A SUNDERLAND-born singer has become the highest-ranking Brit to break into the US country chart – after a hit show in Kazakhstan.
After hearing his country sound, record label bosses plucked David Bradley from his job as an oil engineer and asked him to move to Nashville, USA, to hone his music.
The former Farringdon School pupil would pen music while working on oil rigs in Kazakhstan, central Asia, never thinking it would lead him to the home of country music.
A free gig he held in the far-flung country ended up attracting more than 20,000 people, which planted the seed that David could be on song for a career change.
“On rigs there’s not much you can do, you can’t drink, there’s no bars, it’s just a bunch of guys on a box,” said the 38-year-old.
“I would play music and a bunch of us held a gig, singing rock songs and 22,000 people showed up. I came off stage and people were saying ‘dude, you should do this for a living’.”
David went to Russia to make a record, which he ended up taking to the famous Abbey Road studios in London to mix. Engineers at the studios liked his sound and put him in contact with Judy Libow, former vice president of radio promotion for Atlantic Records.“The guys at Abbey Road said they liked the fact I was an English guy with an American sound. After they put me in contact with Judy, she emailed me back asking to meet me in New York. I jumped on a plane, with no idea this would become a profession, I was an engineer.”
She convinced David to move to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2007 to work on his music. His resulting single, Hard Time Movin’ On, went on to break the Billboard Top 20, making him the highest charting Brit in the US country chart, as well as making it to No 1 on the UK country charts.
Though he misses Sunderland, David said the move across the pond helped him to realise his potential.
“Nashville is to country music, what LA is to actors. There’s so many opportunities,” said David, who first developed an ear for country music, thanks to his dad, Brian, who still lives in Barnes.
“When I was growing up, it was either Barry Manilow who my mum listened to, or country music when my dad was home,” said the former East Herrington Primary pupil. “He was an oil engineer too and would bring all these casette tapes home from these American oil companies he worked for, of people like Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, which would be sold to the American work force.”
David returned to his home country last month to play the Country 2 Country Festival in London’s O2 arena.
He said: “No one was listening to country music at home when I was growing up, it was seen as uncool, but it’s changing and becoming more and more popular. You could see that by the tens of thousands who came to the O2. The music is different now, it’s more contemporary and rock. People are listening to it on the radio, artists like Keith Urban and Taylor Swift, without even realising it’s country. It’s just good music.”
David, who is on the cusp of releasing his debut album in the UK, says he’d love to bring his sound home.
“I can’t wait to see how the album does in the UK. We didn’t even promote Hard Time Movin’ On and it ended up at No.1. I’d love to come home and play Sunderland, it would be a dream come true.”
l David releases his debut album in the UK, Loving Out Loud, on FOD Records on May 4.