Davis Rogan: New Orleans musician and music consultant on HBO’s Treme rides into Trolley Stop
By Nicole Wroten
Davis Rogan is the real Davis. It has to be clarified that he is, in fact, the real Davis because Steve Zahn plays a character named Davis on HBO’s Treme that is loosely based on Rogan and his life. He is a true New Orleans character, which is probably what drew Treme creator David Simon to him in the first place.
In the summer of 2005, Rogan wrote and recorded his solo album, The Once And Future DJ. The day before Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, Rogan dropped the master copy off at the Loyola Avenue post office, which took on several feet of water in the flooding. Luckily, Rogan had another copy saved on a hard drive and was able to release the album a month later. David Simon came to New Orleans in December to research his new show, read a review of the record and bought it. The rest, they say, is history. Rogan now contributes to Treme as a music consultant.
The “real Davis,” as he prefers, just released his latest album of the same name (The Real Davis) and is visiting Dayton on November 10 at the Trolley Stop in an exclusive show presented by Yeah You Right Music, Inc. Rogan has never made the trip to Dayton, so I spoke with him about his trip right before he performed at New Orleans’ Voodoo Fest over Halloween weekend.
Rogan started our interview, hardly before I had even said a word, by asking me which I would go to the following night: The Treme season three kick-off party? Or to go see Soundgarden at Voodoo Fest?
“[After Voodoo] there’s this like super, super, super secret party that goes until 4 a.m. on Saturday morning,” said Rogan. “… Then at 10 a.m. I have to record and piano track for Steve Zahn … wait, that’s all I can say.”
Talking to him, some people might think he’s stoned, drunk, or maybe even crazy. But I know better. He’s just New Orleans.
So, tell me about your show at Voodoo Fest…
Cheeky Black is a bounce rapper, a great female bounce rapper. She’s a complete force of nature. We’ve done a whole bunch of rehearsing. My band, which is like a classic rhythm and blues New Orleans-style band (with my own lyrics and a vocal twist) [is performing] with Cheeky Black to turn it into this crazy, live, hell-i-fied rap act.
It seems like, musically, you’ve done anything and everything…
In this town, you have to be in six bands to starve — everyone knows how to play everything. It’s part of keeping the lights on. I’ve led various musical lives, starting with a side band for Kermit Ruffins to playing in a reggae band to having a large crazy eight-piece funk band to kind of losing it and losing it all, and going back to basics. I’ve been reinventing myself as a classic New Orleans rhythm and blues act with a lyrical twist. [DR]
And your newest album, The Real Davis…
[It’s] A) My best work yet and, B) What I’m proudest of. I’m probably going to be featuring music mostly from [my new] record. Because, A) I’m immensely proud of it and, B) I’ll be selling them. [DR]
The lyrics to “Damn You Sweet Bourbon” are really unique: How did you go about writing this song?
You know, some of the songs take you about five minutes to write and some songs take you years to write. And some songs just go and fall by the wayside … until you get a title like that and you just go. I was doing laundry and I was fishing through my jeans and I pulled out this napkin and there was [written] “Damn you, sweet bourbon.” And I was like, “Ooooohhhhhh, I’ve been looking for this.” [DR]
You’re releasing albums, touring, playing at Voodoo Fest, yet Davis McAlary on Treme, who is loosely based on you, is considered talentless and brushed off as being talentless. Is there a disconnect?
I rather insisted that they used the name Davis … David [Simon] said, you know, this might mean you’ll be crawling through the sewers and chucking alligators and I was OK with that … He didn’t say, we’re going to portray him as being kind of talentless, so that was a bit of an “ouchie” point, but I mean, the fact is that because of all this, the record got made; because of all this, you’re listening to my record; because of all this you’re calling me on the phone and talking to me…
This is a character “Davis” and although there are certain amounts of my story that are intertwined with [him], [he] is a creation of the producers and writers, being portrayed by an actor who brings his own flavor to it. If I failed to have separation, I would go absolutely nuts. [DR]
What should we expect at the show?
It’s dead-on, funky New Orleans rhythm and blues. But I am not carbon-copying any of the great rhythm and blues players. It’s all my original material and I’d like to give it the word “special.” [DR]
Davis Rogan will perform Thursday, November 10 at 8 p.m. at Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District. Tickets are $10 in advance at Trolley Stop or Rue Dumaine in Centerville; $15 at the door. Davis Rogan is presented by Yeah You Right Music, Inc. For more information, go to www.yeahyourightmusic.com or www.davisrogan.com.
Reach DCP Editor Nicole Wroten at Editor@DaytonCityPaper.com.