Isle of Man-born guitarist/singer/songwriter Davy Knowles first burst onto the scene in 2007 with his band ‘Back Door Slam’, garnering rave reviews, national US television appearances (Jimmy Kimmel Live, Good Morning America), extensive triple-A radio airplay, and two top 5 Billboard Blues charting albums. Since then, Knowles has independently released two more studio albums, 2014’s ‘The Outsider’ and 2016’s ‘Three Miles From Avalon’, which also hit the top 5 on the Billboard Blues chart. An EP, ‘1932’, showcasing his talents on acoustic guitar, specifically a 1932 National acoustic guitar, was released in early 2017.
An extensive tour schedule has ensured he has put in more than his ’10,000 hours’ on the road, including appearances with The Who, Jeff Beck, Gov’t Mule, Lynrd Skynrd, Kid Rock, Joe Bonamassa, Sonny Landreth, Peter Frampton, Joe Satriani, and the Sammy Hagar-fronted supergroup ‘Chickenfoot’ among many others. “It’s your job to be the worst player in the room, and absorb like a sponge” says Knowles of sharing the stage with his heroes. And it’s not just his heroes he’s played for, in 2010, he became the first musician in history to play live directly to the International Space Station from Mission Control in Houston.
Most recently, Davy has launched "Club Q" - a response to the affect the COVID-19 pandemic has had as on him as the primary breadwinner in his young family and a musician who counts on tours and live shows for his income. Davy is creating a whole bunch of different interactive experiences, available to redeem both now, and in the future - when we're on the other side of this pandemic. Get more info here.
PRS: Later this year, you’ll be performing at a series of shows paying tribute to the late, great Rory Gallagher. You’ve cited Gallagher’s Celtic infusion into the blues as a major influence on your own playing. How did the initial opportunity to play with Band of Friends come about?
DK: Gerry McAvoy, who was Rory’s longtime bassist, was sent a video of me paying tribute to Rory on Facebook. He got in touch with me saying he loved it, and would I fancy doing something? Being the massive fan I am, I was blown away and jumped at the chance. It’s been an amazing education playing with Gerry, Ted and Brendan - all of whom were in the Rory Gallagher band. A dream come true!
^ photo // Josh Brick
PRS: You’ve enjoyed a successful solo career since the dissolution of your old band, Back Door Slam. Have you found that writing solo with the occasional collaboration suits your style better than a traditional band?
DK: It does give you a little more freedom for sure - but I guess there are plus’ and minus’ to both approaches. Becoming a solo artist has definitely introduced me to lots of different musicians to learn from that perhaps I wouldn’t have met if I were still in Back Door Slam.
PRS: You seem to prefer keeping your touring rig relatively simple, limited guitar changes, compact pedalboards, small combos, etc. Do you still experiment with new gear or find what works and stick with it?
DK: When I’m on stage I like to keep things simple, and focus on delivering the best show I can. The more stuff I feel there is to fiddle with, the more I find myself getting distracted with that, rather than concentrating on the song and audience. That doesn’t stop me from experimenting with my rig at home or in a studio though. I recently fell in love with the PRS Vela, which is fast becoming my favourite guitar, and while the pedalboard is maybe not the most complicated, I like to rotate the pedals on it and continually tweak the rig.
PRS: Are there any up and coming blues guitarists that you are watching closely or feel deserve more recognition?
DK: I think there are a whole bunch of amazing guitar players in the genre! The ones that really do it for me are those who are really writing songs based around those bluesy influences, rather than just playing great guitar - as impressive and valid as that approach is too! I’m a huge fan of Kingfish, Josh Smith, The Fantastic Negrito, and fellow PRS artist Boscoe France to name a few. There are so many great artists out there who deserve recognition.
PRS: When and where did you first encounter the PRS brand and do you remember the first time you played one?
DK: I must have been about 13 or 14 maybe. A guitar player I admired greatly back home on the Isle Of Man had a couple - a CE 24 Alder and a Custom 22 Soapbar in a beautiful Amber finish. I always coveted those instruments, and from time to time he would let me borrow the CE 24. He hung on pretty tightly to the Custom 22 Soapbar! I used to have a picture of a PRS in my locker at school. They were the instruments to strive and work towards - the holy grail for me!
Below, get to know Davy even better through our offbeat artist Q&A series we call "Feedback Loop."