He’s written songs for some heavyweights, and now the Arkansas native is coming out with a record that’s only taken him his whole life to create.
In the runup to the November 20 release of Ward Davis’ Black Cats and Crows, C&I is premiering the song “Ain’s Gonna Be Today.” We talked with Davis about the new record.
Cowboys & Indians: Congrats on the new record! You’ve said that this record has taken your whole life to make (pushing 41 years). What has been the most valuable takeaway from creating Black Cats and Crows?
Ward Davis: I realized while recording this record that I’d never really understood a lot of these songs until now. So many of them were written 10 – 15 years ago — a lot of living happened since then. I gained a lot of perspective I didn’t have before. Luckily I wrote those songs with guys a lot older than me, with a lot more experience than me.
C&I: What would you like people to know about how it came together?
Davis: That it took four years to record. Every time I’d think I was done, I’d write something else or find one in my catalog that I missed. I just cut and cut and cut until we had it. Right up through Covid.
C&I: If there’s an overarching theme or undercurrent in the new music, what’s the meaning in it for you?
Davis: We are all fools in life, and the only way to become a human is to keep living. Keep making mistakes. Keep falling short. Always hold the small victories up like they are Olympic gold. Enjoy life, no matter how hard it gets.
C&I: What’s the story behind “Ain’t Gonna Be Today”?
Davis: No real story. I wrote it with an elderly old man named Kendall Marvel about 16 years ago. We were going to smoke cigarettes and I asked him if he was gonna ever quit and he said, “Yeah, but it ain’t gonna be today.” We smoked and wrote it and went to lunch.
C&I: Any interesting stories about the process of creating, arranging, recording the tune?
Davis: My producer Moose Brown played the guitar and arranged it pretty much. We recorded it with my band at his studio in the woods. We’d been playing it awhile on the road, so it wasn’t too laborious.
C&I: Your songs have been recorded by a lot of big names. What’s your favorite interpretation of one of those songs and why do you think it really resonates with you?
Davis: Willie and Merle recorded “Unfair Weather Friend.” [It’s a favorite] because it’s Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. I’m proud of all my cuts, but, I mean, come on. I still have to pinch myself.
C&I: What was the first record you were blown away by?
Davis: Sweet Baby James by James Taylor.
C&I: Any favorite touring memories from this year or when you were on the road with Cody Jinks?
Davis: Getting to sing “Me & Bobby McGee” with Kris Kristofferson was the big one. Cody invited me to open a show with him and Kris a few years back, and Kris asked if I’d like to sing it with him. No-brainer. We shared a mic. He looked in my eyes. It was the coolest thing that ever happened to me.