Song City's Founder - Dave Demay

Song City Founder: Dave Demay

Song City Founder: Dave Demay

Dave Demay has been steeped in the music business his entire life, and his family has had a lot to do with that. Dave’s family has a rich, star-studded history, dating back to the earliest days of the Grand Ole Opry. He and his older brother Dan have both worked hard and paid their dues to carry on their family’s musical legacy. Dan has certainly made his mark in the songwriting department. He has had several cuts by major artists, like Darryl Worley, Martina McBride, Tracy Lawrence, John Michael Montgomery, Tracy Byrd, and more.

Dave and Dan have been writing songs their entire lives. While Dave is a excellent songwriter in his own right, he has pursued more the process of creating, recording and producing, over the years as he has also been nurturing and growing his original concept for Song City, which you can read more about toward the bottom of this page. For several years Dave continued to do some road performing, and songwriting after his career that was launched through his television appearances on major networks at the time. Before he moved to Nashville Dave was already pursuing his engineering skills when he lived in N.C. Over the years after moving to Nashville, he continued to be a studio nerd, working hard to sharpen his ear and his approach as a producer/engineer, and working with Grammy winning engineers who have been great mentors and guides.

Dave was a technical geek and graphic designer, having actually been an airbrush artist and photographer as well when he lived in N.C. He actually had a graphic and web design company called ‘Music City Media’ located just off Music Row at one point. Dave naturally fell into computer networking, database programming, and deeper levels of web development. He held several lead IT positions; consulting and working for tech firms and large corporations, such as Columbia HCA, BlueStar.net, and others. It was around 2000 that he started to recognize that the illusive internet bandwidth was becoming more available to the business environment, which played a big role in his concept for Song City. Although the internet wasn’t quite as accessible to rural areas, or quite as affordable yet, he felt it was getting close to begin moving forward with his concept for Song City.

Leaving Corporate and Ramping Up Song City
The IT industry was going through interesting times, so he left the Corporate world and began working full-time with his own studio business, “Song City Studios,” creating an entrepreneurial base from which to strike out from. The studio business isn’t as easy an upstart as many would think. It was a real struggle getting established.

Ed McMahon's Star Search

Shirley Webb, June Webb, Hank Sr. Opry

Winning Male Vocalist Grand Championship

Dave was raised in a musical family and started singing at an abnormally young age and fell into it very naturally, primarily because his mother was a professional singer her entire life from the age of 5. Dave’s mom Shirley and her sister June traveled with their parents and brother, performing as a child act on the road, which is how they ended up being discovered by Roy Acuff and started touring with the Grand Ole Opry. We will get into that in the next section. Dave was raised in a military family, his dad, MSGT. Daniel Demay, was non-musical, but a solid and hard working provider.

Dave’s mother made sure that all the kids could play instruments and so they ultimately became a family band. His younger brother Dennis was on drums, brother Dan playing drums as well, and guitar, sister played sax, his mother Shirley played upright bass and sang. Of course ‘David’ sang lead and harmony and played rhythm guitar, bass, and some lead guitar. Although the kids were in their early very teens the family band performed with their mother in prisons with her prison ministry. ‘David’ was the more natural singer among the kids, so he also sang lead and harmony on live Gospel radio with his mom a lot, with just the two of them going to WSTS Radio in Laurenburg, N.C. between the age of 12 and 16.

After Dave matured, he ultimately struck out on his own and became more involved working in live sound as well as performing throughout North Carolina, went to Europe briefly to play in his brother’s country band that he started when stationed in England with the Air Force. Dave came back and played some more and ran sound in a band called “Derringer” in his home state, and eventually moved to Nashville after a couple performances on The Nashville Network (TNN) on a show called, “You Can Be a Star,” hosted by Jim Ed Norman. Again, this is extremely abbreviated. The bigger transition is what came up next, within a year after moving to Nashville…

Some of you may recall Dave’s television appearance on Ed McMahon’s Star Search, which can best be described as the “American Idol” of the 80’s and 90’s. Dave won the entire season as the Male Vocalist Grand Champion for 1989. Below is a video of his Star Search performance.

