Hoopla

Ward Davis hearts the Heartland

WARD DAVIS

Country singer/songwriter Ward Davis returns to Iowa City tonight (8/23) to unveil some new music at Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon.
WARD DAVIS Country singer/songwriter Ward Davis returns to Iowa City tonight (8/23) to unveil some new music at Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon.

Austin is a special place for Ward Davis. The laid-back country singer/songwriter laughed while calling from this live music capital of the world when discussing the significance of the Texas boom town.

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard helped put the Nashville resident on the map when the iconic figures recorded Davis’ co-write of “Unfair Weather Friend” for “Django and Jimmie,” a duets album three years ago in Austin.

“This is where Willie does most of his work,” Davis said. “Kenny Chesney loved ‘Unfair Weather Friend,’ but he passed on it. But we got the song into the hands of Willie, and he and Merle really liked it.”

“We” is Davis and his songwriting partner Marla Cannon-Goodman. “Unfair Weather Friend” earned Davis some valuable exposure. He’s more than a songwriter for hire, however.

Davis made a splash with his 2015 album, “15 Years in a 10 Year Town,” which scored some airplay a few months after “Django and Jimmie” was released.

“‘15 Years in a 10 Year Town’ showcased who I am,” Davis said. “I was thrilled when Willie and Merle recorded ‘Unfair Weather Friend.’ But I can’t help but focus on being a recording artist. This is all that I ever wanted.

“The ultimate dream is having people sing your song louder than you can sing it. There is no drug that can you get you higher than that. If you have three people singing your song, that’s a high. If you have 100 or 200 or 500 people sing your song, it’s just awesome.”

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Davis, who will perform tonight (8/23) at Iowa City’s Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon, is hoping some of his latest material will catch on with his fans. He will preview songs from “Asunder,” a four-song EP dropping next month. He’ll also deliver a couple of cuts from his next album, “The Sound of Chains,” which will see the light of day during autumn.

“I’m looking forward to playing a few new ones,” Davis said. “I’ve been writing a lot of songs and I want to get them out there. When you hear my songs, you can tell that I’m not trying to write hits. I’m just trying to be as genuine as possible when I write songs. People can spot a fraud a mile away. You know what I’m about when you hear my songs. There is no mistaking that.”

Davis, who has played Iowa City before, claims that his favorite place to play is the Heartland. This time, he’s co-headlining the High on Honky Tonk Tour with Texas native Sunny Sweeney.

“I love Midwestern audiences,” Davis said. “It’s hands-down the best. The crowds are just better. When I play in a city like Austin, it’s like the reaction is ‘eh.’ But when I play a place like Iowa City or Omaha, the fans are just so enthusiastic. Not every recording artist plays those cities. So I always get the feeling that people there are starved for entertainment and it’s a good thing for a performer.

“There is nothing like performing before an audience that wants a good show and wants to have fun. I know that Iowa City is such a place. The people there are genuine music fans.”

Davis doesn’t care about being a country star.

“That’s not my thing,” he said. “I’m not going to do anything in a certain way in order to be this very successful entertainer. I’m content to be on the fringes. I’m going to do it my way.

“I don’t believe in making concessions. Music fans will either like me for exactly who I am or they won’t. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “I’m going to continue to write songs my way and see how it goes.”

WHAT: High on Honky Tonk Tour, with headliners Ward Davis and Sunny Sweeney

WHERE: Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon, 4919 Walleye Dr. SE, Iowa City

WHEN: 6 to 10 p.m. p.m. today (8/23)

TICKETS: All-ages show, $20 general admission to $100 VIP; Wildwoodsaloon.com

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ARTISTS’ WEBSITES: Warddavismusic.com and Sunnysweeney.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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