The success I have found comes from treating my music career like a full-time job and putting countless hours everyday into finding collaborators, promoting my music, learning the business, networking with other artists and writing new songs. I can’t stress enough how important doing all of these things to creating your own success.
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Davis Mallory.
MTV’s Real World 2006 alum Davis Mallory has traded TV cameras for a DJ booth and a microphone, proving that he refuses to be put in a box.
With family ties in the music industry, Mallory had always established a love for music, but it wasn’t until years later that he started creating original music of his own. Mallory lived in NYC for 2 years, working as the Marketing Coordinator at Astralwerks Records (label home to David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, Kylie Minogue). It was there that he attended a lot of DJ sets, learned to DJ at Dubspot School of Electronic Music, and began songwriting–initially writing toplines over EDM beats some producers gave him. In August 2013, he left Astralwerks and moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting and begin recording his own original music. He dropped his sophomore album “Little Victory” on January 29th, 2021.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, my mother is an award-winning graphic designer and visual artist in multimedia. Today she is an art teacher and creates art pieces which you can find at www.GretchenNeal.com. My father James Davis Mallory III, who I’m named after, is the son of a best-selling Christian author, psychiatrist & pastor James Davis Mallory Jr. My father’s brother John Mallory is a singer-songwriter who has written music recorded by Wynona Judd, Sixpence None the Richer. & Ty Herndon My dad’s sister married Chaz Corzine the manager of recording chart-topping Christian artists Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. So I was raised in a very musical & artistically nurtured creative yet orthodox Christian family. I grew up north of Atlanta in a suburb called Marietta where I played football for a season + was on the rowing team. My first job was at a Chick-fil-A and then throughout most of high school I worked at Christian music store. I was always passionate about singing. My mother said when I left for college the singing in the house stopped. I was in a child’s choir and continued on throughout high school where I auditioned and was cast into a 5-guy 5-girl acapella group called Ensemble that included current recording artists Kristian Stanfill (a Dove-award winner Christian singer), Ryan Horne (whose music has been on Walking Dead), & Sean McConnell (signed to Rounder Records)- watching these peers succeed in musicfueled my drive to pursue a career of my own, after I completed my time on MTV’s The Real World.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a child I dreamt of being a pop-star — but my mother really wanted me to be a doctor like my grandfather — for job security. I was very smart in Math and Science and thus was Pre-Medicine at Stetson University. I took the MCAT, interviewed at medical schools, but hoped I wouldn’t get admitted because I wasn’t ready for this career path at the time because I wanted to accomplish my goal of becoming a recording artist. Even though I had an uncle who managed successful artists, I did not feel that I could ask him to “make me a star.” I had no idea how to become a recording artist, so in my own round-about manner I auditioned for and was cast on MTV’s The Real World my senior year of college which took my life in a fun and unexpected direction. From 2006–2011 I participated in the Real World Denver and then 3 MTV Challenges (Inferno 3, Duel 2 and Rivals 1) which was enough for me. I did not want to become a “Challenge star” and I began to shift my focus back to my real love of music. I met Brian Graden, CEO of Viacom, at a party in LA and asked if I could interview for a job at MTV. He set me up on interviews at several departments and I found a role as a Music News writer for the MTV owned website NewNowNext. After writing their music column for a few years I took a full-time job at Capitol Records in New York City as the Marketing Coordinator for a dance label called Astralwerks (home to Halsey, David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, Kylie Minogue). While at Astralwerks I hoped to become an artist on their label, but quickly learned that being an employee at a label and getting signed to the label was essentially impossible. I began songwriting and recording myself from home at this time when, and also took DJ lessons when I met a recording artist named Parson James (vocalist on Kygo’s “Stole the Show”). Together we began writing songs and his manager thought I sounded like a Country singer and said I should check out Nashville. My father had just taken a job in Nashville as the Director of Rocketown, a music venue founded by Michael W. Smith. I decided to move to Nashville and focus my energy into my career as a singer-songwriter leaving my record label days behind me.
When I first moved to Nashville I purchased a copy of Music Row magazine’s In Charge Edition (which listed out all the power players in Nashville’s music industry) and I emailed all 300 people asking them for coffee. Over 1/3 agreed to meet me and thus began my journey into songwriting in Nashville. Within my first year I wrote with several Grammy winning songwriters and writers of Country music #1s. At the time I wanted to be a Country artist, so everything that I wrote was very Country-sounding. I loved listening to Dance music though and I began contacting the DJs asking if they wanted to remix or produce my songs. My first label signed song was with John Dahlback, by doing so I accomplished my goal of becoming a singer with an artist affiliated with the record label past — as John Dahlback was a collaborater of Swedish House Mafia and got my song “Anyone Would Know” signed to Armada Records in 2017.
