Bold and daring.
These two words come up often when bassist Dominic John Davis talks about his boss Jack White and the innovative, adventurous and often risky approach the Detroit rock icon takes in the studio and on stage.
There’s White’s ability to play every instrument on an album if need be, to perform every night without a set list and without even telling his bandmates what song is coming next, and to defy convention by insisting on phone-free concerts, with fans required to put their cell phones in pouches to eliminate distractions.
He’s a furniture-upholstering musician and producer, owns Nashville-based Third Man Records, also runs a vinyl pressing plant, and enthusiastically collaborates with artists ranging from country legend Loretta Lynn to rapper Q-Tip, which features on White’s latest single.
Perhaps nothing is bolder than proposing to your girlfriend onstage during the kickoff of a highly anticipated US tour last week – and then marrying singer-guitarist Olivia Jean on that same day. scene at the Masonic Temple in Detroit a few minutes later.
Oh, and how about releasing not one, but two albums in the span of three months that are poles apart in terms of stylistic direction?
“The music kind of tells him where to go,” suggests Davis, noting that there are frequently “blurry lines” in the studio as White develops songs and projects. “He’s a real problem solver in the studio. Everything is process with him.
Tracks of these new studio releases that made so much noise:
“Fear of the Dawn”, described by Davis as “heavy all the way”, was released last week (April 8), with “Entering Heaven Alive”, released July 22, a mostly acoustic album and “more of the soft side”. .”
Songs from both albums are among more than 100 songs White and his band have toured, including last weekend’s show at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.
“He sends us kind of a list of what he might want to do, but then in rehearsal he might start with something that’s not on the list. So we add it to the roster and it just keeps growing,” said Davis, who grew up with White in Detroit and is the tour’s musical director.
This means fans will hear everything from old White Stripes classics to The Dead Weather songs to just about anything White might decide to roll out on the spur of the moment during the shows. It’s the kind of creative spontaneity that has long propelled White’s approach to rehearsals, in the studio and on stage.
It also means that Davis and his bandmates have to react quickly on the fly.
“There’s something he could start on the piano and he’ll start it on the guitar or vice versa or whatever,” the bassist points out. “He’ll sometimes play songs that we’ve never played before. He just feels it and he goes. So there’s always a time when you have to say to yourself, ‘Do I know this song?’
“It’s interesting. It’s really racy. And I don’t think people realize how improvised it is.
Working as a four-piece band on this tour – “the smallest band we’ve ever been out with” – Davis says the overall vibe of the performance is actually “heavier in a way. It’s almost more concise. It’s a lot tighter, so it’s heavy, but we’re doing a lot of acoustic stuff (from the upcoming “Entering Heaven Alive”). That’s what’s great about this band where you kind of do everything.
The band includes another Michigander, drummer Daru Jones from Flint. So they were beyond thrilled to not only kick off the tour in Detroit, but also thrilled to have the chance to play an instrumental version of the national anthem on the Detroit Tigers’ opening day in Comerica. Park.
“It feels good,” Davis says of his return to the road. “During (the pandemic lockdown) I realized how much I needed or looked forward to.”
While a tour of the United States and Europe with White will keep Davis busy for much of 2022, the Nashville-based Michigan native who performs frequently with his wife, singer-songwriter Rachael Davis, and the Regional favorite Steppin’ In It, is also now a go-to producer.
He co-produced Greensky Bluegrass’ acclaimed latest album, “Stress Dreams”, and has managed recent projects for fellow Michigan natives Luke Winslow-King, G’itis Baggs, Aspen Jacobsen and others.
“My strength is helping others,” Davis says of his move into engineering and production. “These are different worlds and it’s a lot of work. That’s about all I’ve done since Jack’s last tour.
For now, though, it’s all about directing traffic and supporting his lifelong friend at these bold and daring Jack White performances at various historic concert halls around the world. Each night, he says, will be unique and distinctive.
“That’s what’s great about this tour. They are all going to be different,” he says. “There’s a lot of randomness, like, you know, letting things breathe, letting things happen.”