Billy Wayne Davis Makes Sense of the Country

December 16, 2017


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


When the doors opened for the late show at The Velv, I sheep­ish­ly made my way through the entry, shak­ing hands with com­ic acquain­tances and friends. A soft-spo­ken South­ern gen­tle­man warm­ly intro­duced him­self mere­ly as Bil­ly”; it was­n’t until moments lat­er that I real­ized I was speak­ing to the head­lin­er that would bring the house down that night: Bil­ly Wayne Davis.

Tak­ing to the stage with a grav­el­ly native-Ten­nessean drawl, his audi­ences could be for­giv­en for hav­ing some pre­con­ceived expec­ta­tions about the con­tent to come. I think it’s safe to say that they are con­tin­u­ous­ly proven rau­cous­ly and delight­ful­ly mis­tak­en. It’s a sub­tle tool, that Davis uses to great effect and to give a unique life to the sto­ries he tells.

Born to two teach­ers, Davis learned from a young age to appre­ci­ate and embrace the cere­bral side of issues and human­i­ty. His fas­ci­na­tion with the soci­ol­o­gy of peo­ple comes through in what may at first seem like a polit­i­cal­ly focused set; the real­i­ty is that it’s his insights into the behav­ior of the mass­es that shines a kind but sar­don­ic light on the top­ics he covers.

Davis’s expo­sure ear­ly on to SNL, Richard Pry­or, and lat­er Mr. Show, lit the fires that led him to try his hand at his first open mic while in col­lege. A minor diges­tive ejec­tion aside, he knew the very first time he per­formed that this was to be the life for him. He soon quit col­lege and kept the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a career as a fire­fight­er in his back pock­et as a fall­back, but that’s where it stayed.

Word and con­nec­tions spread, and it was­n’t too long before Davis was per­form­ing and tour­ing with names like Mitch Hed­berg and the late great Ral­phie May; at the same time, the road pro­vid­ed the crit­i­cal lessons he’d need to strike out on his own. He crossed the nation as he made rela­tion­ships and land­ed gigs, and crowds and famil­iar­i­ty followed.

Davis has record­ed mul­ti­ple albums, includ­ing the dig­i­tal Bil­ly Wayne Davis and Live at Third Man Records (which also has a spe­cial vinyl press­ing), avail­able on iTunes and from his store page. The Third Man Records set is espe­cial­ly unique because the label spe­cial­izes in one-take per­for­mances, direct to vinyl. You may have also heard him as a voice on Squid­bil­lies, a wild ani­mat­ed ride from the cre­ators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Los Ange­les is where Davis makes his home now, but the sto­ries he shares with Valerie Lopez make it clear that he’s lived across – and through – the coun­try, becom­ing the cre­ative voice he brings us today. He also teas­es a pod­cast com­ing soon, and an upcom­ing project in April, that we urge you to keep your eyes and ears out for.

Find more about Bil­ly Wayne Davis at his Tum­blr site, on Face­book, and Twit­ter. We look for­ward to the next time he comes through Austin (and we even got a ver­bal commitment).

Billy Wayne Davis