From Berklee to Nashville with Chad Michael Jervis
Chad Michael Jervis ’18 always felt that Nashville, Tennessee, would be an inevitability in his musical career. "I remember when I was 18 I was trying to decide whether I wanted to go to Boston, or whether I wanted to go to Nashville,” Jervis says. He wound up deciding to come to Boston, to study music at Berklee. “But I always thought: there will be a time when I make it out there.”
It turns out he was right. After several years honing his craft as a vocalist and songwriting major at Berklee and grinding out a career in a nationally touring band, Jervis took a risk and accepted an opportunity that arose during Career Jam 2018. Legendary country music producer Robert Deaton recruited him to join a new band, King Calaway, which was coming together in Nashville. “When I heard about that opportunity,” he says, “I thought: It’s now or never.”
The road to that moment was a winding one. Jervis came to Berklee as a songwriting major in 2013. After two semesters, he took to the road fulltime with his former band, The House on Cliff. The band crisscrossed the country in a 10-passenger van, and released two EPs plus a handful of singles from 2014 through 2017, when Jervis returned to Boston and decided to resume his studies at Berklee. In the fall of 2017, Jervis also auditioned in Boston for a spot on the next season of American Idol, which he earned, and wound up spending time that fall traveling to California to participate in the competition.
Coming back to Boston "was a whirlwind for me," Jervis says. But since he was in the city, he wanted to make sure he was taking every opportunity to progress as a musician—even as he was also pursuing musical opportunities such as American Idol. “I had the opportunity to pick up where I left off [at Berklee]. I could be learning more, I could be getting better at harmony and ear training. I could be doing so much with my time in order to better my craft. Why not take advantage of that?”
Jervis says his artistry and musicianship benefitted greatly from his coursework, including classes in harmony with Winnie Dahlgren and Daniel Smith, in DAWs for songwriters with Daniel Cantor, and in songwriting with Mark Simos. He remembers in particular the impression made by his his private voice lessons with Jodi Jenkins, which helped him transform his vocal talent from a natural skill into a true instrument to be tuned and refined: “Jodi gave me a drive to practice every day. I had to develop discipline in order to get better.”
"Sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to make things happen for yourself, especially in this industry."
—Chad Michael Jervis '18
Ultimately, when Jervis decided to move to Nashville and join King Calaway, it was the culmination of years spent absorbing knowledge, practicing, chasing opportunities, and learning from each new gig. Flash forward to September 2018 and Jervis was rehearsing and recording King Calaway’s first EP at the famed Castle Recording Studios in Franklin, Tennessee. The band is composed of six members, all of whom play their own instruments live, and three, including Jervis, sing lead vocals. They worked hard to find a fresh sound that fit them, and that all country fans could enjoy while noticing something different about them.
“We wanted to create our own lane in country music,” Jervis says. “We wanted to have authentic, sort of rustic harmonies, and a live band playing everything.” One of the early reference points the band found for that sound was Stephen Stills’s “Love the One You’re With,” which the group considered such an important touchstone that they included a cover of the song on their first EP, which was released in January on Stony Creek Records (part of BMG/BBR Music Group). Since its release, the band’s lead single, “World for Two," has amassed nearly a million plays on Spotify, and the band has been named one of Billboard’s “7 Country Acts to Watch in 2019."
“If you would have told me years ago that I’d be in this position, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Jervis says. “It was because of Berklee that I got this gig.” Well, Berklee, and some guts: “Meeting Robert and getting this opportunity was all about having to put myself out there and making myself a little uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to make things happen for yourself, especially in this industry."
Watch the music video for King Calaway's lead single, "World for Two":