John Dahlback, Davis Mallory — Anyone Would Know — https://armas1295.lnk.to/AWKYA
Then in 2020 Astralwerks placed my song “Believe” with Russian DJs Going Deeper in their Astralwerks Party Playlist — which was the most full circle moment for me in my career.
Going Deeper, Davis Mallory — Believe — https://goingdeeper.fanlink.to/cvpj
MTV in 2019 used my song “Shirtless” on an episode of the The Challenge War of the Worlds. So in both chapters of my career I found recognition for my work which was most rewarding. Davis Mallory — Shirtless — https://sl.onerpm.com/9813505847
I now have a second single with John Dahlback releasing on Hardwell’s label Revealed/Gemstone on March 19, 2021 called “Forget U.”
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The year my first label-released song came out — 2017 — I decided to fly to Amsterdam to meet with that label and attend ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event). This week-long music business event opened the door to many of my current partnerships: my manager, co-writers and producers that I work with on a daily basis producing many of the songs on my album. I thought I would only be in Amsterdam for a week but wound up staying for 2 months after meeting singer-songwriter Emy Perez and Gia Koka who graciously let me stay at their apartment in Amsterdam the full 2 months. I travelled to Copenhagen, London and Stockholm for writing trips and penned songs that I’m about to release on my forthcoming album “Say You Hate Me,” “Fire Signs” “Atlanta” “Shirtless” were all written in Stockholm, Sweden and “Ain’t Afraid” came about from meeting a producer at Amsterdam Dance Event. This trip and risk single handedly changed the direction of my sound of music and career. It’s a trip I’m so glad I took.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
While Nashville is certainly known for Country Music there are plenty of artists who are working outside of that genre. I have lived in Nashville since 2013 and I have met and worked with many interesting artists in other genres, some notable ones include Devon Gilfillian: a Rock-n-Roll-style Bluesy artist who is now signed to Capitol Records. Devon and I were in a songwriters group called OSOM — standing for One Song One Month — where every month each of us approximately 40 members are paired up with someone different to write a song together and return a month later to play it for the group. Another collaborator and a close friend is Brittany Cannarozzi, who goes by Luma, who has become a big name in the EDM world with vocal features on records by DJs Crystal Skies, Seven Lions, Last Heroes, Dion Timmer, Nurko, ARMNHMR & Zack Martino. Brittany would say she got her start toplining — the term for writing the lyric and melody over an instrumental track often created by DJ/Producers — by working with me, as it was something I was already doing and she was interested in learning about it. She now has huge streams on Spotify! Luma appears on the song “Ain’t Afraid” on my album Little Victory.Female EDM vocalist Notelle is another dear friend — we met because we shared the same music producer — Timothy Ryssemus who produced the song “Loud” on my debut album — and became close friends. Notelle and Luma co-wrote the song “Forget You” on my album “Little Victory” of which the John Dahlback version is coming.
Damian Malnar and Charley Holden of the band Lost Stars (a pop band in the vain of One Republic/Maroon 5) and Damian’s girlfriend Violet Lavelle a Pop powerhouse singer, and my guitarist Timothy Myles — pop Americana artist — are the choir on my song “Faith” — the final song on my album. The group of us regularly have game nights at Damian/Violet’s house where everyone is singing. It’s a fun night when we’re all together.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
The people in Nashville are in my opinion the best part — there are really great people with strong morals, people of faith who love big and are happy to shine light and praise on each other’s success. Nashville is such a collaborative city — pretty much everyone moved here to pursue music and most everyone is willing to work together to write songs, create art and video. I have met so many nice amazing people through the years and the results have created within myself the best version of me that I could be today, celebrating 4 years of sobriety, owning a house and friendships that I treasure. I also have my family here — grandmother from my dad’s side, several cousins and aunts/uncles here so this is home for me. I would not be where I am today without Nashville.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have found that I often do things the wrong way first and learn from that mistake, even on MTV’s Challenges where I had to work puzzles to win contests — like when I competed against Evan on the Duel 2 and lost a puzzle challenge because I started the puzzle the wrong way. Here is a classic example within my music career — I’m living in New York City and decided I want to make my very first music video. I reached out to director Derrick Lipschitz, who later filmed the video for my song “Loud”. I wanted to make a video for a cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”, as I had literally kissed a girl (singer Natalia Kills) that week and liked it so the song was stuck in my head and had new meaning for me; however, I had not yet recorded the audio and thought it was plausible to make a music video first of me walking around New York singing the song acapella — then take this video to a music producer and have him make music around our video. I learned the hard way that that does not work — and had to shelf the video — because I was not singing to a BPM (exact speed) so the producer was not able to make music around what I was singing. For those interested here is that video — https://youtu.be/V2wiy8sPa00