Song City's Candadian Affiliate

Darryl Landry & J. Adair Music

Darryl Landry & J. Adair Music

Song City and Dave Demay work very close with its Canadian affiliate, and dear friend Darryl Landry and his publishing company, J. Adair Music. Dave has worked with Darryl and his associates for several years. Darryl and J. Adair Music are very established in the Canadian publishing world and based in Halifax Nova Scotia. You can visit his publishing catalog by following this link, J. Adair Music. Darryl and J. Adair have built a strong body of work that spans a broad spectrum of musical genres. Darryl and his company works with a gifted pool of talent in the greater Halifax and surrounding area. He is also very plugged into the Nashville industry circles. Darryl and Dave have enjoyed a long friendship of working together over the years. They and their businesses are very symbiotic entities, and Dave and Darryl are like brothers from different mothers so to speak.

Darryl is a gifted musician and songwriter in his own right. J. Adair Music’s catalog has everything from Celtic, Country, Bluegrass, R&B, to Alternative Folk. They even cover what would be considered Americana. J. Adair Music is not limited by region at all and very expansive in it’s scope and vision.

We are very proud to be working and partnering in many facets with Darryl Landry and J. Adair, and we are also very proud that they recently had a #1 Bluegrass single titled, “Old McDonald Sold the Farm” on Pinecastle Records, with our dear and talented friends, “Mark Newton and Steve Thomas.” You’ve probably noticed Darryl in the image slider on the opening page of the website. He and Dave work on quite a bit together in the studio.

More on Dave Demay's Musical History

You can read more about the original vision for Song City by clicking here, but the next section will introduce you to the other highlights of Dave’s life and his musical accomplishments on his journey to where we are now. Below, we will also visit his musical lineage and his family’s history with the Grand Ole Opry. With that in mind, please take into account that this is a very brisk sweep of Dave’s background, as there are many rabbit holes that can run pretty deep. Much is being left out for the sake of brevity. We will be adding more details later, and perhaps adding dedicated pages for deeper historical facts related to the music business and Nashville. There will be more clips of audio and video, to make for an even more interesting visit to Song City’s ‘about’ page in the future.

Grand Ole Opry

Shirley Webb, June Webb, Hank Sr. on Opry

Shirley Webb, June Webb, Hank Sr. on Opry

As we mentioned above, Dave comes from an established lineage of Country Music greatness via his grand parents, mother, aunt, and uncle, all of whom had a tremendous impact on he and his brother Dan, which immensely increased their awareness to some of the more intricate processes of making music and the business behind it. The Webbs and the Killen family line gave Dave and Dan some pretty big musical shoes to fill, especially when you take into account the challenges of the music industry today. Dan and Dave both continue to strive to make their family proud.

Dave’s mother, Shirley Webb, and his aunt June Webb were members of the Grand Ole Opry in the late 40’s and 50’s, as was his uncle, Buddy Killen. June and Shirley started out as members of their family group that Roy Acuff discovered on the road. They went by the name, “The Webb Family Quartet,” which consisted of Dave’s Grandparents James and Louise, June, Shirley, and their brother, Ford on steel guitar. June and Shirley later became the front act, known as the “Harmony Sweethearts.”

June married Buddy Killen, had two children, Robin and Linda. June signed an RCA Records deal and was produced by none other than Chet Atkins, Not a bad start aye? She was then talked into leaving RCA by Roy Acuff to sign a deal with his label, “Hickory Records.” June was the first female artist to get a #1 hit singing a Hank Williams song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” With that hit under her belt, She also won that years equivalent of today’s “Female Artist Horizon Award.” It was the same year that Johnny Cash got the “Male Artist horizon Award.”

After that, Dave’s mother Shirley, toured the road singing and playing upright for Cousin Jody’s band with the Opry for some time. She met Dave’s father when they were playing a military base. Dave’s father, Air Force Staff SGT. Daniel Demay, was tending bar at the NCO club where Shirley and Cousin Jody was playing. Fast forward, when she married Daniel in 1958, Shirley continued playing Big Band Music wherever they were stationed, after she left the Opry.

