The homegrown origins of Billy Davis' unique R&B stylings

Growing up in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Billy Davis was immersed in the gospel and R&B introduced to him by his mother and his uncle, a father figure in his life after his passed away when he was three.

Davis was also exposed to ‘90s R&B music when he attended school, a dance-favourite of his classmates. These experiences shaped Davis’ musical influences and the style of music he wanted to create in the local neo-soul and R&B scene.

His new single ‘Shoulda Known’ is actually something of an apology for his rapid rise in the music industry to his friends and family. The musician’s success has come unexpectedly quick, leading him to wish he had known more about the way the industry’s hype machine worked before it all began. The single is a big change in a number of ways for Davis, featuring a collaboration with American sister duo Van Jess and Matt McGhee, instead of his backing band The Good Lords. 

“It was a lot of work, [with] probably the most producers outside of myself I’ve ever had involved with a song,” he says. “I guess the bar has risen really high since the last album and it’s been a process of learning to work with multiple people. It was a long journey and the song’s come a long way.”

Davis’ upcoming album is slated for a 2019 release with ‘Shoulda Known’ as the first single, giving fans a taste of what’s to come. Collaboration drove much of the new project, as Davis learnt from other artists’ struggles and styles.

“The upcoming album is crazy, I feel like it’s ten times better than the last album, a lot’s happened in a year. There’s a lot of special artists on it, and also my home team, The Good Lords, are on it. I guess just expect something unexpected – still Billy Davis but next level stuff. Striving for perfection and striving for excellence.”

Davis describes his songwriting process as either reacting, or being inspired. If something happens in his life where he’s seen something and is reacting to it, he will straight away go to the writing room and write something. Sometimes, it’s just a random thought that Davis will want to talk about in an artistic way. 

“I’m either inspired by something that wants to tell me a story or I’m just reacting, like I’m pissed off on a day and received too many phone bills and I’ve got no money so I want to write a song about it or someone’s said something, and I want to write about it.”

Collaborations are important to Davis as a producer, songwriter and music director, because he needs a singer for his songs and with every additional instrument, a new tone is brought to the light shade of the music. Sometimes, it’s just members of The Good Lords, but Davis isn’t afraid to bring in outside influence. 

“It shapes a lot of what I do because in my head every rapper I collaborate with is just like another instrument, it’s imperative.”

Davis has a number of shows and festival dates coming up for the end of December and the New Year, including a DJ set where he’s planning to let loose and play unreleased music. He’s also planning on playing some single-launch gigs for ‘Shoulda Known’ as well as a music video release. 

The overachiever says he sets himself goals, though struggles with putting them in perspective. 

“Look to be honest, I’d love to do an Australian tour, do a US tour, do some form of tour overseas and get an ARIA nomination. Let’s go.”

Billy Davis will be performing at We Are 14 at the Penny Black in Brunswick on Sunday December 23. ‘Shoulda Known’ is out now via Sony.