When one of the members of a popular band steps out to do a solo recording, there are always rumblings. When two members of that same group release solo albums within months of each other, well, that's a sure sign that the End is near, right?
"Nope," Jody Davis, guitarist for Newsboys answers simply and matter-of-factly. As if band-mate Phil Joel hadn't already laid those doubts to rest, Jody adds, "We knew we needed a break. We had been working too hard and doing too many shows for much too long a time. We had to step back and say, 'we do want this ministry to remain viable, so we need to rest, spend more time with our families, and begin to express ourselves in other ways."
Those diverse interests found Peter Furler helping start inpop Records, Phil Joel making his solo bow on that label and Jody launching his solo career with his self-titled Pamplin Records debut.
Jody Davis"Initially, we were all going to do albums, like the members of Kiss did years ago, when they released four solo records at once," says Jody, with a chuckle. "But we killed that idea pretty quick! It just so happened that Phil and I were the most interested and the most motivated."
Jody admits that "just because you can" isn't the best reason to attempt a solo venture. But he says he feels like this new disc was necessary to his artistic growth. "Everybody [in Newsboys] writes, and there's only so many songs you can put on a Newsboys record. Plus, we have a pretty specific thing we do, so anything outside that doesn't really fit. I've contributed to a lot of Newsboys albums, but this is the first time I've gotten to take my original ideas and bring them to fruition the way I heard them in the first place."
The music on Jody Davis surveys some of the best pop and rock sounds of the past 25 years, as he combines a gritty, emotional vocal delivery with the energy of power pop and modern rock. "I didn't want to make a 'squeaky-clean' pop record," explains Jody. "I could do that with the Newsboys. I was trying to capture a little of the 'live,' spontaneous feel of the records I loved from the 1970s, mix that with the sophistication and drive of old Chicago records and bring that into a modern setting. There are very few keyboards on the album; it's just guitar, bass, drums and a horn section. I just wrote what I felt, rather than trying to make perfectly structured pop songs. Most of the tunes started with me playing acoustic guitar and singing into a Dictaphone."
Jody DavisAlthough the songs were composed over ten years' time, Jody says there is a central theme to the album. "I'd say it's trying to understand the painful side of love," he reflects. "Sometimes I feel like we ignore the cost of love; it's not just feeling good and being giddy all the time. Loving someone and accepting love and the ultimate gift of Christ's love demands a lot from us."
Following his father's triple bypass surgery a few years ago, Jody says he began to give a lot of thought to what C.S. Lewis called "the problem with pain." "It was a painful thing to watch because of how much we loved him," admits Jody. "So this record is my attempt to come to grips with questions like 'why do people suffer, what does God think about this, is God's hand in this, what are we supposed to do in response?' Several of the songs touch on those questions."
After a lengthy pause, Jody adds "but the record's not a downer! In fact, I even start off with a song called 'Believe,' that talks about knowing and understanding what you believe and why you believe it; what makes you do the things you do-and then challenging listeners to ask themselves that same question. 'The Crush of Love' follows along those same lines; it's the pressure, the push you get from God that brings you to repentance. 'Climbing to Your Throne,' 'I Can't Get Enough' and 'Close to You' are all about fervent prayer and seeking the presence of God and the will of God."
Jody, who grew up in a small southern Indiana town, refers again to his father when mentioning musical influences from his youth. "My dad was a coal miner and a musician. I guess that's what got me started, seeing him play. But I spent most of my high school years locked up in my bedroom, playing guitar."
Jody DavisHowever, Jody did venture outside his bedroom long enough to befriend his choir director, with whom he would serve time in a Top 40 cover band. He also made a life-long friend in Jim Cooper, who would join Jody in his first Christian music group. "We made friends with a band called David and the Giants, who had their own studio in Mississippi, so we went down there to cut a custom album with our little band. A few months later, we ran into them on the road and found out they really loved this project we did. Keith Thibeadeaux, their drummer (the former "Little Ricky" from the "I Love Lucy" show) asked us to back him on a solo project he was doing, and we later became his band, Lively Stones. In fact, Todd White, who's now my A&R man at Pamplin, was our manager and booking agent, and we shared a house together back then!"
About ten years ago, Cooper and Davis re-located to Nashville, where they eventually hooked up with the bands that would bring them the greatest recognition-Cooper to a stint in Petra and Jody to the Newsboys. "I was originally just going to fill in for the first couple weeks of the Not Ashamed tour," remembers Jody, "but after just a few gigs, we knew it was the right fit for both of us."
After the highly publicized (and exhausting) "Dome" tour, Jody says he's glad that Newsboys are planning a less demanding schedule, allowing him the time to release what he calls "a very personal record." In spite of the album's serious moments, says Jody, he hopes listeners will take their cues from the final track, a cover of the Todd Rundgren & Utopia classic, "Love Is the Answer." "I know sometimes as Christians we feel that everything must be answered, but sometimes you just have to ask the questions. 'Love Is the Answer' does indeed point to Christ, but that's just the start of this journey we're on. Life with Christ is full of mysteries and adventures."