Interestingly enough, the one member of Dave’s family who ultimately had the greatest impact on the Music Industry during his lifetime was his uncle Buddy Killen. Whom we will cover in more detail in the next section, but to get a little taste of how incredibly talented Dave’s mother Shirley and aunt June are, we shared a couple videos of their performances below:

Buddy Killen

Buddy Killen: Early days of Tree Music

Buddy Killen: Early days of Tree Music

Buddy started out playing upright bass for Hank Williams Senior and several other acts. He was going to play bass for Hank the night of his unfortunate passing, in 1953. Buddy, June, and Shirley were all at the show that Hank couldn’t make. After Hank passed away, Buddy continued to do some road work and started plugging songs for Jack Strapp’s publishing company. Soon after that Buddy secured some major cuts by the likes of Elvis, and others, and he signed the phenomenal hit songwriter/artist Roger Miller to Jack’s publishing company. Shortly after that, their success was so great, thanks to Buddy, that Jack made Buddy a partner.

Jack Strapp, Roger Miller, and Buddy Killen - The hits came flooding in!

Jack Strapp, Roger Miller, and Buddy Killen
The hits came flooding in!

Tree started out owned by Jack Strapp. When buddy started working for Jack back before they had demo tapes, he literally went to the artists and/or producers and played the song for them on his acoustic for them. Dave remembers Buddy telling him how excited he was when they first came out with reel to reel tape recorders so he didn’t have to carry his guitar to pitch songs. After Buddy brought such success to Tree, he quickly became partner, and ultimately he purchased Jack’s half of the company after Jack passed away. Jack’s wife had no interest in maintaining Jack’s interest in the company. Tree Publishing housed hit songs as early, and as big, as “Heartbreak Hotel,” written by May Axton (mother to singer/songwriter & actor Hoyt Axton). “Heartbreak Hotel” was of course a huge hit for Elvis.

The success of Tree Publishing began to skyrocket after that with a string of hits, especially after Buddy gave Roger Miller his songwriter deal, and got him signed to a successful recording contract. Roger Miller’s amazing success at that time was amazing. Tree Publishing later became Tree International. There are so many huge hits that came out of Tree, that there’s no time to list them all here. Buddy became one of the largest independent music publishing moguls in the country with ‘Tree International.’

Tree International and Sony Music

Buddy Killen, Burt Reynolds, Bobby Goldsboro, and Capital Records VP Charlie Fach

Buddy Killen, Burt Reynolds, Bobby Goldsboro, and Capital Records VP Charlie Fach

Tree International housed a huge song catalog, including some Beatles songs. Paul McCartney, was a good friend of Buddy’s, along with a host of other celebrities in the music business and in Hollywood, like Burt Reynolds, and others. There’s a monument in downtown Nashville at the round-about on Music Row, which has a huge Greek statute in the center it. That round-about is named “Buddy Killen Circle” as a memorial to Buddy and his contribution to the Country Music industry and for his role in helping Nashville earn its title as ‘Music City.’

The video below, is of Buddy accepting the ACM Award for George Jones on a song he published titled, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” in 1981. In 1995, Buddy was finally talked into selling Tree International to Sony Music Group for an un-announced estimated $30-$50 Million. He continued to publish and produce until he passed away from Pancreatic Cancer in 2006. His memorial was held at the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Opry, and it was a beautiful and star-studded service.

If you want to get a good feel for what a great guy Buddy was, the second video below, is from a Christmas TV special he hosted at his house for a friend who had a cooking show. Many of his friends and Country stars pop in on the video:

Carrying on the Family Tradition

Coming from family roots like this is quite a lot to live up to, IF it’s even possible. Dave and his hit songwriting brother, Dan Demay, “came by it honest,” as they say in the South. It’s simply a matter of living, studying, and emulating what they’ve Been exposed to their entire lives. It’s just what they do and what their family has done for two solid generations. It’s their passion, and it’s saturated in their blood.

With this sort of musical background, you can imagine that Dave is particularly critical and attentive to maintaining the high level of quality work that Song City produces. His brother Dan is equally as critical about his songwriting.

Song City itself, is an emerging service that will ultimately cover a lot of bases for independent artists, songwriters, and producers, and will be announcing several more services in the near future. For those who subscribe to our free updates and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you will be informed of our new services as we release them. We are very excited about the developments we’re working on.

