When they’re not out on the road promoting Heaven & Earth, their latest record, or in the studio recording, Ricky Davis (half of the duo Blue Mother Tupelo) keeps busy handling the scheduling, producing and other business aspects of music.
From their home in Henderson, Tenn. or “Johnny Cash Country” as he calls it, Ricky took some time to answer our questions on their music, touring and an upcoming showcase at the Bijou Theater.
Q: What does your creative process look like?
A: We just Micol and me both, when we write, let if fall naturally. Sometimes months will go by and we don’t really write songs and then we’ll come back with an idea or something but I guess a lot of writers might say that’s an undisciplined writer but we just let it flow naturally. When the mood hits me and I’m moved by something I write at that point.
Is it usually the music or lyrics that comes first?
A: It kind of depends, sometimes I’ll come up with a guitar lick or something and it occurs to me that this is about a certain subject, I don’t know how that hits me that way but it does. Other times, Micol or me will come up with words first, there’s not a pattern to that either.
Q: How often do you and Micol write together?
A: We probably write together about 30-35% of the time. A lot of times we write on our own and then sit down with each other and show each other our songs. What happens a lot of the time too is that one of us will have most the song figured out and we sit down with another writer and iron out the rest of the song.
Q: What was your introduction to music?
A: My family always played music and still do, my dad and uncle and cousins played music. They played on the weekends in local clubs in East Tennessee. That’s how I was exposed to music initially. And then Micol’s family, her dad was a preacher so she certainly got most of her music from church.
Q: If you weren’t a musician what do you think you would be doing?
A: I don’t have a clue, in the past I’ve done a little bit of everything to try and make a living, but as far as if I never got into music, shoot, I wouldn’t even know.
It would probably be something creative, I’ve always had an interest in art but that kind of goes hand-in-hand with music. I haven’t done it in awhile but Micol does it a lot, kind of painting and a lot of folk art stuff that she comes up with.
Q: Do you have a favorite venue to play?
A: We have a couple favorites, we do return to he same venues quite often. I like this little place called Callahan’s in Mobile, Ala. It opened in 1946 and it’s a little neighborhood, it used to be an Irish pub and it still is an Irish pub, and it’s a fun place to play.
The places that I like to play, I’m noticing more and more as time goes on are the places that are actually music venues and people sit down and listen to the music or get up and dance to it but you’re not competing against two or three TVs going at the same time, pool tables, darts and whatever a club might have in it.
Q: When you’re not on tour, what is your day-to-day life like?
A: Basically every day is working on the tours and stuff. When I’m off the road I’m producing or working on a new song or somebody’s project, promoting the shows or working on our upcoming CD. We’re independent artists so we have to do most everything on our own.
Q: What types of music do you listen to when you’re listening for your own enjoyment?
A: I like pretty much anything, there’s hardly anything I don’t like. One thing that doesn’t get under my skin is when music don’t have soul. Or I feel like it doesn’t have soul, if it’s really contrived and formulaic.
Q: Do you and Micol find it difficult to balance your work and personal relationships?
A: Not really, we both enjoy making music and we have similar interests. We almost like all the same things, we’re obviously not one person so there’s a few things we might like that the other person might not but we’ve been married 15 years and we feel like it’s a blessing to make music in such a competitive business and to be able to do it as independent artists.
Q: If you could sit down for an hour and play with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be?
A: There’s a few but I would have to say Van Morrison and B.B. King. And Willie Nelson.
Q: Is there anything people listening to your music need to know about you?
A: I appreciate people giving our music a chance, it’s very humbling to have folks like our music. When I sit down to make music I’m making it for myself, for my own enjoyment and if other people enjoy it that’s just icing on the cake.
And we’re going to be playing at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tenn. and the show is called Tennessee Shines. It’ll be us and Malcolm Holcombe, Jim Lauderdale is the M.C., Dan Tyminski and Ashley Cleveland. That’ll be the night before Thanksgiving, it’ll be fun.