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I first moved to Nashville several older kind songwriters worked with me and showed me how it’s done. Roger Murrah, BMI’s Songwriter of the Decade who penned many #1 songs was my first co-writer — inviting me into his writing sessions where I learned songwriting basics. Next up Scot Sax — Grammy-winning songwriter for Tim McGraw/Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved At All” wrote with me numerous times and showed me a very different method to writing music — he also got me set up to write by myself. Since then there have been so many people who have taught me little tricks along the way. Everyone has different methods to their musical madness. My dear friend Notelle (Stephanie Middleton) who has been self-managed for years — I’ve learned a lot about being an independent self-managed artist from her. I have luckily begun working with Alex Ter Horst, manager at Nevaland Music based in Amsterdam, who has devoted so much time guiding me through the many record label contracts that I have been presented through the years as a featured vocalist for DJs. Alex also helped with picking out the songs on this album and how to best market them. Music publicist Lyndie Wenner creatively inspired the song “Shirtless” on my album — as she famously asked me what my most engaged social media posts were to which I answered shirtless photos of myself and thus a song called “Shirtless” became my new project as instructed by her. Attorney Christian Barker was very instrumental in helping me through my first album: Loud which I released in 2017 when the song of the same name was signed to Cedric Gervais’ label Delecta. Davis Mallory, Landis — Loud — https://dtr005.lnk.to/LoudYA I now have many singles on different record labels including Hardwell’s Revealed, EDX’ Sirup, Armin Van Buuren’s Armada, Don Diablo’s Hexagon, Warner Denmark, Sony Knightvision, Soave, and more.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Ever since 2017 when my first label release song came out on the Amsterdam based label Armada I have been traveling back and forth to Amsterdam working with producers overseas. I have created a large library of unreleased songs — this album Little Victory is just the tip of the iceberg — as I have been actively writing every week and placing songs with DJs. 2021 will have multiple DJ releases starting on Feb 26 with DJ Nexeri called “Without you I Feel Good” releasing on Soave Records, co-written in Berlin with PollyAnna (writer of Paris Hilton’s new single “I Blame You” and Steve Aoki’s new song “Close to You”). Also on Feb 26 I have a release with Swedish DJ/Producer Foldes called “Breakdown” releasing on Metanoia records. John Dahlback and I have the song “Forget U” coming out on March 19 on Hardwell’s label Revealed.. I also have come up with a concept for my third album and am actively writing for the project. I’m excited as it’s a concept album — unlike my previous two records “Loud” and ‘Little Victory.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. The success I have found comes from treating my music career like a full-time job and putting countless hours everyday into finding collaborators, promoting my music, learning the business, networking with other artists and writing new songs. I can’t stress enough how important doing all of these things to creating your own success.
2. Next up I would suggest finding a good manager or lawyer with experience with contracts to make sure that you are making careful and wise decisions before you sign any contracts.
3. Be sure to register your music with a PRO (I’m with SESAC), then find a publishing administrator (I’m with Songtrust) and register your music at SoundExchange to collect your royalties across the board. Do all 3! At the start of my career I only knew to join a PRO — the other 2 entities I did not learn about for a few years.
4. When you are in a writing situation be sure to collect everyone’s PRO affiliation (BMI/SESAC/ASCAP), their IPi #, email, mailing address and agree upon the splits at the beginning. A trick though — you can look up people’s PRO + IPI# on the aforementioned PRO websites if you are having difficulty tracking someone down. Their publicly released music will be on these sites with this information listed. If you bring on a DJ to one of your songs expect to reduce your publishing and master ownership by sharing it with the DJ. Anyone who creates the song (by either singing on the record, playing an instrument, producing the record or paying for the record to be recorded) is entitled to share the master. If you wrote the song but you do not perform on the recording you do not own the master, you only own copyright.
