Island Expressions: Barefoot Davis

Oct. 12, 2008 — It looks like Davis Murray — or Barefoot Davis as he's known in the Virgin Islands — is poised for musical stardom.
With his happy-go-lucky beach bum looks, a recently produced music video, a New England tour, a CD and regular upcoming gigs at Ainsley's and Latitude 18, Murray is going places. The Barefoot Davis Band's songs are also getting airplay on Pirate Radio WIVI-FM 96.1.
Murray also does a radio show, called "VI Funny Business at its Best" with Selwin Boom which airs Saturday mornings on KISS 103.5-FM, discussing local issues.
But singing hasn't always been Murray's main gig. The Brookfield, Mass., native's sailing skills have built up a serious following with the Caribbean 1500, a rally of some 70 boats that sail from Virgina to Tortola in early November.
"One of my first trades that I learned is compass adjusting, then I moved onto sailing, then more sailing and fixing boats," Murray said.
During the rally, Murray holds court for the morning chat, and holds a troubleshooting forum to advise boats with difficulties over the airwaves. He also performs for the participants in Hampton, Va., before and in Road Town, Tortola, after the rally.
"I'm not playing [a gig] until November, because I'm going sailing again," Murray said.
Murray uses the sea time during the rally, often more than a week offshore, to inspire his songwriting. He wrote all of the songs on his CD, "Daydreamin.'".
"Sailing is good because you can concentrate more on other things, because your little world is only 40-50 feet from you," Murray said. "And too, you're surrounded by the oceans with untold stories in it."
Murray said that his careers have all been about good timing.
"I've been very fortunate in my music with the people that I've met," Murray said. "Like with sailing, I just happened to associate with the right people at the right time, and it’s the same with the music. I was fortunate to meet (local musician) Lighting Phil Robinson on the Caribbean 1500. Nine years ago Phil showed me how to play the guitar and strum chords."
From learning chords to making videos at ISW Studios, Murray's star has been rising on the local music scene.
"He's real supportive of everything going on at ISW," Dan McGuinness, one of the founding partners of the label said. That whole attitude of his made it real easy to be supportive of him."
Murray's was the first music video that ISW made. The entire video was a local enterprise.
"I wrote the song and we recorded it here and produced it here," Murray said. "Dan saw the pirate dancers from the French Academy of the Performing Arts — he put all the pieces together and decided to shoot a music video on a locally owned pirate ship."
Both Murray and the studio are excited about the preliminary response to the video.
"The appeal is extremely wide-ranging," McGuinness said. "Anything pirate and anything Caribbean is popular. When it is actually released it could go anywhere."
Murray's inspiration and favorite artists are both local and international.
"I like old Grand Funk Railroad from the pre- Locomotion days, and also Harry Chapin," Murray said. "I do a Harry Chapin song called 'All My Life's a Circle.' I also like the presentation of Kenny Chesney, the way he performs. He performs for an audience like he knows every individual in that audience."
His promotion of his own performances has benefited the venues where he plays. Some of Murray's earliest gigs were at Latitude 18, near Red Hook on St. Thomas. Ron Arens, who sold Latitude 18 earlier this year, recalls Murray learning guitar from Robinson, who has since relocated to Colorado.
"Davis is a good promoter and built up Monday night into a fun and enjoyable night," Arens said. "He's good at working the crowd, and he's got some outrageously good musicians backing him up."
Murray says that what he likes most about the music he's written is observing its impact.
"It's great to see people appreciate what you have created, and to see how people in the band interpret it," he said.
Murray performs at a number of local charity events and will be singing Sunday at October Sunday at Magens Bay .
"My regular gigs this season are Sunday afternoon beach parties at Ainsley's at the Elysian (starting Nov. 23), where Morgan Rael and I'll be teaming up with Jason Jones to give the island something it hasn't seen or heard here before," Murray said.
Starting Nov. 24, The Barefoot Davis Band will be performing Monday nights at Latitude 18.
Murray's CDs are available online
and locally in 2009.
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