When country meets hip hop, sparks can fly as demonstrated by Kanye West’s mic snatching, spotlight grabbing theatrics during the 2009 MTV’s Video Music Awards during teen country singer Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video.
Although I’ve only seen her on television and spoken to her once, I can’t imagine Kanye taking the mic from Liz Davis, a contestant on the talent show P. Diddy’s StarMaker (MTV, Sundays, 10 p.m.). Fearless, open minded and determined to bring country music to new audiences, if Kanye tried to snatch the mic from Liz at her glory moment, tears might be shed but Liz wouldn’t be the one who would be crying.
I’m not saying that Liz is a brawler, but the fiesty Southern blond ain’t not punk either.
So, what’s a nice girl from Nashville, by way of Mississippi and Alabama, doing on a show produced by hip hop mogul P. Diddy? Answer: Trying to break through and change the game.
After 2 1/2 years in the country music capital, playing in local bars and “going through all the wrong doors”, Liz heard about the show and how the producers were looking for singers from every genre. She thought to herself, why not give it a try? She knew she had an opportunity to make history as the first country singer on the Bad Boy label.
Is Bad Boy ready to sign its first country artist? Liz thinks so. “It’s so great about Diddy willing to sign a country artist…It tells a lot about Diddy willing make such a brave move,” said Liz.
Liz insists that despite what many may think about country music, the genre is not easily definable. Just as hip hop has many flavors and is a fusion of all its respective influences, so is country. Country music can be folk, honky tonk as well as Delta blues. Growing up, Liz’s own influences ranged from the music of Muddy Waters, to Shania Twain to the queen of hip hop soul Mary J Blige — the first album she purchased. “I love music period,” said Liz. And she believes that soulful music is soulful music whether it’s country, hip hop, rock or R&B.
Liz loves sharing her soulful side with audiences. “It’s fun being on stage..engaging with the audience..When I’m on stage, I’m vulnerable. I’m telling a story. I’m trying to win them over with my performance. I love putting on a show.I loved being an entertainer ever since I was a child.”
As a 6th grader living in Hoover, AL, Liz took her karaoke machine to a soundproof room in her house and began working on her craft in earnest. When she felt she was ready to move her act from the room to the stage, Liz signed up for a talent show. The song she sang was”Blue” by LeAnn Rimes. Liz had even taught herself to yodel exactly like Rimes. “I wasn’t coming out of that room until I perfected the song,” Liz laughed. She “blew everybody away” including her mother and father who had no idea their daughter had such talent. Her mom, who videotaped the performance on her camcorder, became Liz’s biggest fan. “She took me to talent shows everywhere..[I started singing] and I haven’t stopped.”
No stranger to the competitiveness of talent shows, Liz is comfortable being “under pressure” — loves it in fact — which worked in her favor on StarMaker as she had to perform in front of the tough panel of judges: producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, Tamara Conniff, and choreographer LaurieAnn Gibson as well as Diddy himself.
She described the judges as being “brutally honest” but yet was unfazed by their criticism. “I take criticism as good thing. I use the negative to work to my advantage.” Liz understood their role in the process. “They have no time to waste. They have been entrusted with a responsibility. They tell it like it is and I can appreciate it. They are the best.”
The show is called StarMaker, so I asked Liz what she thought defined “star quality”. She said it’s being true to yourself, true to your fans. It’s engaging your audience. It’s the ability to handle the pressure and staying humble. It’s the ability to handle anything that comes your way. It’s charisma. It’s a “strength deep within that nobody can explain. You just know it.”
So what will the future look like for Liz? Although she enjoys both recording and writing new songs, her true passion is touring — “being out there interacting with people…going everywhere from Europe to honky tonks.” She also wants to go on tour with Diddy and “to expose her sound to his audience,” to have them see and experience her in concert.
“I’m the kind of person that tells it like it is. I’m just a country girl. I say what I feel because I’m so passionate about music and what I do,” said Liz. “I love proving people wrong. I’m hard-headed. I stay on my grind, that’s how I am… I’m here to make history.”
To follow Liz Davis on Twitter, click here.
UPDATE (Spoiler Alert)
Our sassy country gal has made history. Diddy chose Liz Davis as the winner of StarMaker. BadBoy Records has gone country. Can’t wait see Liz tear up the stage and the charts.