‘Tis the season for giving and good cheer— and our favorite holiday songs! This December, we have Davis Mallory’s track “Box It Up” on repeat and once you hear its catchy melody and heart-touching lyrics, there’s no doubt that you will too! We recently caught up with the former Real World cast member to discuss his latest single, life as a Nashville based singer-songwriter and what fans can expect in the new year.
So, how did the idea for “Box It Up” come about?
I wrote “Box it Up” just after Christmas 2014, in February 2015 with a new writer I had just met named Clayton Jones. Since it was after Christmas, the idea of wanting the spirit of Christmas to linger came naturally. My sister’s name is Garland Mallory and was born just a few days after Christmas and she has bright red hair, so I thought of her when writing the lyrics: “your hair a glistening garland” in second verse. I also wanted this song to have elements of dance music since before living in Nashville, I had worked for 2+ years at Astralwerks Records (record label home to DJ superstars David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia) and I myself had become a DJ during that job, so we included the lyrics “Christmas is here why won’t it stay, I wish that we could put it on replay” as in playing a record. Clayton was very much responsible for all of the piano melodies and arrangement of the song.
How did you and Clayton team up?
Clayton and I met at Edgehill Cafe in Nashville via Washington Street Publishing owners Nancy Peacock and Queenie Smith who had just signed my song “Beautiful Girls (Diem Brown’s Song),” which was a tribute to my MTV co-star Diem Brown who died of cancer in November 2014 and were in talks to sign Clayton’s music for his band Madison Letter for Film/TV pitches. Washington Street Publishing had arranged back-to-back meetings with Clayton and I that day – and we met for the first time as I was leaving my meeting and we decided to arrange a co-write. After we wrote “Box It Up,” I knew this was a special song as I could not get it out of my head.
What was the recording process like?
I had just recently met Jewel Coburn, a song plugger and owner of Eleven Eleven Music Group. I shared “Box It Up” with her and she loved it and told me that Tim McGraw was cutting a Christmas album and this may be perfect for him, so I opted not to release it that year waiting to hear back if he would cut it. He ultimately passed on it. In my mind, I wanted this to be sung by Ariana Grande – and I shared it with her publicist (who forwarded it to her A&R team) as he is a former co-worker of mine from Astralwerks. Someone who heard it thought it would suit John Legend voice and his wife Chrissy Teigen’s agent is a close friend of mine, so I shared it with him as well in hopes to have John hear it for considering recording it. By 2016 though I had no word back from either artist, and so I decided to set out and record my own version. I met Josh Sudduth (the producer of “Box It Up”, who is also a member of Relient K and guitar tech for Brantley Gilbert) at the end of 2015. Josh produced a cover “What Do You Mean?” for me and an original love song called “Anyone Would Know” which I released in early 2016. I loved Josh’s production decisions and his work with my vocals, so I gave him “Box It Up” to produce and I think he did a really great job with it.
What inspired the visual, from the storytelling aspect to the starring of real life newlyweds?
The idea for the music video came from two directions. The first being Justin Alba (CEO of Comicsverse – an all things comics website & podcast) who was a fan of my music and interviewed me for one of their podcasts. Justin really liked the song and came up with the idea of a couple celebrating Christmas all year round. This idea was further solidified when I met and brought on recent graduates of The Nashville Film Institute’s Zachary Layman and Blake Guidry, Director & Cinematographer (respectively) for “Box It Up” whose idea was to show a couple who celebrate Christmas year round; only for the viewer to discover at the end of the video that it is not in fact Christmas when they are doing all these Christmas activities. I found Tyler & Kelly Laney (actors and real life newlyweds) through an online Facebook actors page and felt they were perfect for the role.
How long did it take to film the music video?
We filmed the music video in two days. My scenes were shot in Thompson Station, Tennessee at a very nice lady named Gina Cossey’s home who had a bountiful amount of Christmas decorations, which I appreciated since we filmed in September 2016 and not many stores had their Christmas decorations out yet. We filmed Kelly & Tyler’s scenes in East Nashville at the home of my guitar player and drummer who accompany me in many of my live shows.
After being a music news correspondent and spending time interviewing artists, what is it like being on a musical journey of your own? What has been your biggest goal?
