Since his career began at 12, Matthew Davidson, a 15-year-old singer-guitarist from Shreveport, has performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Ark., the House of Blues in Dallas and the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Miss.
Davidson makes his Baton Rouge debut Saturday, April 6, at FestForAll. Like most of his engagements during the school year, it’s a weekend gig.
Davidson and his band members — drummer Kyle McClanahan, keyboardist Greg Walton and bassist Zack Ebey — are all high school students. They often spend their non-school day weekends traveling to performances in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“This month we have gigs every weekend,” Davidson said from Shreveport a few weeks ago. “Sometimes we have two or three a weekend.”
And sometimes, in order to make a gig that requires travel, Davidson skips his final Friday class at Caddo Magnet High School.
“My school has been very understanding and allowed me to miss,” he said. “Sometimes I like to think school gets in the way, but I know school is very important. I try to balance music and school. It’s been tricky but I think I’ve managed it.”
So far, the biggest crowd Davidson has performed for was a few thousand people at Shreveport’s Independence Day Festival in 2011.
“I love playing in front of big crowds on a big stage,” he said. “But at the same time I like for people to be into it. I’d rather play for 10 people who are really into it than 10,000 who are just kind of there to be there.”
Davidson experienced some stage fright when he first began performing but has since gotten over it.
“Now, just before I go on, I’m just anxious to get out there,” he said. “Mainly, I just look forward to it and can’t wait to go on.”
Making his Jazz Fest debut last year was exciting for the young musician, even though his Kids Tent set conflicted with one of the festival’s most anticipated acts of 2012.
“It was an all around great experience,” he said. “We were playing at the same time as the Eagles, but we still had a pretty good crowd. The Kids Tent is not as impressive as the Acura Stage but we’re working our way up.”
Like many musically inclined youngsters, Davidson’s early inspiration came from a parent’s music collection.
“Probably all due to my dad’s CDs,” he said. “He has a bunch of old CDs. He liked the Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I really got hooked onto that stuff. I like the current stuff, too, but in my mind nothing can beat the Beatles and the old school ’60s and ’70s stuff like that.”
The older music appeals to him, Davidson explained, “I guess because there are actual musicians who are actually playing instruments. That’s what turned me on, the musicianship they put into it.
“And I try to come across as someone who is playing and having a good time and not worrying about sounding absolutely perfect, because humans aren’t perfect.”
Davidson’s biggest guitar influence is the late Texas blues-rock singer-guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“And I’m a huge fan of John Mayer’s stuff,” he said. “He does what I hope to do, mix some contemporary elements with great musicianship. Another person from Louisiana, Hunter Hayes, he’s a country artist, but he inspires me, too.”
Davidson began guitar lessons at 6. He’s now studying voice and piano.
“I wanted to broaden my horizon and learn more instruments,” he said. “I’m taking lessons and will continue to. There’s always more to learn.”