Dallas Davidson is known for his many contributions to country music, including 23 No. 1 songs penned for today’s biggest stars like Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. But like most country boys born after 1970, Davidson loves three kinds of music – country, classic rock and hip-hop – and knows how to merge the three to create something that only a country boy can.
Now one of Nashville’s most distinguished and inventive songwriters is hitting shuffle and blending those genres into something completely new with his Play It Again Records project Country Boy Swagger, a full album of cross-genre collaborations slated for late 2016 or early ‘17. The first single from the project, “Laid Back,” featuring Big Boi, Maggie Rose and Mannie Fresh, is already at radio and causing a stir.
“I think all across the nation, you’ll have a country band or a rock cover band playing at a bar or club and during the breaks they play hip-hop music,” Davidson said. “Now, to put them all together, to me, makes sense.”
Davidson and Fresh might not seem like running mates to the casual observer, but the collaboration came easy after Catherine Brewton, BMI vice president of writing/publishing in Atlanta, introduced the two. Each has wide-ranging ideas about the universality of music – and how to make a hit. And both have had a powerful effect on their own genres while forcefully helping to change the dynamic of pop music as a whole with their visionary ideas.
Their creative chemistry was immediate in the studio with Fresh crafting beats as Davidson simultaneously freestyled lyrical ideas. When they were done, songs like “Laid Back” seamlessly blended styles, genres and voices.
“Mannie Fresh is a genuinely chilled-out guy,” Davidson said. “He’s a guy who I’ve known about for years and respected. He’s a guy who actually sits down and makes it easier. He got a creative side out of me that I didn’t know was in there.”
Like the innovative Davidson in the country genre, Fresh has impacted the hip-hop genre in a major way, helping create the blueprint for the modern hip-hop star as the in-house producer for Cash Money Records where he helped guide Lil Wayne from teen phenom to adult pop star before leaving in 2005. Now signed to Def Jam South, the Louisiana-born rapper was at work on his next solo project when he met Davidson, who came with a satchel full of ideas.
Davidson had a similar effect on country music, guiding the genre to the fun end of the spectrum with upbeat party songs that have helped more widely popularize the genre across the vast American mainstream. Many of his chart-toppers and more than 300 cuts have helped push the definition of country music into new territory, such as Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here” and Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).”
“It’s the Dirty South - that’s where I grew up,” Davidson said. “This is my best effort to sonically represent what the Dirty South is to me. God, we loved Outkast. When I hear Big Boi’s voice on this song, I’m taken right back to Albany, Georgia. I’m like, ‘We really did it. That’s Big Boi.’ I can’t believe my career has led me to the point where I can claim this project as my own.”