Jordan Davis Never Dreamed of a Singing Career — But Now He Has a No. 1 Hit
The "Singles You Up" singer came to Nashville to write songs, but his publisher had different ideas for him
Call him an accidental country artist.
When Jordan Davis started his music career, he was laser-focused on songwriting. But his publisher noticed something special in his voice as well as his songs – and now his growing legion of fans get to enjoy both, too. Last month Davis notched his first No. 1 hit with “Singles You Up,” and the equally catchy “Take It From Me” has just been teed up (with the most adds at country radio this week) for his latest single release.
The 30-year-old native of Shreveport, Louisiana, is also celebrating an impressive reception of his debut album, Home State, released in March. This summer he’ll be touring, along with Chris Janson, on Jake Owen’s “Life’s Whatcha Make It” tour. Here are five more things you need to know about this rising star:
1. Music is his first love, but his second choice in careers.
Davis grew up listening to his dad’s playlist of country’s poet laureates, including Kris Kristofferson and John Prine, and he has been playing the guitar and avidly writing songs since his early teens. But his mom, he said, nudged him toward more practical pursuits, and he majored in resource conservation at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
“I’ll be honest, it was the best,” he tells PEOPLE. “I grew up a lot in college. I wouldn’t change it one bit.”
But once out in the work world, he quickly soured on his field. “It’s not all about working a job that’s safe and making enough money,” he says, “and it took a little while for me to catch on to that. When I did, it was like, boom, dude, you gotta go to Nashville. You need to write songs.”
2. He never aspired to be an artist.
For his first four years in Nashville, Davis spent his days in co-writing sessions and his nights bartending, working toward the day he could make a full-time living as a songwriter. His break finally arrived when he was invited on a fishing trip with a music publisher. That evening, Davis pulled out his guitar for an impromptu audition, but he says, “I ended up … screwing it up really bad.” (He confesses: “Too much Jack Daniel’s.”)
Benevolently, the publisher, Ben Strain, invited Davis to his office for a sober, second chance. Duly impressed, Strain told Davis he was ready to sign him as a songwriter and – to Davis’ shock – the publisher said he also wanted to work on attracting a record deal. “I think you’ve got a lot more voice than you think you do,” Davis recalls Strain telling him.
“At the time, I was like, hey, if that means you’re going to sign me to publish … I don’t care,” Davis says. “I just need a publishing deal.”
To persuade Davis he had artist potential, Strain booked him into a show at an out-of-the-way venue in Alabama – and that’s all it took.
“I fell in love with it,” Davis says. “I couldn’t get it out of my head … There’s no better feeling in the world than having people connect with something you’ve created.”
Incredibly, by the time he signed his record deal with UMG Nashville in 2016, he had performed in public only four more times, in writers’ rounds.
3. His older brother is also a recording artist.
Jacob Davis, who’s 32, actually arrived in Nashville first, but his career hasn’t moved as quickly as his brother’s; he’s still working on his debut album for his label (Black River Entertainment). But don’t think there’s any sibling rivalry. “We’re each other’s biggest fans in the world,” Jordan Davis says.
For a time, the brothers toyed with the idea of becoming a duo, but their individual progress put that to rest. They do regularly collaborate on songwriting: The two co-wrote Jordan’s new single, and another fraternal co-write will appear on Jacob’s upcoming album.
“He was the first one I got a message from when ‘Singles’ went No. 1,” Jordan Davis says. “We’re best friends, so we don’t let that stuff come between us.”
4. “Singles You Up” was inspired by a goofy, off-the-cuff comment.
Davis and songwriting buddy Steven Dale Jones were congratulating fellow songwriter Justin Ebach on his recent engagement when Jones blurted out, “You were smart not to single her up.”
“The second that got thrown out,” Davis recalls, “I think we all kind of looked at each other.”
It took about an hour for the trio to write the song. As for the unique hook? “We all kind of knew it was either going to be really cool or really dumb,” he says, “and luckily the phrase caught on.”
5. He doesn’t like to shave.
No kidding. But that only partially explains the lush, massive growth emanating from his face.
“I’ve never been a fresh-shaven guy,” he says. “But yeah, I started growing it out right after I signed my publishing deal and – I don’t know – I just really started liking it. Now it’s just taking on this life of its own. I feel like I need to get it its own Instagram account.”
Though it didn’t start out as his trademark, Davis is now glad it is. His fans, he says, “love it. I get a lot of requests to touch it, which is kind of weird.”
His wife, Kristen, who’s an attorney, met Davis without the beard, but “she’s used to it now,” he assures. “She’s cool with it.”