Since country singer-songwriter Ward Davis resumed live performances about 2½ months ago, he’s been playing to tiny audiences, sometimes in fans’ homes. He’s good with that.
“Sometimes, when you’re touring, you’re phoning it in, and you know that you’re going to be playing for a bunch of drunks that don’t give a (expletive). It’s a little thankless and dispiriting,” he said. “This has been a big snap back to reality, playing for people and seeing your music really affects them. It’s been a really positive thing for me. And I haven’t gotten sick.”
Davis will perform for his biggest audience of the COVID-19 era so far Saturday, when he will play an outdoor concert in the Bud Light Courtyard of the AT&T Center.
It is the first concert at the venue since shutdown orders were put in place to try to stem the spread of COVID-19. Ticket holders will be seated at tables of six spread out across the courtyard to allow for social distancing. Face coverings will be required.
Who: Ward Davis, playing an acoustic show
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bud Light Courtyard, AT&T Center, 1 AT&T Center Parkway
Admission: $213 to $333 for tables of six, tinyurl.com/yxm9j7a5.
As for the music, fans can expect an acoustic set for which Davis will be joined by a guitarist.
“It’s going to be me playing some of my songs, some other songs from people they’ve probably never heard of and some that they have,” he said. “It’s just going to be me unplugged.”
The Arkansas native is known for well-crafted songs that have been recorded by the likes of Willie Nelson and Trace Adkins. He also co-founded the alt-country band The Beagles, which appeared on the A&E reality show “Crazy Hearts Nashville.” He is touring behind his 2018 EP “Asunder,” four songs charting the fallout at the end of a relationship.
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Davis is traveling without a band these days because of the coronavirus pandemic. So it’s just him and his tour manager and best friend Greg Jones driving across the country in a roomy Buick Enclave, listening to satellite radio and Bill O’Reilly books. They’ve listened to “Killing Kennedy” and are now working their way through “Killing Lincoln.”
“We’re real outlaws, listening to audio books in the Buick Enclave,” Davis said, laughing.
He’s grateful to be able to tour. The early weeks of the pandemic were scary, he said, since he had no idea how he was going to feed his family if he couldn’t perform live. He sold his tour bus when he figured out it would be a very long time before he might need it again.
“There was a month of panic, then there was a month of ‘Holy (expletive), what am I going to do now that I can’t make my living?’” he said. “And while the bureaucrats were trying to figure out what to do about the unemployment package for everybody, I had this really, really great management team working their asses off trying to figure out how to keep me going … guys who know I needed the money and needed help.”
He did some livestreaming, which, he said, took him way outside his comfort zone.
“It was weird to sing to a phone, but they told me I had to do that,” Davis said. “And I’d go into these Zoom meetings where I would sit and talk to people for an hour and they would pay. That was out of my element, too, but I did it.”
He hasn’t done much songwriting in the past few months. It’s a little easier to write on a tour bus, he said, than at home.
“I have a 2-yea- old, a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, all girls, and it’s a pretty small house,” he said. “There’s not a lot of brainpower left at the end of the day to write a song.”
He has written two songs in the past few months, one inspired by the death of a close friend.
“Songwriters write songs as therapy and to try to explain emotions to ourselves,” he said. “I wrote a song right after that.”
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He sometimes writes with Jones, and they’ve talked through some ideas as they’ve traveled.
“Writing is a pretty long, stretched-out process for me sometimes,” he said. “Having Greg sitting next to me, we write songs a lot together, and I’ll say something that I don’t necessarily think are song titles, but Greg will hear me and say, ‘There’s a song there.’”
The traveling itself takes a toll. Davis is 6-foot-3, so spending an entire day in the car often leaves him with sore joints. But there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
“It’s all I’ve wanted to do for my entire life,” he said. “I’m not going to let some stupid virus keep me from it.”