By Vaughn Lowery and Hannah DiPilato
Davis Mallory from MTV’s The Real World, discusses his struggle with alcoholism as well as how far he has come in his career.
360 Magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down with Davis Mallory, a contestant from The Real World on MTV. He is now pursuing a music career while educating others about alcoholism. As an openly gay Christian, he hoped to share his story with others as a television personality as well as a musician.
What was it like being on MTV’s The Real World Season 18? Any regrets? Do you still stay in contact with other cast members?
I was a senior in college, 21-years-old, when I auditioned for and was cast on MTV’s 18th season of the Real World, located in Denver Colorado. I was a fan of the show and had just come out of the closet to my classmates that summer. I felt that I had an interesting story to tell – being a Christian and openly gay was not something I had not seen on TV before – and I wanted to prove you could be both, while also showcasing a more masculine image of homosexuality than was often shown on TV.
Immediately after the show ended I flew around to colleges in the USA discussing and often debating Biblical professors in front of a student body; dissecting Bible verses and their interpretations on homosexuality. My grandfather James Davis Mallory JR (whom I’m named after) is a Christian author and psychiatrist – and so I was raised very orthodox – Southern Baptist. I found this time to be very rewarding and something I’m proud of – to date I still receive messages from viewers of the show expressing their gratitude for my story on The Real World.
I of course have regrets during my time on the show – I think most people who have done that show in their 20s will tell you they regret things they did or said. We were all heavily fed alcohol which created chaos, confusion, fights and hookups. I’m still close with several cast members, two of them live in Nashville so I see them most often. Tori Hall, who was on Road Rules and married Brad Fiorenza (I attended their wedding) and Brooke Labarbera, who was on my season of the Real World are two people I remain close with and I spent much of this summer 2020 with both of them!
What led up to you having an issue with drugs and alcohol? How’s life after sobriety? Are there any triggers that make it difficult to remain sober?
When I was younger (before trying alcohol) my mother told me to NEVER drink, instead of teaching me how to drink. This was because my parent’s divorce was caused in part by my father’s alcoholism. When I went off to college, I got drunk for the first time and I quickly progressed into blacking out when I drank. I would sometimes wake up the next morning and hearing stories from my friends about stupid things I said or did the night before. I tried to get that under control by lowering the amount of alcohol I drank and by not drinking hard alcohol.
I went through many chapters of my life taking breaks from drinking and reducing my alcohol intake. My father has now been completely sober for over a decade and his example is a big inspiration in my own decision to completely quit drinking. I’ve now been sober for 4 years. After reaching my 1-year mark of sobriety I had a big regret – that I hadn’t quit earlier. I felt so much better – I looked so much better and I just wished I had fully quit earlier in my life.
Thankfully, perhaps due to God or just growing up, I have ZERO temptation to drink anymore. I’m constantly reminded why I quit when I see other people’s struggles with alcohol. I have seen people wheeled off in an ambulance with alcohol poisoning, I’ve had close friends die from alcohol poisoning, a friend’s mother recently did; another close friend died from an overdose of drugs mixed with fentanyl recently. These everyday reminders keep me sober.
I really wish our society didn’t glorify drinking in movies/commercials/music, because the downfall from alcohol is not being taught to children: accidentally death, liver disease, the fighting it causes, relationships ruined, horrible, absent or addicted parents, job losses, physical damage it does to our bodies and faces are never shown in these alcohol commercials.
What was it like growing up with an uncle who had access to major recording artists like Wynonna Judd? Did that experience help shape you into the artist you are today? If so, how?
My uncle Chaz managed pop artist Amy Grant for many years and still manages Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith. My uncle John Mallory wrote songs for artists Wynonna Judd, Sixpence None the Richer, Ty Herndon and more. I grew up in the music industry, attending a lot of these artist’s concerts and meeting them – I spent summers on Amy Grant’s farm in Nashville – I was a huge fan of her and Michael W. Smith.
As a kid I dreamt of being a singer and wanted to have careers like theirs – my positive message songs “Faith,” “Not That Far Away” “Lost” and “Somebody’s Watching” are examples of songs influenced by Amy & Michael’s music. I did not expect to become a songwriter. How songs were written was a mystery as a kid – I knew singers sang them but didn’t know how they were created. When I started out on this journey to becoming a recording artist I had to watch and learn from others in numerous songwriting sessions until I really got the hang of doing it myself.
During your first year in Nashville, one of your former cast members (Diem Brown) passed away from cancer. How did their loss impact your life at the time?
