HT Interview: Davy Knowles

AJ: You worked pretty closely with Peter Frampton on the last release, Coming Up For Air, and it worked out really well. It’s a wonderful album. Is there any other artist that you’d like to collaborate with as much as you did with him?

DK: Oh man, I think about it all the time. I’ve always wanted to work more with Warren Haynes. He’s just one of my heroes. He’s not just a great guitar player; he’s a hell of a singer and an incredible song writer. He should be a household name, I think.

AJ: I first met Warren back in 1991 I think. He had been touring with the Dickie Betts Band and had also been touring with the Allman Brothers and recently started Gov’t Mule. Really nice, genuinely polite and interesting to talk to, plus I don’t think there’s been a song written that he couldn’t just pick up a guitar and play.

DK: Absolutely. The guys’ repertoire is incredible and the ability to crush onward is amazing. But you are right, the biggest thing for me is that he can be that talented and NOT be a complete asshole speaks volumes. He is such a huge inspiration. He’s such a lovely guy. Peter is the same too.

AJ: I’ve heard you say that he’s just a down to earth regular guy.

DK: He completely is, completely is. He’s had Frampton Comes Alive, huge hits and all. But I’ve had to buy his lunch a couple of times you know, like a bloke’ll say, it’s your round.

AJ: How did you guys meet?

DK: It was actually through a mutual friend we both have in Nashville. I think he works for BMI or something like that. He said that Peter does a lot of co-writes and should he put my name in the hat? About six months to a year later, I got a call from Peter. He says, “Hey, this is Peter Frampton” and I say “What?” he said he really liked my stuff and I’d really like to write with you. And then it happened another six months after that that we were in the same place at the same time, he actually came by the little cottage I used to live in L.A. And in an instant . . . you know when you ‘re sitting around with someone and you feel the energy around them and you just feel so comfortable with them that you could open up to them about anything? It was exactly like that. Just fantastic.

AJ: You are on your way to Daytona International Speedway. Every year, Daytona sells out 169,000 seats, not counting the infield. 169,000 people to play in front of, how does that make you feel?

DK Well, I just now found that out from you and I’m scared shitless again, so thank you very much. I’ve found the easiest way for me is to just keep my head down and not think about it. I’m not nervous about that sort of thing.

AJ OH, you’ll handle it just fine. Before we talk about the Devils tour, one more thing about BDS. This is the Fourth of July weekend, Adam’s birthday if I remember right. The original BDS. You played the Blues Festival a couple of years ago and KINK had a birthday party for him and all. Do you keep in touch with Adam and Ross? Are they doing anything out of the ordinary?

DK: Well, I don’t keep in touch with them too much. Mainly, the whole idea was that we needed to crack off and do different things. From a non-malicious point of view, it’s just easier that way, you know what I mean? It’s not like there’s huge massive hatred, it’s more the fact that everyone just wants to do their own thing. So, we don’t really talk much.

I believe they have a band together, or Ross has a band called the Bad Pennies. They are still on the Island (Isle of Man) and they’re doing pretty well. As far as Adam, I don’t really know what he’s up to. I know that at one point he was going to go over to London to go to college actually, for bass guitar, but I don’t know if he went through with that. I don’t know. We’ll find out together one of these days, I suppose.

AJ: Speaking of music, If I was to grab your iPod and put it on shuffle, what would be the first five bands I’d come up with?

DK: (Rattles them off, no hesitation) John Hiatt, Little Feat, Gov’t Mule, Ben Harper, Dire Straits.

AJ: You are going out with the Rhythm Devils in a couple of weeks. They’ve been making music together (Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann) since twenty years before you were born. Did you realize that? Do you anticipate any generation gap or communication problems or will the music be the great leveler, keeping it all even?

DK: No, I see it as pulling me into more modern stuff than I’m used to. If I could talk like an air head for a second, I’m used to just having a guitar, amp and a couple of pedals. But for this, it’s forced me to re-think my whole guitar rig and I’ve got huge effects now with rep systems and stuff. It’s all pushing me to be more modern in my own approach. And it’s wonderful. It’s a great thing, that’s why I’m doing it. I’ve only met Keller Williams so far, so I’ve yet to meet them all, but they seem like wonderful people.

