With Michigan on his sleeve, love in his heart, and music flowing fervently through his blood, Joshua Davis is a folk historian and storyteller with a passion for building community and achieving peace and understanding through music. A child of folk tradition, Joshua Davis will take you on a journey rich with cultural, political, and musical roots while inspiring nostalgic and introspective sentiments, which soothe and soften the insatiable voice inside your head.
He has made his home in Traverse City with his wife and two children, while his music has been heard in over 180 countries. Joshua Davis’ most recent album A Miracle of Birds is inspired by his travels to Palestine and Israel where he struggled between his Jewish identity and the oppression and confusion he discovered. Half the proceeds from his album will create olive trees and educational scholarships for farmers and families he encountered on his journey.
The Berkley, MI. native has released three critically acclaimed solo albums, five albums with Steppin’ In It, and has recently been recognized by the Michigan Historical Museum for his work “Put It On Paper,” which is an exhibit that examines the creative process alongside epic stoics such as Ernest Hemingway and Laura Ingalls-Wilder.
He’s the cook in his family, loves Indian food and the Upper Peninsula, and believes that everyone has a story to tell. Here’s my conversation with Joshua Davis (who also kicked some ass for Michigan on The Voice).
I hear you spent your high school years around Ferndale. Where are some of your favorite spots to hang?
I did. Went to Berkley High School and CASA which was (is?) a killer advanced studies and arts interdistrict program that was an incredible experience. I used to spend all my money on cassettes at Sam’s Jams, hung at the Lantern in Royal Oak - a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it greasy spoon that had those little table by table jukeboxes. My buddy Mike was a manager at the Main Art Theatre, so I spent a lot of time there. My friends and I were in a 9 piece Motown band called Electric Tibet and ran a production company called Church Ballroom. We used to put on shows at the Magic Bag. I used to follow a band called the Immigrant Suns all over metro Detroit.
Paint me a picture of your favorite meal…
That’s a tough one, boss. I’m not picky, but I love Korean food, Indian food, noodle soups, fresh salads. I’m the cook in the family, so I do a lot of that when I’m home. I’ve been cooking a couple soups a week this winter and freezing the leftovers. We’ve got an incredible spot close to our house - it’s a corner market, but it’s owned by this North Indian couple and it is the only Indian food in Northern Michigan to my knowledge. It’s incredible.
If you could share a yacht with another band recording an album together who would it be and why?
Hahahaha. Tight quarters. Yacht? Loggins and Messina, of course. Ahoy! Seriously, there are so many bands and writers that I’ve had the pleasure to work with and so much more that I’d love to. Michigan artists come to mind. Red Tail Ring, Seth Bernard, Daniel Kahn, Greensky Bluegrass, Jen Sygit, May Erlewine, Rachael Davis. Wider spectrum? Paul Simon, Mike + Ruthy, Oliver Mtukudzi, Greg Brown, The Wood Brothers, Foy Vance, Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Winwood, Ry Cooder, TOM WAITS. Alive or dead? John Hartford, Oscar Peterson, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Levon Helm, Leon Russell, Pete Seeger, the list goes on.
Where are some of your favorite Michigan destinations?
Yes, Michigan. The feeling’s forever. I love the UP. I was born up there and spent all of my summers there growing up. So, basically all of that. Peninsula. I heart Leelanau. It's where I live now. I heart it big time. I still love our cities, though. I love Lansing, love Detroit, Kzoo. Real deal stuff. Incredible people. Unshaken spirit of hope and people doing amazing work in these towns. The Keweenaw is amazing. Calumet. Copper Country. I’m a sucker for the Great Lakes Basin.
Music is medicine. Can you share specific experiences with fan interaction and for you personally where this is evident?
Every night is new. Every audience is a new little community. I love the feeling that I get sharing a space with a few hundred people. I’ve been working on being as genuine as possible on stage. Trying to break down all of the walls and just be honest. I’m getting there. I always learn something. Everyone has something they love to do and love to share. It’s so rewarding finding those folks that want to share those things with me. I’ve met incredible artists, storytellers, craftspeople, parents, kids, elders and babies. Everyone has a story to tell. That’s not very specific. Hm.
Catch his show March 11th with special guest the Barbarossa Brothers at Otus Supply. Just in case you were looking for one, This is a Good Sound.
$20 adv / $25 doors (GA/SRO) | 21+ | 8:00 PM