Montreal Community Contact recently profiled Montrevail’s Nancy Davis in a new feature titled Agent to the Reggae stars:
Back in the 1980s, Montrealer Nancy Davis was like most teenagers of Jamaican heritage, enthralled with the booming dancehall and reggae scene that was overtaking the world.
In fact, here in Montreal she was in the heart of the thing growing up in a household that was filled with reggae day in and day out because of her dad, Rupert Davis’ un-abiding passion for the music.
Also, her uncle Clement Davis, through his Juno Entertainment promotional company, brought some of reggae’s biggest acts to the city.
So at many of these shows, it wasn’t unusual to find a young Nancy backstage helping out and making sure that artistes were primed and ready before they took to the stage.
Those were privileged and heady times for a young girl.
No wonder Davis had her eyes set on carving a career out of it all from an early age.
“I wanted to be a booking agent and road manager for reggae artistes.”
By 1998, not long after she graduated from Concordia University with a double major in Sociology and Human Relations, she headed off to Kingston to hone her skills in the Mecca of reggae, from whence the stars are launched.
Within a month, she found work at Mainstreet Records and was soon dealing with the big names of the day such as Red Rat, Buccaneer, Crissy D and Lady G and was soon making her mark in the rough and tumble world that the dancehall and reggae industry can be.
As a booking agent, artiste manager, artiste development executive and tour manager, she had a hand in the success of some of the top acts coming out of Jamaica for much of the early part of the 2000s.
By 2006, she had established herself as a key player in the international reggae industry. So that year, when legendary saxophonist and producer Dean Fraser approached her to consider adding two up-and-coming performers, Tarrus Riley and Duane Stephenson to her list, she didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity.
“Dean is a good friend but more than that, I trusted his knowledge of the music business and knack for talent, so I added Tarrus and Duane to my roster of artistes and the rest is history,” Davis told the CONTACT in a telephone interview out of her office in Kingston, Jamaica.
Reggae lovers the world over know how that story evolved as both Riley and Stephenson emerged as two of the biggest recording stars to come out of Jamaica in the past decade.
Riley’s mega hit, “She’s Royal” in 2007, became one of reggae’s most popular songs, aptly dubbed as the ‘lovers’ anthem,’ the world over.
And Stephenson’s introductory album in 2008 ‘From August Town,’ produced by Fraser, received raved reviews from reggae music pundits around the world.
Davis is particularly proud of the role she played in the development of Riley’s career in the years that he has been under her charge.
Through her Montreal-based company, Montrevail, which she established in 2009, she started sharing management of Riley with Fraser.
“By that time I had accumulated a wealth of experience in the international music industry, which was instrumental in boosting his visibility, sales and breaking barriers in burgeoning reggae mega markets such as North America, Caribbean, and Europe.”
The challenges of managing and touring with the superstar brought out the best in Davis and kept her on the move. At one point, she was visiting at least 30 countries a year, with performances at every major festival across Europe, Australia, North America, the Caribbean and Africa.
Davis says of the dozens of artistes that have come under her charge, Riley remains the most inspiring and easiest to work with.
“He’s talented and driven,” she says. “And he’s very kind and conscientious… never misses an opportunity to give back to the community.”
In her 15 years in the entertainment industry, she says has been blessed to work with and learn from some of the most knowledgeable and capable heavy-rollers including Gerald Belnavis head of All Access Entertainment, Copeland Forbes head of Comar Productions and Christopher Dehring, the highly regarded chairman of Cable and Wireless and Lime Caribbean, who also served as executive director of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007.
Along the way, Davis says she also had the opportunity to travel the world managing big names such as Cocoa Tea and Luciano, and represented major talents such as Baby Cham (Cham), L.U.S.T., Tanya Stephens, Spice, Richie Stephens.
She has also been one of the driving forces behind the Montreal International Reggae Festival since 2004, booking and liaising with most the major acts from Jamaica and around the world.
Today, although she has chosen to scale back a bit, Davis is still in the mix of things. With her base in Montreal and an office in Kingston, she still finds it necessary to alternate one month at a time between Canada and Jamaica throughout the year.
Davis says she’s entering a transitional phase. She is repositioning Montrevail, her booking agency, to include other genres of music and a broader range of activities such as representing motivational speakers and seminar and conference leaders.
However, she says her affinity for reggae will ensure that she never strays too far from her lifelong passion.
“To me reggae music is like an addiction, one that I hope I’ll never be able to get over.”