s albums thus far.
Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Bobby Bare, Jr., Andrew Bird) produced Studebaker in his home studio, Beech House Recording, in Nashville. Nevers helped Saenz assemble an ace core cast of players, while Saenz also called on friends including Kenny Vaughan, Pete Finney, Jedd Hughes, Kim Richey, and Bobby Bare, Jr. for cameos. The studio environment was raw and relaxed, prompting Saenz to feel both reinvigorated and nostalgic. “I felt like I was back in Houston or somewhere in Texas, where I recorded my first album,” he says. “It felt far away from Nashville. I’m not knocking Nashville. It was just a nice change for me.”
While it’s been five years since the release of his critically acclaimed second album Bucket, the path to Studebaker has been even longer. Born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Saenz moved to North Carolina at just two months old. Another move in fourth grade took his family to Corpus Christi, where his father, recently retired from the U.S. Army, set up a medical practice. Corpus Christi became home.
Before pursuing music professionally, Saenz earned an MBA in San Antonio, and when he sighs and tells you the white collar trophy was a nice get but a misguided one, it’s not a humble brag. “I was just kind of lost,” he says. But even after his soft-spoken brushoff, it’s easy to imagine Saenz, who is somehow simultaneously loose and precise, as a top student.
MBA in hand, Saenz found the call to create music too strong to ignore. When he chose a move to Houston over Austin because his brother set up a studio in the former, he was exposed to another world. “It was a good time to be a musician in Houston. A lot of us, like Hayes Carll and John Evans, were there together. I was in inner-city Houston, and it was just so cool—huge and unlike anywhere I’d ever lived.”
The pace, faces, sticky beauty, and musical camaraderie of Houston stayed with Saenz. And while Nashville has surely offered plenty of inspiration, characters and experiences from Corpus Christi and Houston take their turns on Studebaker as well.
Dabbling in pointed folk, hushed pop, honky tonk, and rock-and-roll, Studebaker combines the acoustic pensiveness of 2005’s Watertown and the full-bodied bravado of 2008’s Bucket. Saenz’s tenor, which has always been arresting, has assumed a full, rich timbre that can still deliver lines delicately, but can also howl like a freight train.
Saenz’s first two albums were often sharp-eyed studies in wanderlust and self, and while Studebaker picks up the torch, it carries it differently. His need to keep moving is now its own safe haven, and the fluidity or even duality of identity is a salve instead of a threat.
“I’ve been happy, I’ve been sad, I’ve been lucky, I’ve been unlucky. I’ve been spoiled, and I’ve also been whatever the opposite of spoiled is,” Saenz says. “Maybe I’m just getting to the age where I feel more comfortable talking, indirectly, about all of that stuff that most everyone can relate to.”
As he snarls, “Where’s my Studebaker / I’m nobody’s pocket change” in new album track “Pocket Change,” it’s clear that Saenz is not only comfortable, he’s enjoying himself. “I’ve been playing ’Pocket Change’ for a few years now,” he says of the infectious track, which he wrote with Shelly Colvin. “One of the reasons I decided to call the album ’Studebaker’ is people ask at shows, ’Hey, what album is that “Studebaker” song on?’”
In addition to touring heavily, Saenz spent the years between recording Bucket and Studebaker further developing what many already recognized as his greatest strength: his songwriting. A natural solo writer, he stretched by writing with and for an interesting variety of other artists. Saenz co-wrote every track save one on Stoney LaRue’s 2011 album, Velvet—which scored three No. 1 singles on the Texas Music Chart—along with all of the songs on Shelly Colvin’s recently released Up the Hickory, Down the Pine, which features her recording of “Pocket Change.” Wade Bowen’s recording of “Bottle into Gold,” which he wrote with Saenz, hit No. 1 on the Texas Music Chart. Another Studebaker track will grace another co-writer’s collection: Kim Richey cut “Breakaway Speed” for her new album, Thorn in My Heart. Eli Young Band, Whiskey Myers, and more also joined Saenz’s growing list of collaborators, while others such as Lee Ann Womack have rediscovered and recorded his solo-written work.
The songwriting on Studebaker shines because Saenz took the time and the chance to evolve. Five co-writers—Richey, Colvin, and Bowen, along with Ryan Beavers and Justyna Kelly—contribute to five songs, while the other seven songs are all Saenz.
“Breakaway Speed,” co-written with Richey and featuring her harmonies, beautifully chronicles a breakup with a toe-tapping pop melody. Fiddle in tow, “Tall Grass” swings through a classic boy-begs-girl-for-a-chance storyline, with a twist. “It kind of has a criminal element,” Saenz says. “I feel like there’s a little of that in me. I’ve never broken the law or been in jail, but I think there is a little bit of that criminal element inside of a lot of people.”
“Colorado” is an elaborate narrative that transports listeners to John Ford’s West. “Hard Time in Tennessee” is a character-defining list of things the hero wishes he could do, but just can’t. “Nobody” and “Battle Scar” grapple in different ways with the concept of identity, while “Sweet Marie” and “Smiles at the Door” are tender love songs.
“The only time I speak out is when I sing,” Saenz says. “I am more comfortable musically now, but in a lot of other ways, too. Maybe that comes through in the songs.”