5. Contrary to some beliefs you don’t have to copyright your music to have it be copy-written protected — a recording of it time stamped is verifiable evidence for proof of creation. Copyrighting songs cost around 40–50 dollars/song. Imagine writing hundreds a song per year, it adds up. You can save yourself some money by copyrighting a group of songs together but only if they have the exact same co-writers on each song. The positive thing about copywriting music is that if you discover someone has infringed upon your property your ability to sue for damages greatly increases (we’re talking the difference of around 3K dollars if you did not copyright it and 150K dollars if you did copyright it). I had this incident happen when a DJ knowingly released a song I wrote without including me on the songwriting credits or the label contract, and I had to spend several years going after him to have myself listed on the song and begin receiving royalties.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think having a diversified life is important. At this stage in my career I am blessed that my income is generated mostly from music — by DJing events (I DJed a Vanderbilt party in Nashville last night) and Pre-Covid I DJed nearly every weekend year round at a wide range of events including nightclubs, private parties, opening for other artists, weddings and corporate events. I also sang live performances — at LGBT prides in Amsterdam, Prague, Milwaukee, Stockholm, Nashville and the Denver nuggets halftime show. During 2020 I was scheduled to perform in Germany, Chicago, Palm Springs, Australia, and North Caroline then the pandemic occurred and all of these shows were cancelled. Like many musicians I had to find other ways to earn income in 2020 and focused more efforts on writing music for DJs — who buy my songs and release them with my voice — I realized by taking a break from my heavy touring schedule that I was actually burning out from performing so much — and I really enjoyed the year 2020 by having a change of pace. Although I am very eager to get back to touring again I learned that taking a break can be a great thing.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount f good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have been sober from all drugs and alcohol for 4 years and it has changed my way of thinking — I really feel “woke” to a lot of the brainwashing the media uses to make getting drunk and high look cool in movies and commercials. I wish there was a bigger movement spreading the devastation that alcohol and drugs brings into people’s lives so as to steer them away from the very addictive lifestyle of drinking every weekend that most people take part in. Ever since I became sober I have witnessed so many people ruin their lives due to drunkenness. The movement I would love to spearhead is a movement towards sobriety because I have an amazing life — going out DJing, dancing, attending parties with friends — and none of the hangovers and mistakes that I used to incur.
Another movement I would love to take part in is policing the food and drink that we consume. There is a teaching that the water we consume has fluoride in it which calcifies our pituitary glands — our spiritual centers — thus making us less spiritual beings. I try to avoid water and toothpaste with fluoride as a result. Also the food we consume is full of cancerous and toxic chemicals and I wish there was a policing authority firmly removing everything toxic from our food and drinks.
Lastly and most importantly in today’s society there is a lot of misinformation being spread on both sides regarding politics, this virus and vaccines. I said a prayer this week that truth is revealed to myself and to all of us regarding the safety of this vaccine. Whatever is true I hope will be revealed to us all in plain sight as there seems to be a lot of confusion amongst humanity right now.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The concept of many doors being shut in your face and hearing many ‘NOs’ before you hear “YESes” is an old Hollywood life lesson I remember hearing about as a kid. It may have been from the Jim Henson Muppets Take Manhattan movie where it was first ingrained in my mind — when the muppets go from agent to agent and studio to studio hoping to get representation. I experienced first hand so many rejections — from DJ managers who said “no” to a song I sent them for their DJ to work on, to record labels who passed on a song I sent them, to label employees/A&R who did not want to sign my album or sign me as an artist, to publishers who did not either. But I learned from the Muppets Take Manhattan that you can’t take rejection too seriously because for every one person who says NO for whatever reason — there is a person who is going to say YES. I have told this story many times but my first job after college was a sales job where I had to call 100 people every day with the goal that 1–10 would buy from me. I have applied that principle to my music career — contacting 100 DJs expecting 1–10 to work with me and It has worked — so it’s a process I repeat again and again.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to someday work with Max Martin — I’m 1/2 Swedish by way of my mother — and after working in Stockholm with several producers I felt I discovered and found my sound — many of the songs on this album Little Victory were written in and produced by Swedish producers. Max has created some of my favorite music and the chance to work with him is an ultimate goal.
From a peer level an artist that I really love is Charlie Puth — his style and attitude feel very in line with mine and I have no doubt that if we met we’d become fast and fun friends — I would love to work with him someday as well. Plus he’s an incredibly good looking guy.
From a style perspective Maluma is a big style influence for me and I would love to have him as a friend and collaborator, every look he wears is perfect in my eyes. I’ve been spending more time in Miami and hope we cross paths. I did DJ one time at the Beverly Hills Louis Vuitton and he came in so I played some of his songs while he was in the store and he was happy and smiled and danced while I did 🙂
From an out- LGBT icon status — Ricky Martin is someone I would love to befriend — I remember watching him perform on the Grammys when I was younger and have followed his career ever since. I really respect and admire him and would hope to befriend him someday.
How can our readers follow you online?
I am at active on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud, TikTok and Facebook at @DavisMallory
All of my music can be found across music retailers at www.fanlink.to/DavisMallory
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!