Oxford is a hub for Mississippi musicians. University of Mississippi freshman Zach Davis, 19, has played guitar in several bands with genres ranging from rock to jazz, and the hobby has become part of his identity.
“Since I was 10, music has been my primary passion,” said Davis. “I had no idea at that age how it would evolve into something this big. Music has opened many doors for me in life and led me to meet many new people, and make new friends.”
Music has taught Davis important life lessons, such as dealing with adversity. “Music taught me self discipline at a very young age,” he said. “I was handed new obstacles to overcome early in my life, and I am grateful as to how it helped as I got older. It presented me new challenges to overcome and better prepared me to deal with my future endeavors or anything else that will force me to bring my best.”
Davis was introduced to music by his friend’s father, who played guitar. “Seeing him play guitar was very eye-opening for me,” Davis said. “While I already listened to blues and classic rock, being up close and personal with someone actually playing the music I like provided me with a new perspective regarding music.”
Growing up in Jackson also influenced his love of music. “Living in Jackson most definitely helped me as an aspiring musician,” said Davis. “Not only were rock and blues quite popular down there, but I was very into the countless number of local bands in the area.
“While there were good cover bands of some of my favorite artists, there were some solid indie bands that were up and coming in the Jackson music scene that I really enjoyed as well.”
While Davis’ favorite music genres are rock and blues, he has played in bands that cover different types of music.
“As a guitar player, it is natural to me that classic rock and blues will appeal to me,” said Davis. “But playing in my high school jazz band really opened me up to playing different types of music. It’s quite a contrast from playing guitar in a rock band where I’m seen as a primary member versus the Jazz band, where the guitar player has a quieter role.”
Fellow UM freshman JoJo Katool, 19, is a longtime friend of Davis’ and has witnessed his passion for music evolve.
“I wasn’t into music, but once Zach got into it, I saw his interest increase rapidly,” said Katool. “Music has been a part of him pretty much as long as I’ve known him since I met him shortly before he go into it.”
Katool said it didn’t take long for Zach’s identity to become synonymous with music.
“He started off as someone who liked music, and then a few weeks later, he carried a guitar with him everywhere he went,” said Katool. “I specifically remember when we were 10 or 11 years old, we would carpool together, and once Zach bought a guitar, we would have to make room for it in the car from then on.”
Katool made Davis the main focus of a video project for one of his classes in high school. “It was great to gain insight (about) my friend’s passion,” said Katool. “Since I wasn’t a musician, I wanted to make Zach the primary focus and, at the same time, saw why music was his primary interest.”
Davis said being on stage a young age helped him overcome stage fright. “I was incredibly nervous my first time on stage, but at the same time in awe,” said Davis. “The feeling was almost surreal when I started to play in front of larger crowds. But once I started to play for larger audiences, I had played enough shows before, which made the feeling start to become almost natural.”
Davis said his biggest fear was making mistakes in front of a large audience. He realized he’d overcome his fear while playing in his high school jazz band.
“Playing outside of school was where the nerves kicked in the most,” said Davis. “When the jazz band played, it wasn’t on a stage or in front of an audience, so we were essentially background noise, which took some pressure off my shoulders.”
Davis played outside of the UM Student Union last semester.
“I met up with few fellow students, who were also musicians last semester, and all of the sudden, we’re playing outside of the Union,” said Davis. “This was very similar to playing in the jazz band since students were walking by, and not many were stopping to watch. Once again, we were like background noise.
Davis said he wants his band to become more organized. “We need to meet up and practice more, and I believe this is the primary reason as to why booking gigs is not too easy for us,” he said. “Hopefully, we can set up a gig at Proud Larry’s, which would be huge for the band’s future.”
Davis looks at fellow student, musician and UM junior Hayden Brewer, 20, as a source of inspiration.
“Hayden and his band tour frequently throughout the state,” said Davis. “Hayden is very organized when it comes to setting up gigs, and he also prepares set lists for every show, which is another thing that will help my band find shows down the road.”
While music is a hobby, it’s something that is close to Davis. “When you start something really early, it’s very hard to quit,” he said.