David McClister

Rooted in Country: Moot Davis on Willie Nelson's 'Crazy'

Some songs are so iconic, so revered, that covering them is such a daunting task it borders on sacrilege. For country singer Moot Davis, that song was Willie Nelson's "Crazy." Thankfully, Davis overcame his hesitation to record his own version of the timeless song made famous by Patsy Cline. The result is an upbeat honky-tonker that opts for a Bakersfield beat over the Nashville Sound.

"Recording Willie Nelson's timeless masterpiece, 'Crazy' was not at all what I had in mind when I was asked to be part of a Willie Nelson tribute show," Davis tells Wide Open Country. "All of the performers were picking Willie classics but everyone was avoiding 'Crazy.' I mean, how do you compete with Patsy Cline's version? What's the point? But I had drawn the short straw and was given the song. I had no idea how to even play it or how to make my own but there I was. I set out to make it completely unlike both Willie and Patsy's versions."

Davis says reimagining the song allowed him to truly make it his own, a fitting decision for a tune written by an innovator like Nelson.

"We quickly threw out the original arrangement and opted for a simpler three chord progression," Davis continued. "This opened up the song for me and I tried to make it my own thing. At the actual show, our version went over so well, I decided to include it on the next album when the time came. I specifically wanted a twelve string guitar on the recording to further take it away from the original version."
"For me, Willie Nelson's songs are haunting and visual and seem to come from some other dimension entirely," Davis continued. "His guitar playing only adds to the mystery and drama. One of those rarest of guitar players, instantly recognizable and perfectly suited to the song."

Davis even reflected on the time he met Nelson; it's a story that's no doubt relatable to many of us who've had the chance to shake hands with our heroes.
"I met Willie once," Davis says. "It was on the set of the Dukes Of Hazzard 2. I had a song in the film and I was picking up some side work as a stand-in on film and tv sets between tours. I was on Pete Anderson's Little Dog Records label and our first album was out and Pete had mentioned just working with Willie on a Dwight Yoakam song. So, I thought I could approach Willie and say hey. The production crew was busy working and Willie just stepped off his bus alone and I made my move. I said 'hello' and meant to tell him that I listened to his Spirit album over and over and that it was a huge influence on me and that I was touring with his buddy Pete Anderson and I was working on the same film as him! But other than 'hello,' all I was able to say was 'spirit.' I froze as he smiled and shook my hand. Nothing else came out and we stood there awkwardly for a moment before he nodded his head and walked to set. That was it. No hang on the bus, no deep understanding between two songwriters, no knowing wink about life on the road, or Pete, or anything....So there I stood, alone in the dust, watching Willie Nelson walk away, muttering under his breath."
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"Perhaps, in some other dimension, Willie and I are fast friends, I said everything just right at our first meeting and the sun has yet to set," Davis continued. "However, here in this dimension, as the dust still swirls, I remain speechless, watching Willie walk away."
Moot Davis released the album Seven Cities of Gold earlier this year.