I was a music blogger for LOGO TV’s AfterElton.com & NewNowNext.com interviewing artists, creating best of year end lists, and reviewing shows. I’ve also been a host for The Grand Ole Opry and have interviewed Ellie Goulding, Lissie, Janelle Monae, Graffiti6, among other artists. At this stage of my life I was more so a music fan and less so a music creator. I also spent 2 years working behind a desk at a record label in the marketing department, dreaming of a day to create, write and sing my own music. I spent the past three years living in Nashville growing as a songwriter and collaborating and cowriting as often as I can. In 2016, I have written over 75 songs while last year (2015) I wrote 50 songs. My goal this year was not to write as many songs as I did though, it was actually to perform live (I took part in 7 shows this year) and to find the best producers to work with for these songs.
With your family having a musical background, has this always been something that you ultimately wanted to pursue?
I have wanted to be a singer since I was very little. My uncle Chaz managed Amy Grant, continues to manage recording artist Michael W. Smith, and he has played a role in Jordin Sparks and Joy Williams (Civil Wars) careers. My other uncle John is a songwriter who had a publishing deal when he was my age and his songs have been recorded by Sixpence None the Richer and Wynona Judd, among other artists. I knew when I grew up that I wanted to be a singer. I sang in my church choir during high school and was an a cappella group that spawned several active recording artists (Kristian Stanfill Dove Award winning artist) Ryan Horne (music on Nashville TV Show & Walking Dead), Sean McConnell (whose songs have been recorded by Tim McGraw & Rascal Flatts). I always sing to myself all day long. When I left for college, my mother said the music stopped in the house.
For someone who hasn’t heard your music, how would you best describe your sound?
I was actually asked this question last night at a holiday party for my acting agency AMAX Talent. I feel like my sound at times reminds me of some of the music of Ellie Goulding & Florence & the Machine, while artists like Nick Jonas, Troye Sivan & Justin Bieber’s modern pop style also draws comparisons. I have been told at times that my voice sounds like Michael Buble or even Owl City, although only on certain songs. I grew up listening to a lot of John Mayer and even country music. I’m from Georgia, so at times I will put a southern emphasis into the way I say things. I have written with many country songwriters here in Nashville and thus some of my catalogue is country (for instance, I have a song out called “Dancing Round the Fire” which I wrote with Grammy winning songwriter Scot Sax who won for Tim McGraw/Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved At All”). While some of my music is categorically country, the majority of my music leans more pop dance music and I go into a lot of co-writes with dance beats sent to me from producers around the world.
What artists are you most influenced by?
Lately, I have been listening to a lot of Prince (I really enjoy the personality Prince puts into his performance and the synth sounds he uses). For my live shows I am drawing inspiration from Elvis Presley & Freddy Mercury of Queen with a certain Rock n Roll direction. I just went through a month long period where I was only listening to Jon Bellion. I am inspired by Beyonce’s work ethic as well as Lady Gaga and I like how both of these artists have country records on their latest albums while also having primarily dance and pop music on the rest of the project. I am going after that same sound.
If you had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
I would love to work with Disclosure. They are one of my favorite producers ever. I also would love to work with Jon Bellion. I think his style is really brilliant. I love how he sings beautifully, uses spoken word/rap, and produces his own beats – I really admire him and would love for him to produce me. EDM producers like Calvin Harris, Diplo, Jonas Blue, Matoma, Kygo, Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Avicii, Kaskade, & Armin Van Buuren, are on my dream collaborator list as I love dance music and I would love to lend my vocals to their productions.
What is next for Davis Mallory in 2017?
I am gearing up for a debut EP out in March 2017 and have filmed five new music videos to release next year. Four are by New York based Cinematographer Derrick Lipschitz and one is by The Nashville Film Institute who chose my song “Ocean Blue” for a bit of competition among their students – each student will work on an edit of the video and the best will be the official video. In January, American Idol alumni Matt Giraud has a new song coming out called “Faded” which I co-wrote with him. The song is also produced by KELLR and features rapper July 3-0. We just finished filming the music video last week. I have two duets projects coming out next year. One with an artist named LYRX who is Shay Mooney’s sister from Dan & Shay) the song is called “Burning Up.” The other song is with Lockwood Barr called “Dancing in Heaven.” One thing I’m really looking forward to – Swedish DJ/Producer John Dahlback, who I have been a fan of for many years reproduced my song “Anyone Would Know” and we’ll be releasing his version next year. It sounds great! My goals for 2017 are to hopefully get on a tour with another artist as well as perform locally more often in Nashville. After the release of my debut EP, I will go into the studio and cut songs for an album to be out later in the year. Lastly, I have written two new Christmas songs which I hope to release next year. I love them both and am excited to release them :)