Nothing—not even a pandemic—could stop singer-songwriter Jon Christopher Davis from doing what he loves most: playing in front of a live audience. So last year, after COVID shut down everything, he came up with a solution. If people couldn’t come see him, he’d take the music to them.
In May 2020, the Oak Cliff native kicked off his 2020-2021 Backyard Tour with customized, at-home concerts for any—and every—occasion. He has performed for groups from five to 50, sometimes solo, often with his band in tow.
“It’s our way to keep the music playing at a time when people need it most,” Davis says. “Unlike a bar, where I’m just the soundtrack for the evening, the Backyard Tour is more intimate. Everyone knows each other. They’re laughing, they’re dancing, they’re smiling. But the main thing is, they’re forgetting about COVID for a few hours.”
Every show gets its own tailor-made playlist, a mix of rock, country, blues, and soul. Once onstage, Davis reads the audience. “Can we blow the roof off the joint? Absolutely,” he says. “But we can also adjust the sound and the vibe for any event or venue.”
In addition to performing live, he has kept busy writing and recording new songs with Stan Lynch, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and original drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Their band The Speaker Wars (the name was coined by friend Don Henley) is set to release its first album later this year, and the pair has also been invited to play some shows with Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters next year.
It won’t be Davis’ first performance with music royalty. He has shared the stage with the likes of Lyle Lovett, Train, Michael McDonald, and The Roots. His songwriting credentials are equally impressive: he has penned tunes for Dolly Parton, Hal Ketchum, and the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit, among others.
Music, he says, is part of his DNA. His parents were industry professionals. His mom sang the classics in clubs—Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis. His dad, originally a country crooner, found God and turned to gospel. “I remember watching both of them onstage,” Davis says. “Las Vegas and the church had one thing in common: you could win people over with charismatic performances.”
As soon as he was old enough, Davis began playing bars on Lower Greenville and in the West End. “I was 18 at the time,” he says. “Nobody noticed I wasn’t legal. I had facial hair, I could play a guitar—not to mention, I’d inherited the ability to step up to a microphone with an understanding of how to sing a song and tell a joke.”
Now, even as Texas opens up, interest in the Backyard Tour continues to grow. Davis has private bookings through November, in addition to gigs at myriad hotels, bars, and restaurants throughout the region.
“It’s still a COVID year,” he says. “We’re not out of the woods yet. But you can see people are feeling optimistic. As cliché as it might sound, music is the language that connects all of us. It will survive anything. It’s like water, and nothing can stop it.”