Crossover Hit

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New York's quintessential downtown music house, Tomandandy, has a new producer with an interesting midtown and out-of-town background. Ben Davis, 29, comes to Tomandandy after three years at Saatchi & Saatchi/New York, where he was one of two music producers. Moreover, Davis is a singer/guitarist in a critically acclaimed alt.country band called Wagon (see wagon1.com) with three indie albums to its name. For those not up on the fairly obscure genre, alt.country, aka Americana, features Gram Parsons as one of its reigning saints and the little-known band Uncle Tupelo as possibly its purest exponent. But there's nothing particularly backwoodsy about Wagon's music or musicians; Davis is from San Diego and he studied music recording/engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, where he met his Wagon mates.

Curiously, Davis landed his Saatchi job with no prior ad music experience. "I knew some people there, and I was in the right place at the right time," he says. His ad reel is pretty much what you'd expect from Saatchi, of course, with spots for clients like Oil of Olay, Tide and Cascade, and no, he didn't try to slip any alt. country-type tunes into his projects. "I didn't have a stylistic agenda," he quite sensibly points out. "You have to do what's right for the client." He also didn't favor any one music house when parceling out jobs, but he did hire none other than Tomandandy for, get this, a Lucky Charms spot. "It was cinematic/orchestral with a little something extra," says Davis. "I went to them for something different. When people do things that are outside their usual styles, you often get great results."

As for the notion of an alt.country guy hooking up with a largely hip- and trip-hoppy outfit like Tomandandy, Davis believes it's a most felicitous crossover. Besides being into all kinds of music, from jazz to classical to electronica, "as a fan and a producer, I can relate to everything they do." And you can bet he's amped about his new gig. "As an agency music producer, I was on the periphery of what the agency is about," he says. "At Tomandandy, my job is more central to what the company does. My experience and energy will go a lot farther here."

Wagon, in the meantime, is working on its fourth record, but its members are scattered among four cities and they're all otherwise professionally engaged, so the going is slow. Hey, did he ever hire his bandmates for some Saatchi work? "No, I never even asked them," Davis admits. "But they're not pissed about it."

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