If his time in the recording studio is any indication, Moot Davis' new album is going to be hot.
The record, Goin' in Hot, was recorded last year at a studio in Nashville and is due out in April. Davis, his bandmates and producer Kenny Vaughn decided on the title on the final day of recording. In fact, early album art from Davis' graphic designer featured a house on fire.
But sometimes when you play with fire ...
"We finish on a Wednesday," recalls Davis, a New Jersey native who got his break in the early 2000s playing honky tonk. "On Thursday we go in and fix some stuff, and on Saturday we get the mixes ... and agree to meet up on Monday, make some changes and go from there. So we left there at 3:30 in the afternoon, and by 7, the place had burned to the ground.
"It was an all-analog studio, and all the tape was melted to the floor. And of everything that had been recorded there, our project was the only thing that could be saved off of this water-logged, charred computer. It was the craziest thing, but it also makes you feel like it was kind of meant to be."
Actually, Davis' career to this point has that sort of vibe to it. A stage actor with touring production companies, Davis worked construction jobs when he wasn't on the road. He began writing songs in his head because the clunker his grandfather gave him to drive didn't have a radio. He asked his construction foreman to teach him some guitar so he could start to put his lyrics to music — he was 27 at the time. He moved to Nashville in 2001, and a year later was in Los Angeles making his first record.
"I didn't necessarily set out to write honky-tonk records," Davis says. "I grew up listening to classic rock, but the honky-tonk influence was there from my parents and from summer trips to see family in West Virginia.
"I came to realize that the songs I was writing were honky-tonk songs."
Davis will play a pair of Pittsburgh shows that bookend a three-week tour that stretches from Pittsburgh to Austin, Texas, and back again. The tour begins Fri., Jan. 24, at the Dead Horse Cantina in McKees Rocks. The last show will be Feb. 15, at Moondog's in Blawnox.
In the 2000s, Davis released two albums on legendary producer Pete Anderson's label, then returned to acting for a time and moved to New Zealand. In 2012 he released a new recording, Man About Town, and unlike his previous efforts, the honky-tonk flavor of the album was complemented by a couple of songs that showed more of his classic-rock leanings than the country music he says he'd "been digesting steadily" for a few years.
On the new record, the rock influence is more prevalent than the honky tonk, but the changes are subtle. Davis' sound has actually morphed into a hybrid that's grounded in traditional country and miles away from what passes as modern country music.
"I think the sound is just sort of whatever the music dictates," Davis says. "But I also don't see me making music that has no connection to what I've done in the past."
Editor's note: The Moot Davis concert originally scheduled for Fri., Jan. 24 was moved to The Purple Cow in Morgantown, W.Va. The Feb. 15 show at Moondog's is still scheduled.