Stevie Wonder better watch out because there’s a new soul king in town. Nataal breaks bread with Davie

“I’m making breakfast nice and early. French toast with brioche bread,” Davie informs me cheerily as he takes my call in sunny Los Angeles, kitchen sounds sizzling nicely in the background. The young singer/songwriter, christened James David Treadwell, has been causing a melodious stir this year with his debut EP Black Gospel, Vol. 1, series of rousing live performances, a starring role in a Wild Turkey TV advertisement with Matthew McConaughey and now his festive release, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas on Amazon’s Soul Christmas. But as his blessed life story reveals, he was born to do it.

Hailing from New Jersey, Davie's grandmother Genee Harris recorded the 1958 hit Bye Bye Elvis, his dad was a minister and their family travelled extensively as both musicians and missionaries. “Churches were my introduction to music and as soon as I was old enough I started to sing. My family made up a gospel band and would go all over – Nebraska, Mississippi, Alabama. I’d always be pushed out for the solo,” Davie recalls. “When I was nine we went to South Africa to work in various small, underprivileged churches and when the music started, everyone would have a smile on their face. I remember the drums, dancing and movement and just feeling how beautiful it all was.”

When his parents weren’t watching, he’d also sneak listens to the likes of The Fugees, Prince, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men and before long he started penning his own tracks. “I was this 12 year old writing sad R&B songs when I had nothing to be sad about,” he recalls fondly. During high school, Davie received voice coaching from Brett Manning (Taylor Swift, Leona Lewis), who urged him to take a development deal but he resisted. “I wanted a normal life and went to college for Business Marketing but I still wound up singing and blew my cover in a talent show.”

“Churches were my introduction to music and as soon as I was old enough I started to sing”

He graduated early and spent time in Orlando recording demos before moving to Los Angeles where he was “the hot backing singer for a second,” working with the likes of CeeLo Green, Chris Brown and Childish Gambino and even laying down a few tracks for Disney. He also went on tour with Selina Gomez and continued to sing in the city’s mega churches. “It’s something I did to give back. There’d be six services a day but it was very different to singing in small town New Jersey. In Hollywood, Kanye West is in the congregation.”

Davie was cruising on easy street but knew he was playing it safe, so headed home to his family to dive back into his own music again and define his sound. “I’d lost myself living in LA. I wasn’t as cool as Trey Songz but I wasn’t as poetic as Frank Ocean, so I went back to basics. I listened to my grandmother, to Sam Cooke, Fred Hammond, The Clark Sisters, Stevie Wonder. My father played me music he’d recorded in Kenya full of crazy chords and rhythms. I didn’t want to sound throwback but I did want a positive spirit, good vocals and to sing about something bigger than myself.”

“My music is about celebration and bringing people together. It’s about connecting with those who feel misunderstood, and being part of a moment in someone’s life”

Black Gospel, Vol. 1, has been the result. Despite the title, it’s not a gospel record in the traditional sense. It elicits elevated emotions but the themes and sounds roam wild thanks to the soulful, feel-good vibrations that reach their arms wide open, beckoning you to come in for a pop-laden, funk-fuelled hug. “Trust me, my music isn’t about church,” he insists. “It’s about celebration and bringing people together. It’s about connecting with those who feel ostracised or misunderstood, and being part of a moment in someone’s life. Like a memory you have of dancing to a Michael Jackson song with your best friend at a wedding. I know I’m so corny but I embrace it!”

Lead track Testify tells a story of “shouting from the rooftops about an amazing person in your life who you’re in love with”. Oozing over with infectious hand claps, perky horns and Davie’s velvet voice, the track proved so moreish that he was asked for it to not only soundtrack the McConaughey-directed commercial but for him to appear alongside the actor too. Davey is seen doffing his feathered fedora and sipping bourbon on the rocks as the pair admire the moonlight. What did your parents make of that? “I was a little nervous telling them it was an advert for alcohol but my dad was so happy, showing it to all his friends at church. They’re so supportive because they know who I am at my core.”

Next year holds the release of Black Gospel, Vol. 2 and Davie will be bringing his sweet sounds to festivals worldwide. But his ultimate goal is to be an all-round entertainer. “I want to be like Fred Astaire or Justin Timberlake or Barbara Streisand; someone who does stupid comedy acts, and can dance. I can dance.” What’s your signature move? The Davie take on the moon walk? “Hmm. I haven’t defined it yet. I’m still in the twerking phase. But I’m working on it. This is going to be a movement of joy and bonding.”

Visit Davie

Published on 02/12/2017