North Idaho Guitar Hero Has Stars In His Eyes
Caden Davis steps off the stage as the crowd cheers. The singer/guitarist, along with his band, are at the end of a particularly aggressive set: AC/DC, Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, plus an original or two thrown in for good measure.
They’ve traveled to Smelterville to play a pre-Superbowl show at a small, smoky lounge. It’s their first real gig together, the first time Caden and the band have traveled out of town and played a real show for a real audience.
“Ugh,” he says, when asked about how he felt on stage. “Just … AHHHH! That’s ugh.”
The life of a rock star can be a lot to take in when you’re 11.
It’s hard to believe he’d been nervous. A couple minutes ago, he had been rocking out like Eddie Van Halen with loud, distorted guitar riffs, fingers flying all over the fretboard, halfway through a solo, he tosses his guitar behind his head and keeps jamming, never missing a beat.
Some of the biggest cheers come from Stacie and Cal Davis, Caden’s mom and dad. They’re proud to see their son up on stage, but not surprised. Caden’s been into music since he was a baby. In home videos, you can see Caden the toddler pressing the keys on an electric keyboard and banging on a tiny drum set. He wasn’t playing songs yet back when he was 1 and 2, but you can tell that something in his brain is connecting to the instruments, and there is joy from making musical sounds.
“He felt it,” his mom Stacie remembers. “He was really drawn to anything that made different notes. He was fortunate that his dad had instruments in the house, so as soon as he could toddle, he would go over and strum the guitar and beat on the drum.”
“When I was about 3, my uncle got me a little acoustic guitar, and I would just strum on it, just a lot. I guess I just loved it,” Caden said.
His dad Cal knew a little guitar, but after about six months, Caden had gone past what his dad could teach him. He took lessons for a few years, but soon reached a point where they no longer seemed necessary. Caden was teaching himself, and not just the guitar. He also plays bass. And drums, piano, violin, trumpet, marimbas … and he not only plays them, but he plays them all well.
Then one day his parents took him to a wedding reception. He got up on the stage with the band to play guitar with them, which wasn’t unexpected; he’s never been shy about playing for an audience. What was unexpected was when, halfway through one of the songs, he pulled down the microphone and started singing, and he was both in time and on key.
“I don’t know why I did it,” Caden says. “I just felt like it.”
Cal and Stacie started thinking their son had something special. It’s not so unusual for an 11-year-old to dream of being a rock star. A lot of kids enjoy playing Guitar Hero, or singing and playing air guitar in front of the mirror, but Caden was doing it for real. He was playing guitar at a level most adults would be envious of, and he was fearless. He even enjoyed the rush of playing for a crowd.
“I think he’s a musical genius. I call him my alien child,” Stacie Davis said.
“We’re going to support this kid,” Cal Davis said. “We’re going to do everything we do to get this kid up in front of 60,000 people, sooner or later. That’s our goal.”
But North Idaho is a tough place to raise a rock star. Caden splits his time between his mom’s house in Coeur d’Alene and his dad’s in Kingston. Neither city is especially known for its booming rock scene.
“It’s very challenging,” Cal said. “Particularly when the origination of everything is the Silver Valley, which is kind of a repressed area right now. The economy’s bad. Extremely bad in the Silver Valley. And it just doesn’t have the population to support that.”
So they’re planning to take Caden’s show on the road. They got him together with drummer Michael Koenig and bassist James Vandermore to form The Caden Davis Band. They’ve been practicing, trying to perfect about three hours’ worth of music for a tour this summer. The pre-Superbowl gig was their first official show as a band, but more concerts are on the way.
“We’re dreaming big,” Cal Davis said. “I don’t know if we’re going to get anywhere, but we’re going to try.”
“It just seems so natural, like the instruments become a part of him,” Stacie added. “I see him doing it every day, and every day I’m just in awe. Just in awe of what he can do.”
Sometimes Caden seems a little in awe as well.”I’m always happy that I have what I have. The talent, I guess, to play the guitar.”
Story and video by Tim Martin / KXLY4 Photojournalist