Country hitmaker Jordan Davis moonlights as shark researcher

Deborah Evans Price

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Jordan Davis helps measure 17ft great white shark Nukumi off the coast of Nova Scotia.Photo credit: Chris Ross

By Deborah Evans Price

Though Jordan Davis’ new single, “Buy Dirt” might make people label him a land lover, the truth is the Shreveport, LA native has always had a love for the sea. Even while building a successful country music career with such hits as “Almost Maybes,” “Singles You Up” and “Take it From Me,” Davis has found time to participate in shark tagging expeditions with Ocearch, an organization that collects marine data and works to protect sharks.

“Thank goodness for social media,” Davis tells News Break. “I’m not a huge social media guy but this is one of the cool things that has come out of that. Through social media, I reached out to Chris Fischer, who is a founder of Ocearch, and told him I loved what he was doing and if there is any way I could get involved I would love to. He got right back to me and we formed a great friendship. I’m looking forward to getting back out on the ship soon.”

Though he’s anxious to get back out to sea, Davis has plenty keeping him busy on dry land. He recently released “Buy Dirt,” featuring Luke Bryan, and the single is getting rave reviews for its thoughtful message about what is truly important in life. The song is the centerpiece of Davis’ new eight-song Buy Dirt EP that is further solidifying his status as one of country music’s most accomplished new artists. In 2018, Davis released his debut album, Home State, which spawned three consecutive No. 1 hits “Slow Dance in A Parking Lot,” “Singles You Up” and “Take It From Me.” His latest hit, “Almost Maybes” looks to be headed for the summit as well.

Davis has amassed numerous accolades, among them being named Billboard’s Top New Country Artist in 2018 and Country Aircheck/Mediabase’s Most Heard New Artist the same year. In 2019, he won Best New Country Artist at the iHeart Radio Music Awards. The talented singer/songwriter has also accumulated over two billion streams worldwide and counting.

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Jordan DavisPhoto credit: Eric Ryan Anderson

After being sidelined by the pandemic, Davis is back on the road this summer headlining his Buy Dirt Tour with special guests Seaforth and MacKenzie Porter as opening acts. He will also be joining Kane Brown this fall on his Blessed and Free Tour. “It’s kind of tough to put into words how it felt that first time,” he says of getting back before a live audience again recently. “People were just eager to see a live show, to feel a kick drum live and to hear live guitars. And I know for us, we didn’t want to get off stage. I think we played 30 minutes longer than we were supposed to. It was a pretty special night.”

When he’s not making music, Davis, who has a degree in Environmental Science from LSU, loves to spend his time outdoors. Prior to pursuing a music career, he worked as an environmental consultant. “I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors,” Davis says. “I love to hunt and fish, and as a guy who hunts and fishes, it’s my job to make sure we maintain a stable population of fish and in doing that, maintaining the white shark population which is what Ocearch does. I don’t think we realize how important the white shark population is to all species, tuna, snapper and grouper.”

Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, always a highlight of summertime television, celebrates its 33rd anniversary this year. The Nat Geo Channel expanded their programming this summer to an exciting six weeks of Shark Fest. It seems the public fascination with the predators has never been higher, but Davis is not the kind of guy to sit home on his couch and just watch. Thus far, he’s been on four Ocearch expeditions, including a November 2020 trip to Nova Scotia on board the M/V OCEARCH to assist with the sampling and tagging of a 17 ft. 3,500 lb.great white shark named Nukumi. “Technically I am a scientist. They had a scientist fall out of an expedition and my buddy Chris reached out and was like, ‘Hey man, you have a degree, we can clear you through this as a working member of Ocearch, so for three days I was an employee of Ocearch,” he says. “We tagged the Nukumi a little south of Nova Scotia. As a fisherman, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s definitely a memory that I’m always going to remember and a really special thing. I’m grateful that I was there on the ship that day.”

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Jordan DavisPhoto credit: Chris Ross

So just how do you catch a 3,500 lb. great white shark? “There’s no reeling in 3500 lbs. of shark,” Davis says with a grin. “It’s a traditional catch and release method, but instead of a rod it’s caught on a buoy and then the boat is able to bring it in, which is actually less stress on the shark. You control it more. You’re not fighting it as hard as with a rod and reel and they just don’t make a rod and reel big enough to catch a shark that size. The whole process is so efficient and streamlined. From the transport of the shark to the lift, they are in total control of the shark. It’s crazy to watch these massive fish do exactly what Chris and Captain Brett McBride say. It’s almost like they are talking to them saying, ‘Hey, this is only going to take seven or eight minutes and we’ll be out of your hair. You’ll be free swimming and back to normal.’ It’s amazing to watch.”

It was a bucket list moment for Davis who has caught other large fish, but nothing like a great white. “I’ve caught tuna. I’ve caught a marlin, but I thought if I could catch a great white shark that would be pretty cool, and Chris allowed me to do it. I’ve been with them when they’ve tagged four sharks and the first three that we tagged were off the coast of Virginia. I think the biggest one was 4 ft., so when the Nukumi came and I saw just the distance between the dorsal and tail fin, I was just like this is a massive shark! And then I started sensing the crew kind of, it just felt different. It felt different than any shark I’d seen tagged. Then when we got on the lift and we are looking at a 40-50 year old mature white shark and every bit of 3,500 lbs. I’ve never had a rush like that in the outdoors in my life.”

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Osearch founder Chris Fischer (left) and Jordan DavisPhoto credit: Chris Ross

Davis says watching the team gather data so quickly and efficiently was eye opening. “They apply the tag, pulled samples,” he says. “The science team got out there and did their job. It was under 10 minutes and then we’re standing on the dock, the lift is going back down and we’re giving hugs and high-fives as she’s swimming off. It gives me chill bumps thinking about it. It’s something that I just never thought was possible, but Ocearch does it so well and it’s really a special thing to see.”

Though Davis is used to being in charge when it comes to his music career, he admits he relishes being just one of the guys when working on ship. “I’m there as an extra set of hands,” he smiles. “I’m basically taking directions, which is kind of cool. When we do music, we show up and you’re the guy playing that night. Everybody is kind of answering to you which sounds terrible, but it’s your show. So it’s kind of fun for me to go out on the ship where I’m the low guy on the totem pole saying, ‘Hey guys, I’m here to help out, whatever I can do just let me know.’ And I’ve got an 18-year-old marine biologist telling me, ‘Hey, get out of the way, dude. I need this space right here.”

Even though he’s low man on the totem pole at sea, Davis is just thrilled to be part of the expeditions and says tagging sharks is a thrill he’ll never get over. “I’m very grateful to Ocearch for allowing me to be out there,” he says. “We’re trying to work out a time where I can go out again for a couple of days. Chris is a good buddy of mine and anytime I see a gap in my schedule, I usually text him and he bends over backwards to make it work. So I’m pretty fired up about getting back out soon.”

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Being a journalist is like having a special license to explore the world, and I've found over the years there's no place I love exploring more than Nashville, Tennessee! After decades in Music City, I'm still finding new people and places that fascinate me. Join me on the journey!

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