AJ: You mentioned Keller Williams, have you had a chance to discuss who will sing what yet? You are sharing vocals, I heard.

DK: We’ve been bouncing MP3s back and forth. What Mickey has asked us to do is, which is quite nerve wracking, is to record Grateful Dead songs and Rhythm Devil material that’s new, onto MP3 and send it to him. He wants to hear our interpretation of it. So, that’s pretty nerve wracking, sending my recordings of Grateful Dead songs off to Mickey Hart. So, we’ve been bouncing stuff back and forth, but we’ve got little figured out.

AJ: Again, you’re going to be joining the Grateful Dead’s extended family so to speak, taking in to consideration where you’ve come from in the last five years, especially since the second album came out you’ve been doing great, God love ya. But once the dead heads find out about you, you’ll be taking Davy Knowles to another level. Once they love you, hitting the website, attending shows and all that goes with expanding your market share, well they are going to love you to death. Are you prepared for that?

DK: Yeah, absolutely. They are a loyal following and I’d love to tap into that for as long as I can. That is as long as they will accept me for it. I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful experience.

The biggest thing I’m excited with about the Rhythm Devils is the chance to do something new and to learn something new. And be part of a different ensemble, be part of something new, to be part of a different type of music than I’m used to playing. That’s the attraction for me, more than anything. Hopefully it’ll work out that way and it’s a wonderful bonus if it happens like that.

AJ: Having spent most of the last five years on the road, touring with and meeting so many different people, I need to ask you this: Who among all those whose path you’ve crossed since you started this has left the greatest impression on you?

DK: Probably Warren Haynes. Just because, at that point in my life, I was kind of getting a little bit cocky. You know, Roll Away had done really well for itself. I mean, it wasn’t a major success but it did open a lot of doors for us. We were on the up and it was wonderful. And I got a little bit cocky: “I’ve got a record deal, I’m touring the States. Yeah, being asked to do all these tours. This is great, life is fantastic” kind of thing. And then I went on the Mule tour and I just got cut straight back down you know what I mean? I mean listening to and watching Warren, and Gov’t Mule as a band too. I mean the focus is always on him, but what a band! And it just shot me right down. I said, shit, that’s how it’s done, eh? I’ve got a long way to go. A long way to go. And I needed that, I really did.

AJ You mention Mule as a band. I’ve learned a lot about playing the drums by watching Matt Abts, copying what I can.

DK: Yes, he’s so tasteful. Really inspired. The way Warren and he really pushed me on stage, always trying to nudge me a little further. And that was, honestly, the biggest kick up the ass I’ve ever had. He (Haynes) humbled me completely, but he’s such a wonderful person. He made me rethink my whole life routine, actually.

AJ: Do you still keep in touch with Warren?

DK: Absolutely. I sat in with them down in Alabama a couple of months ago, but we’re in touch all the time.

AJ: Now that your career has been moving upward, have you splurged on anything extravagant? Bought your parents the house they always wanted, something like that? Spent any money frivolously?

DK: No, no house yet. I don’t have the income for that. I do have a lot of guitars these days. If I get some money, it all goes toward guitars. My spending is pretty laid back. I saw my folks. We had a holiday on the Isle of Man. I got to go home to see my folks for Christmas. Things like that I wouldn’t normally be able to do, really. Mostly I spend it on the music.

AJ: Like reinvesting in the business of Davy Knowles?

DK: Absolutely.

I’ve since seen some of the video from the Nascar set. I’m still amazed at what Knowles has learned, how far he has come both as a player and singer, but as a front man and human being. As he says, he’s “on the up.”

Rock on up through the fog, my friend.

A.J Crandall

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2 thoughts on “HT Interview: Davy Knowles

  1. Sammy Reply

    I was lucky enough to interview Davy at The Hangout Beach Festival and he was by far the most soft spoken, huge smile, humble individual ever. It’s amazing his soft voice transforms into wicked blues and soul as soon as he’s on stage.
    Great Piece.

  2. suckiemcsuck Reply

    “Davy was asked to jam nightly and learned the art of improvisation by following the likes of Steve Vai and Warren Haynes.”

    You’re thinking of Joe Satriani, not Steve Vai. Steve Vai isn’t in Chickenfoot, Satriani is.

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