Song City's Origin to Now

Song City Founder: Dave Demay in 1990

Song City Founder: Dave Demay, in 1990

Song City is a concept that the founder, Dave Demay, originally conceived in 1994 when he was brainstorming on what would be an original business that could tap into the emerging world of multimedia in a way that will connect it to the music and entertainment industry. The numerous facets of the idea have still maintained so much promise over the years, he never let go of the concept.

At the time Dave had national notoriety and recognition because of his Star Search win in Hollywood. He could have pursued a hugely successful artist career more aggressively, but he had done quite a bit of road performing, and found himself more interested in pursuing success behind the scenes in the ‘business’ realm of music, and enjoyed being home in Nashville instead of away from it. He was never a chaser of the limelight really. He was primarily interested in the staying around Nashville because he enjoyed working in the studio and creating in that sort of environment. Dave was also intrigued by the publishing and writing aspect of things. He was particularly inspired by his Uncle Buddy Killen, who was such a tremendous publishing success. In many ways, his uncle’s legendary success was quite intimidating, but Buddy was always a good source of advice and one of the kindest men he’s known.

The concept for Song City was a simple, but demanding idea. Without going into deep detail, it is basically this: Every Label head, producer, artist, and songwriter in the music industry will tell you that no matter how you look at the it, everything is about THE SONG. The song is where it starts and where it ends. That goes for careers, productions, everything. THE SONG is what gives all of it deeper meaning and is the handle that creates the attachment to the listener, i.e. consumer. This was definitely the philosophy within the music industry in 1994, and it still holds true. The artist makes it interesting, but the artist, in many ways, is secondary to THE SONG. It takes great songs to make a great artist.

That said, Dave’s original concept was that Song City would be a place where songs can thrive and evolve, and a place where songs are conceived and birthed through collaboration; a place that brings together resources, and forms a Community. Essentially, Song City would be a City of Songs. At the time of conception, and the idea of the brand, Dave originally had aspirations more on the publishing level, but the other possibilities quickly evolved into being more than that, in concept, that is. Something more on a service level, for those who create and built everything that lifts up THE SONG in a way that appeals not only to the ears, but to all of the senses, while at the same time appealing to its viability in the business realm.

If songs were people, then Song City would be the most friendly place for them to be born, raised, work, and play. Hence our slogan, “Song City – Where songs are born, raised, work and play.”

When Dave thought of this concept in 1994, he knew that there needed to be a fast and easy access to Song City’s resources on a massive scale in order to make all of what he had in mind available to a broad base of music and multimedia professionals, as well as independent upstarts worldwide. It’s not a vision of mom and pop, but a much larger scale. Details on that can only be revealed as the services are ready to be unveiled and released to the public.

The clear projection of what the Internet was going to be in the future, at that time of Song City’s conception, presented itself as the perfect platform to transport the Song City’s vision to where it would get the visibility it needs once full accessibility is achieved. In 1994 the Internet was entirely too slow, but he secured the brand and name online by purchasing the web domain immediately. Now that online media can more easily accommodate all of what Dave has had in mind over the last 20+ years, it’s time to start moving things forward to the next level. We are convinced Song City will prove itself to be an extremely useful resource to a large number of individuals regardless of how large a base we appeal to.

Song City’s is making a bold initiative, gathering resources, and forming alliances to make more services available. At this point in time, some of the services, and the collaborative aspects of it, are not yet in place. We look forward to making more services available as soon as we can. But NOW is the time to start the structural transition. Although we already have a wealth of fundamental resources to offer in the entertainment field, we are are stepping forward by putting the new website and business model in place to get things under way as we implement the new framework that will host our future offerings.

Song City is already a Master-Level, Full-Production service. But our plans are to be much more than that. We intend to be a portal providing many other resources that will prove valuable to independent artists, labels, producers, and seasoned songwriters. Our ultimate goal will be to help promising writers and acts to further their professional endeavors in the entertainment industry. It is somewhat a slow growth but a careful one… And the journey continues. Care to join us? Stick around and see what happens!

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