Diem Brown passed away in 2014 – I moved to Nashville at the end end of 2013 – so I had just started my journey into songwriting. My first original released song is titled “Beautiful Girl’s (Diem’s Song)”, a song I wrote about Diem with award-winning songwriters Ben Goldsmith and Tori Tullier. The song debuted in People Magazine, where Diem was a news reporter and received press in E! News, US Weekly and more outlets.
Diem and I grew up in nearby parts of Georgia (I’m from Marietta, she’s from Roswell – just 15 min away) although we did not meet until we did the show. Diem was a sorority sister with my mother’s best friend’s daughter, Carly Hartwick, who first introduced us over email prior to our meeting in person for the first time when Diem and I did an MTV Challenge together: The Duel II in New Zealand.
Diem and I gave a school speech together where she shared wisdom on pursuing one’s career goals by interviewing those with the same job, Diem becoming a News Anchor where she met her idol Katie Couric to ask questions on how to get to Katie’s place in life. Diem’s speech really inspired me as I chased after my own career dreams in music, so when she lost her battle to cancer I was deeply saddened and wrote the song to memorialize her through music. Her sisters’ often use the song on the anniversary of her death, which I’m always touched to see.
You grew up in Atlanta but now reside in Nashville. Do you prefer one city over the other? If so why?
I was born in Atlanta and raised in a suburb of Atlanta called Marietta. After attending college in Florida at Stetson University, I returned to Atlanta for 2 years before moving to NYC. I have not lived in Atlanta since 2009; however, I return every year to see my family who still live there. It’s changed a lot, the movie industry was not there when I left, and in my song titled “Atlanta,” the first song on my upcoming album Little Victory, I talk about my journey from Atlanta to New York and now Nashville with a longing for my hometown and noticing how much the city has changed.
I moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music, hearing it was a land full of songwriters. The things I really like about Nashville are the people and culture here. There are really great moralistic people here and I am thankful for that as it’s a safe great place to live. Nashville is like going to college in the music industry – people in all stages of their careers are here and many are willing to collaborate. I would not be where I am today if not for Nashville.
What are some of your musical inspirations? Can you name a few people that have inspired you or who continue to inspire you?
Aside from mainstream pop artists like Britney Spears, George Michael, NSYNC, Michael Jackson, Robyn, Prince, Mariah Carey, the real-life connections that have influenced my career include Parson James (vocalist on Kygo’s “Stole the Show”) who is one of the first people I wrote music with. We met in NYC in 2013, I followed him to Los Angeles to write with him and moved to Nashville prompted by advice from his then-manager who thought I sounded like a Country artist.
Roger Murrah (BMI Songwriter of the Decade and writer of several Country music #1s) is one of the first people I met when I moved to Nashville. At the time I was still learning how to write songs, so I watched him work in several sessions and I began to understand how to write the way he did.
Scot Sax (Grammy-winning songwriter for Tim McGraw/Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved At All”) is another person who was very influential on my songwriting journey – he taught me how the B52s recorded “Love Shack” in a go-as-you-flow style recording their ideas on the spot to build the song.
Aside from these few names, I have been in over 300 songwriting sessions, and I’ve traveled writing music in Europe (Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Malmo, London, Amsterdam), New York and Los Angeles. Everyone along the way has taught me something, a new trick or technique to writing music or producing music and I’m thankful for everyone who has worked with me.
As a songwriter, how do you come up with themes? Is your music based on an isolated experience or a chapter of your life?
I keep an ongoing note on my phone called Songwriting Ideas so that whenever I get an idea for a song I write it down there. I then bring these ideas into songwriting sessions to get something started. Sometimes I get a melody (occasionally during a dream) and record these on my phone, using it as another tool to get songs started.
In 2018 music publicist, Lyndie Wenner asked me what my most popular social media posts were – to which I replied: shirtless photos of myself. So she told me I needed to write a song called “Shirtless” and I did, releasing that song in 2019. This conversation with Lyndie changed the way I wrote songs. Before I was writing broader subjects, and after I began to write more about the things I saw my audience interested in. I still observe that the things I write about center around one of 4 themes: 1. God and my faith; 2. Love lost of found; 3. Partying and dancing, of 4. Overcoming addictions.
Another influential person in my songwriting career is PollyAnna (Dutch pop/EDM vocalist, songwriter of Paris Hilton’s new song “I Blame You”). I spent a summer writing with her in Nashville, Los Angeles and Berlin and I observed her taking random phrases we said in conversations and writing them down for future songwriting materials. I now do the same, whenever something unusual is said in a conversation. PollyAnna and I wrote a song together in Berlin called “Without You, I Feel Good”, which has now been signed to Soave Records, produced by a DJ named Nexeri, and coming out on February 26, 2021.
