Recently I had the opportunity to sat down with Julian Davis, an aspiring, up-and-coming bluegrass artist. Davis was entertaining at the campground stage at the 1st Annual Wichita Vortex Urban Camping & Music Festival, which was held in Wichita, KS on August 4. In the heart of Wichita, I found a diamond in the rough. As the Keeper of The Plains kept a watchful eye over the Vortex festival, Davis and the Hayburners took the campground stage by storm. As we sat under the tent and talked, you could see the passion that Julian has for music. Music is his soul, and when asked what he called his style of bluegrass said, “I don’t know if you would call my type of bluegrass a style. I like to think of it as progressive bluegrass.”
At the age of 6, Julian’s mom, a photographer, had a guitar that she used as a prop. Julian picked the guitar up and his interest and intrigue began right there. Almost simultaneously, his Mom bought his first electric guitar. Unbeknownst to her, she had laid the path for this “old soul” to ignite a deep drive, a purpose driven pursuit. It wasn’t long after Julian saw a video of Tony Rice. That encounter carved a trail of influence and inspiration to spur Davis on. By age 15, he had decided that his career goals were to be a bluegrass musician/artist. Pursuing his dreams, Davis left home with nothing more than his guitar, mandolin and inspiration, and a few changes of clothes. At the age of 16, in Winfield at The Walnut Valley Folk Festival in Kansas, Davis seized the opportunity to play beside one of his idols, Byron Berline. Determination is what fuels this teen to follow and persevere in his dreams.
A mere two years later, and Julian Davis is on his way to make his aspirations a reality. With a solo album in the works as well as a duo project with Dillon Hoff (in Eureka Springs, AR), Davis is living his dream out. With no 5 string banjo in his band, and not playing traditional bluegrass music, Julian is ⅗ of the way to being bluegrass. Singing bluegrass with a new perspective, and flatpicking with the best of them, Julian doesn’t leave you hungering for more. He gives it his all.
Davis will be attending IBMA’s World Of Bluegrass this fall. “All of my favorite caliber of musicians will be all there in one place.” Right now, Davis follows Jake Workman, Billy Strings, and Molly Tuttle, as well as Americana artist, Willie Watson.
I asked Julian where he saw himself in 3, 5, 10 years or 20 years. His answers were not that of a 17 year old. This young man knows what he wants, and how he is going to get there. “In 3 years, I will be successful, not as successful as I want to be, but having a quality 5 piece bluegrass band. 5 years, established a name in the scene. 10 years, I will be hitting the scene hard. 20 years I want to hit the Bluegrass Hall of Fame like I have always dreamed of.”
Goal setting is nothing for Davis. His aspirations and goals are set and they are high. Julian wants to be International Flat-Picking Champion, and be named guitar player of the year by IBMA.
From the small city of Pittsburgh, KS to the stage of America’s Got Talent in 2016, Davis is chasing rainbows and he seems determined to find his pot of gold. Davis stands true to his culture, his lifestyle and his musical convictions. Wearing his fedora styled straw hat, Julian’s dress even stood out to me. His blue jeans were cuffed, and he had white socks with cherries on them. His foot attire were boots, but when he took the stage, he was barefoot and ready to perform. This teenager, Julian Davis, is a name to put in your books.
He has an old soul, with a new perspective and Julian Davis could be a household name, and one that should be heard in the bluegrass world for years to come.