Douglaston musician Neil Davis muses on getting a start in music in the digital age

WIth his debut, self-produced album, "In My Mind," 25-year-old Neil Davis says it's a wild road out there for new musicians. Photo by Farah Nazz
TimesLedger Newspapers

At age 25, Douglaston native Neil Davis is already an accomplished musician, having recently released his debut, self-produced album, “In My Mind,” a compilation of 10 piano-driven pop/rock songs.

“Producing and releasing my own debut album was a dream come true for me, a product of my vision and lots of hard work,” said Davis, who used all his own money to fund the project. “I wanted the album to be all my creation — both creatively and financially.”

Davis, who in 2004 was part of the first class to graduate from Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts in Astoria, founded by legendary singer Tony Bennett, has been working hard to translate his love of music into a career.

In only a few short years, Davis has already made musical inroads by playing established New York City venues, including The Bitter End, Rockwood Music Hall, Pianos and The Living Room.

A self-taught musician, Davis traces his musical ability back to age 5, when he was given a 23-key piano. He has since developed his skill by leaps and bounds, featuring piano on “In My Mind,” as well as keyboard, organ and a vintage Wurlitzer.

While Davis said that part of his inspiration to write comes from his own life experiences and the ability to “tell his story through music,” he also has many artists he admires and draws creative energy from.

“I really love Adele and also Lady Gaga. They’re both great artists and they’ve helped to inspire me,” said Davis, who also is a lover of live music of all types from pop and rock to soul. Some of Davis’ other musical inspirations include Gavin DeGraw, Joss Stone and Brendan James.

Asked about the unique process of self-producing an album at a time when the music industry has undergone sea changes, Davis recalled that it was a learning experience from beginning to end.

“Because I was producing the album completely on my own and simultaneously learning the recording process, I experimented and pulled from different studios to create the perfect sound,” said Davis, noting that the entire project was recorded in Manhattan and then later mixed in a Brooklyn studio.

“The industry is in the artist’s hands right now. I was able to release an album totally on my own,” Davis said. “I don’t have a label now; in fact, I don’t even have a manager. But, I learned so much from producing… It was an entire process that gave me tons of freedom.”

But Davis said that he is now actively seeking a major record label deal and he hopes his debut album will serve as a means to showcase his music and build a fan base.

Reflecting on how the music industry has changed in the last decade, Davis said it is much more difficult now for artists to get signed by a label.

“It can be extremely hard for two reasons: one is financial — music companies have cut back drastically on their spending, which leaves little room for new acts; and two, each label is seeking a very specific sound/act to add to their roster.”

Davis has also tackled marketing himself using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to help promote the album and connect directly with fans. He said song distribution can best be handled online via iTunes and Amazon.com.

Lamenting the nostalgic era of albums, Davis explained his affinity for vinyl. “I’m a total fan of the physical album. It’s such a cool experience. I love the artwork, the experience. Albums and lyrics help bring you closer to the artist,” he said. “If it was up to me, I’d buy all my music in album form instead of just downloading music online.” Physical copies of his album will be available for purchase at all of his upcoming gigs for $12.

While still a relative newcomer to the music business, Davis has already performed for and with some iconic entertainers, including Tony Bennett, Britney Spears and Beyonce. He has also performed for Nelson Mandela at a United Nations fund-raiser as well as opening for the Dave Matthews Band in Central Park in 2005 in front of tens of thousands of people.

Looking ahead, Davis said he is pursuing music full-throttle. “There’s nothing else out there that I want to do. So much of who I am is connected to music.”

Davis will next be performing on Dec. 21 at the Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen St. in Manhattan, starting at 8 p.m. He will also be returning to Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. for a special performance to celebrate the school’s 10th birthday.

For more information on Neil Davis’s upcoming performances and music, visit www.neildavismusic.com.

Reader Feedback

Karen from Harlem says:
Great Article!
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:20 am
Becca from Forest Hills says:
If you haven't heard Neil's music yet.. He's amazing and definately worth checking out!!! Real talent!
Dec. 13, 2011, 2:48 am

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