Settling into his office inside Play It Again Music Publishing’s sleek new location in downtown Nashville, songwriter and President/CEO Dallas Davidson is clearly proud of the work he and his staff have put into the new space. This spring, the company moved to the new location, after opening the Nashville office in 2014.
He wanted Play It Again’s new space to be equally inspiring and functional for Play It Again’s writers, including Maggie Rose, Brian Kolb, Houston Phillips, Kyle Fishman, and Trea Landon.
Davidson says, “For so many years, I’ve been at big publishing companies. They’ve got rooms with two folding chairs and a piano in them. C’mon, we are better than that, so I wanted to make sure my writers felt appreciated and were given a creative environment to write songs. It’s hard to write when you can hear through the walls. I soundproofed all this stuff, the floors, the ceilings the walls. We did it right.”
The site was previously an art gallery, but is now home to writers rooms, a recording space, and lounge area. The night before, Davidson had holed up in the main office with a trio of fellow singer-songwriters including Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and James Otto, playing classic Otis Redding songs, in preparation for the Georgia On My Mind concert, a star-studded benefit concert set for Tuesday, May 10, at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
Just outside the office is a wall filled with mementos of Davidson’s considerable accolades. He has penned 22 No. 1 hits, including Lady Antebellum’s “We Owned The Night” and “Just a Kiss,” Billy Currington’s “That’s How Country Boys Roll” and Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here.”
With his Peach Pickers co-writers (and fellow Georgia natives) Ben Hayslip and Rhett Akins, they garnered hits like Shelton’s “All About Tonight” Joe Nichols’ “Gimmie That Girl,” Luke Bryan’s “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” Jack Ingram’s “Barefoot and Crazy.” Davidson has been awarded with five CMA Triple Play Awards, and was named the Nashville Songwriters Association International Songwriter of the Year in 2012.
The downtown location is also a center of operation for Play It Again Music Publishing’s management clients, including Rose and The Morrison Brothers. Davidson credits Play It Again Executive VP Austin Marshall with helping the company to expand its services.
“Austin kind of brought the management in. As a publisher you are the manager. We wanted to take it a step further and make sure our artists we signed were not making mistakes,” Davidson says. “We felt like we had enough insight to help them from making bad decisions. That’s why we wanted to do it, for their sake. Really, we were doing it already.”
Meanwhile, the Georgia on My Mind concert is a musical love letter to the songwriters’ home state and a way to raise funds for Georgia schoolchildren.
As in past years, they will bring several of their famous friends to help out. This year’s bill includes Georgia natives Luke Bryan, Billy Currington, The Peach Pickers, Craig Campbell, Jordan Rager, Cole Taylor, Travis Denning, and Jon Langston, as well as Randy Houser, Lee Brice, Tyler Farr, Trea Landon, Maggie Rose, Mannie Fresh, Big Boi, and more.
Georgia has become a hot-bed of rising country artists in the past few years.
“Somebody could say, ‘Georgia boy moves to town and knew a bunch of other Georgia boys and that’s how he’s doing good.’ Nah, I don’t agree,” says Davidson. “He’s got a hit song. You don’t have a hit, you don’t have shit. I think there is certainly a camaraderie. It’s kind of like Texas was, it’s what country music caters to right now.”
This year’s event will include a tribute to soul icon and Georgia native Otis Redding, who Davidson calls “one of my favorite singers in the world, ever.”
“Otis was kind of like Willie [Nelson] in his phrasing,” Davidson says. “I don’t care what people say about [my music], if it’s not country or whatever. I write songs to feel good, and that’s what Otis did.”
Redding’s daughter, Karla Redding-Andrews, who is also vice-chair of the Georgia Music Foundation, will be in attendance. Davidson became a board member for the Georgia Music Foundation a few years ago and became so involved that he was named Chairman.
“I had so many ideas and got so involved. I just wanted to make sure we had some money to give some people because it’s pointless if you don’t,” he said. “It’s my home state, so I would have never said no.”
Davidson points to Marshall as the secret to bringing the show together.
“He is so important to everything I do,” says Davidson. “He’s the one really doing the behind-the-scenes duties on the charity. I get the artists to show up, and he does the behind-the-scenes. And we’ve got a good team.”
With proceeds from the 2015 concert, the Georgia Music Foundation established a new Music Preservation, Education and Outreach Grant Program, and presented 12 Georgia schools and organizations with checks for $5,000. Davidson hopes to top that amount this year, and to see the concerts grow and expand.
“Hopefully, we will have a show in Atlanta and one here,” says Davidson. “Our goal is to take the show to the Bridgestone Arena for a massive show. There are a lot more tickets involved at the Bridgestone, so we have to get more acts involved, and different types of [music] genres involved, but we are chipping away at it. It just keeps building, as long as I maintain my friendships with these guys, I hope they will keep showing up. The more money we make, the more we can give away, and pass along the blessings we’ve gotten from music.”
Tickets for the Georgia On My Mind concert $49.50 and $39.50 and can be purchased via Ticketmaster outlets and Ryman.com.
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