Despite being only 20 years old, David J has been singing, songwriting and performing for nearly a decade. When he was a kid growing up in Rotterdam, New York, he had aspirations of joining the NFL and was quarterback at his sports-focused schools. But another teenage phenom inspired a swift, decisive shift in passion: Justin Bieber’s documentary concert film “Never Say Never.”
“It looked a lot cooler than what I was doing, all the girls chasing him,” David says with a laugh. But it was more than just the adoring fans and slick sets that drew him in. “Watching how he could bring a team together into what he does, and the shows looked like so much fun. So, I quit sports and learned how to sing and play guitar in my bedroom.”
For the most part, David kept his new interest in music secret, hesitant to let his school friends know he spent his spare time teaching himself how to create music. But small clues started to appear. Where he used to get kicked out of choir class for refusing to sing, he soon started catching the ears and attention of his peers. People started to notice his potential, whether it was a substitute teacher hearing him messing around in class, his mom watching him during a karaoke night, friends catching him post a cryptic video on Snapchat. They all said the same thing – “you’ve got something here.”
With every bit of feedback, David was more invigorated to strengthen his natural gifts. He started working what could be considered the northeastern version of the honky-tonk circuit – entering singing competitions in local fairs, hitting open mic nights and impressing club owners so much they’d invite him to play weekly happy hours. As time went on, he would draw such a strong crowd they offered him longer nighttime gigs, and eventually weekend headline slots. Local radio stations made him a standard opener for just about any show that came through the area, leading David to support the likes of Blake Shelton and Chase Rice, among others.
He booked upwards of 150 shows a year. When he opened for Mitchell Tenpenny in 2018, Tenpenny told him Nashville was the spot for anyone looking to be a country singer and songwriter. David started reaching out to Nashville-based songwriters via social media, collaborating virtually from Upstate, even in pre-COVID times. David began working on developing his sound and consistently writing in Nashville shortly after he started working with his team at Grey Area Music in early 2021. By September of that year “Lost My Heartbreak” found a breakthrough, with other releases, “Before You,” and “What Goes Around” connecting with audiences as well.
David assembling a team behind the scenes, and in late 2022 a friend brought in a longtime fan of David’s: OneRepublic frontman (and one of David’s musical heroes) Ryan Tedder into the conversation. “I didn’t know Ryan was following my development all this time. I might have tried a bit harder” he jokes. “When things were at the stage of getting a major label involved, Ryan said ‘we’d love to be a part of it.’ Now we talk on the daily.”
Now, with Grey Area Music, Sony Music Nashville, and Tedder’s Runner Music in his corner, David is primed to blow the country-pop landscape wide open. With influences ranging from Kane Brown and Sam Hunt to Bieber and Drake, he walks the fine line of country lyricism over a bed of pop-laced sonics. But his voice cuts through, emotive and mature far beyond his age. “When I grew up, I wanted to do everything. If I wasn’t good at something, I wanted to get to be the best I could at it. Now, it’s about getting the biggest and best songs to put out, to start touring. I wanna be global. That’s my plan and goal.”