Former NFL player's son chooses his own path on 'Songland'

“Growing up, I was the only non-athlete in my family. My dad was a professional football player and played in the NFL. All my [seven] siblings are athletes,” said singer-songwriter David Davis at the start of Monday’s Songland episode. (According to the show’s publicist, David’s father, Stephen Davis, played for the University of Tennessee’s Tennessee Volunteers and then for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.) “For me, music wasn’t really a choice; it was something that I knew I had to do because it was going to make me happy.” 

David showed up at Songland going for his own personal best: pitching a track to Dear Evan Hansen Tony-winner Ben Platt, a man who, as Ben’s Pitch Perfect co-star and Songland judge Ester Dean put it, is “one Oscar away from an EGOT, and he’s only 26!” Ben, who came to the show looking for pop-leaning material for his upcoming sophomore album, was sure to be picky — and not just because he had a certain sound in mind. As a self-described Songland superfan, Ben confessed to recently taking a six-hour road trip while listening to Songland tunes and was even singing the chorus of the winning submission from Season 1’s second episode, will.i.am and the Black Eyes Peas’ “Be Nice.” David’s challenge would be to come up with a song as catchy as that rollerdisco hit.

The Belmont University-educated David had a pretty impressive résumé as an industry veteran, but he faced stiff competition from former The Voice contestant Kylie Rothfield’s wistful ballad “Ghost” and Caroline Kole’s dreamy, Sara Bareilles-esque “Fool’s Gold.” (A fourth contender, Anna Hamilton’s “Deathbed,” was deemed too dark — and too similar to Ben’s debut-album rumination on mortality, “Older” — for the next Platt LP.) David’s submission, the soulful redemption song “Everything It Took to Get to You,” felt less contemporary than Kylie and Caroline’s, but there was no doubt that it was a good fit for Ben’s passionate, classic vocal style.

“I’m really excited for Ben to listen to my song,” said David. “He has a way of expressing emotion that just permeates through the track. It’s going to take someone with that much emotion to really do the song justice, and I absolutely believe that he will.”

Ben connected to David’s lyrics (“It feels organic to my experience,” he said), but judge Ryan Tedder thought the song veered too far from its root melody, and judge Shane McAnally thought the song’s storyline resolved itself too quickly, before the chorus even kicked in. But after a mentorship round with Ryan to make the lyrics “a little more loaded” in order to “communicate pain and trial”; a title change to “Everything I Did to Get to You”; and the addition of a “120 decibels” choir, David’s song was finally EGOT-worthy.

“It just felt like a song I’d known for a long time, and it feels like mine,” Ben said with a smile, after revealing that he’d picked David’s reworked song.

So, David didn’t become a football player like his dad, but now he knows how it feels to win a championship game. Check out Ben Platt’s version of “Everything I Did to Get to You” below, and come back next week for the Season 2 Songland finale starring a man who knows a thing or two about hit singles, Usher.