What words of wisdom would you offer an emerging artist who is trying to break into the business?
The words “If you build it they will come” from the great baseball movie Field of Dreams, is a motto that holds a strong place in my mind regarding my strategy to release music and gradually having people discover your work. I have a business model of writing songs and selling them to DJ/producers and I think this is a great move for up-and-coming singers to build a name for themselves.
My first job after college (post-Real World) was a sales job that required reaching out to 100 potential customers every day with the expectation that between 1-10 would buy something – I now use this strategy in my music career in so many facets and find the same results.
Is there anything you would like to speak about that we didn’t already touch on? What can your fans look forward to?
2020 was set to have me perform in Germany, Boston, Chicago, Palm Springs, North Carolina but the shows were of course canceled due to the pandemic. I look forward to getting back to touring though and to meet more people who have been asking when I will be in their city. I have been spending the last year working on new music with DJs, finally releasing the sophomore album that I have been alluding to and even developing an idea for a third project of which some of the songs are ready 🙂
Little Victory is an upcoming single/video that you’re pushing. It’s an extremely inspirational piece of work about someone feeling like a fish out of water. What prompted such a piece?
I wrote “Little Victory” after returning from Israel where I had met and was at the time long-distance dating Israeli singer-songwriter Elhay Cohen, the song idea came from my co-writer: female Canadian producer and songwriter Robyn Dell’Unto. December 2020 French DJ RetroVision released a version of this song on Don Diablo’s record label Hexagon and the original version is going on my forthcoming album of the same name.
Retrovision, Davis Mallory – Little Victory
Little Victory Music Video
Little Victory single
Pre-Save for the album Little Victory
Here is a private SoundCloud tracklisting for the “Little Victory” album:
- Atlanta –a song I wrote about my hometown, my journey to NYC and Nashville to pursue music – with nostalgia for Atlanta – the city where I had my first heartbreak and how much the city has changed since I left (it’s now a film industry).
- Ain’t Afraid – features a big name in the EDM industry Luma (Seven Lions, Nurko, Zack Martino) – who I co-wrote the song with – it’s about not being afraid to fall in love
- Little Victory– co-written with and produced by female Canadian artist Robyn Dell’Unto – a remix of this song made by French artist RetroVision released on Don Diablo’s label Hexagon. “Little Victory” is about a summer romance with my Israeli ex who I met after I opened for Eurovision winner Netta who told me I had to visit Israel.
- Fire Signs – features Miss Audrey the Katy Perry-inspired Best Pop Artist at the Nashville Industry Music Awards, I wrote this song in Sweden about zodiac chemistry compatibility – I’m a Leo and Miss Audrey an Aries, we’re both Fire Signs.
- Shirtless– this is a new Countrified mix of the song that aired on MTV’s War of the Worlds and became the theme song for men’s swimwear line: Poolboy
- Heavy – features an all LGBTQ identifying cast – with vocalist Blake Leider and rapper Daisha McBride – discusses why relationships have to be so heavy, produced by Danish Aren Anderson and Ukrainian Depdramez.
- Can You Tell Me?– produced by Canadian artist BLEM and written in Berlin with Vincent Stefansson and Valentin Glage – “Can You Tell Me?” is about being ghosted. Where does all the love go in this modern era when two people separate and the romance suddenly dies.
- Say You Hate Me– written in Sweden the same week as “Fire Signs” “Shirtless” and previously released single “Jane Fonda” – “Say You Hate Me” is a very Britney Spears/NSYNC-style Swedish pop song co-written with and produced by Magnus Funemyr about a relationship that has grown stale.
- Sink or Swim – with references to Madonna, Beyonce’s “hot sauce,” and Whitney Houston’s “receipts” – “Sink or Swim” is about a cheating partner and the end of a relationship, produced by Option A. Music video coming by Russian filmmaker Dmitry Zhitov.
- Forget You– co-written with Nashville female EDM vocalists Notelle & Luma, produced by artist Swiss DJ FENOX – “Forget You” is about the end of a relationship and having a hard time letting go of the memories.
- Broken Dreams– this unreleased version by Ukrainian producer Depdramez – was co-written with pop artist Drew Schueler – tells the story of all the hard work artists put into chasing their dreams of stardom.
- Faith – written in 2020 at the start of this pandemic with American Idol contestant Madeline Finn, “Faith” is an uplifting anthem giving hope for all to not lose their faith in these trying times, produced by Austrian producer Jakob Koller.
The music video for “Can You Tell Me?” is scheduled to release on 2/19/2021