The influence of John Prine on songwriters in the past five decades is virtually immeasurable.
Not exempt from this expansive list is Boston’s own Bob Davoli, who paid homage to the late songwriter with his own tribute album, Hello Out There, which dropped April 8th, a day after the two-year anniversary of Prine’s passing.
Davoli’s story is particularly interesting, and not like your average songwriter’s. He’s endured a successful career in venture capital, and has been a founder and CEO of a software company, CEO of another software company, and landed on Forbes‘ “The Midas List” five times in past years. He also sits on 18 boards, manages 60 investments, and oversees with his wife, Eileen, the Red Elm Tree Foundation, a charitable organization that grants funds for land conservation, social justice, women’s rights, health care, and the arts.
The 11-track tribute album features many Prine classics such as, “Paradise”, “Angel From Montgomery”, “Souvenirs,” and numerous others. It also features some later years favorites such as “Summer’s End” and “I Remember Everything.” Davoli delivers a touching and heartfelt ode to one of the greatest to ever do it, and does so with his own expert guitar picking and seasoned vocal delivery. Proceeds of the album will go to the Food Not Bombs organization.
We got to talk to Davoli to learn a bit more about him, the album, and more.
So I see some of your titles include venture capitalist and songwriter. This seems like a combination you don’t see very often. (if ever) Can you discuss how the two intertwine in your life and influence either other?
Actually, the two have a lot in common. A song starts with an idea, so does a company; a song adds a new verse, chorus or bridge; a company adds new products, employees and customers. Said another way, they both germinate from a seed, either a phrase or a product idea. What’s more, they both mature and develop over time.
Your philanthropic efforts are of note as well, as I see you and your wife founded the Red Elm Tree Foundation as well. What can you tell us about what the foundation has done and is doing?
Our philanthropic efforts focus on several areas: the arts, women’s rights, medical research, helping the disenfranchised, land conservation and the environment.
It’s no secret John Prine was one of the most influential songwriters of our time, but what inspired you to put together an official tribute album of his?
My inspiration was born from a deep admiration of his artistry, and I wanted to pay homage to him because he influenced my own songwriting significantly.
He had many, many great songs which you could’ve chosen from. How did you decide on the songs you chose, and was it difficult to decide? Did you try to just take on most of his “hits?”
I was drawn to the songs that spoke to me emotionally, melodically, and lyrically.
Where was it recorded and who helped produce it?
It was recorded at Wellspring Studio in Acton, MA, by Eric Kilburn, and I produced the album.
Is there a song on the album that was the most difficult to record for one reason or another? And do you have a favorite to play?
None of the songs were difficult to record, that said, “Sam Stone” is a powerful and sad song as it cuts right to the bone of the tragedy of the senseless Vietnam War and the many lives that it destroyed. So, in an emotional sense, it’s difficult to record. My favorite John Prine song to play is “Hello in There”; it tells the story of the human condition in under four minutes.
What do you think John would say if he were alive today to hear it? What do you hope he’d say?
John was such a humble man that he would probably say, “Hey man, thanks for recording my songs, and I’m happy to know that they inspired you.” I hope that he would say, “You did a pretty good job playing my songs.”
And what made you choose to donate all album proceeds to the Food Not Bombs organization specifically?
Our son’s girlfriend volunteer’s for Food Not Bombs, and it really bothers me that in America, we don’t eradicate hunger with comprehensive programs.
What else might you have planned for spring and summer? Any touring/regional gigs?
I will be releasing a new album of originals in the Fall, and I plan to tour regionally in New England with my bandmates.