Megan Davies graduated from Nashville’s Belmont University in December 2012 at age 24. She attended the prominent music school with the hope of majoring in guitar performance.
Today, her songs and videos posted online have millions of listens, likes and shares. She’s now hitting the road hard, which includes a stop at the Auburn Public Theater on Friday, Aug. 14. But her quick rise almost never happened.
Davies, originally from Harrisburg, Pa., spent many childhood summers in Auburn with family members. “It feels like a second hometown,” she says. During that time she tried her hand at piano and violin, but eventually clicked with guitar.
She didn’t think of playing guitar as a future profession, but when Davies reached college age, she decided to study the instrument in the country music capital of the world. Around her junior year, however, she injured her elbow, forcing her to have surgery on her 21st birthday.
“It was definitely a challenge,” she recalls. “It was a repetitive stress injury from playing the guitar that affected the nerve that runs to my left hand. I wasn’t able to play or practice. It was very scary. There was no way I was going to finish the guitar program. Anything with nerves is scary when you’re a musician and instrumentalist.”
But Davies didn’t just face the injury, she found a way around it: She switched her major to songwriting. “I took the (songwriting) classes really seriously,” she says. “I hadn’t discovered my own style until that point.”
Davies’ left hand eventually mended and she began playing again, but not without also gaining a new appreciation for her passion. “You realize how small technical things that go into playing an instrument can affect you,” she says. “Then you realize how quickly all that can go away, how quickly you can lose that ability.
“There are a lot of really, really talented musicians here (in Nashville) and it can get competitive. I think it gave me the perspective to be thankful just to play. When you’re a guitar major, it can get so focused on being technically very great. Once I recovered, I was grateful that I could play at all. I’m enjoying it more and I’m thankful for the ability to play music.”
Switching her major to songwriting also meant that Davies now had more free time because she wasn’t playing in so many ensembles. Davies instead participated in several internship programs, providing her insight into the business side of the industry, especially the aspects concerning copyrights.
“I worked for publishing companies and learned about royalty streams and licenses for covers (songs),” she says. “It allowed me to do things myself. The business is quite complex and it took some of the mystery away of doing it on your own.”
Davies started with covers that she and her friends, including her sister, recorded for their own amusement. They would make videos and upload them on YouTube. A few years later, Davies is No. 1 on the Spotify Top 50 Viral Chart for both the United States and on an international level.
“We were trying to do our best work but also just have fun,” she says. “The spirit of that comes through.”
Davies has since released numerous covers on YouTube and SoundCloud. She has also learned how to make some money from these songs by paying attention to songwriting and recording copyrights.
Davies has fully embraced the digital age. She hasn’t released a studio-recorded CD but has instead recorded everything herself and released online. Davies is also planning to release mixtapes on tour, actually CDs that she will make in her apartment.
“They’re homemade,” she says. “They won’t be available online or anywhere. They’re not my debut album, but they’re what I’m working on currently. They’ll only be available at the shows.”
For this singer-songwriter on the rise, it seems that Megan Davies’ road less traveled can also be the fastest toward success.