Among the humanitarian and political crises currently facing the United States, the emotional trauma and anxiety inflicted upon DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival — recipients as their immigration status hangs in the balance has emerged as one of the most heart-wrenching.
Last year, Variety’s 2018 Power of Law honoree Doug Davis, who describes himself as “a big old liberal,” sought to raise support for these aspiring citizens, something that stretches beyond just the scope of “writing a check.”
“My mother definitely instilled in me the political activism and a lot of the liberal causes,” says Davis. “As an entertainment attorney, I have access to creatives and distribution, and I had been trying to figure out over the years how I could use music as a vessel for a cause.”
The result: an album entitled “American Dreamers,” with thematically patriotic tracks (think Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”) recorded and sung by DACA program recipients from all over the country.
Davis is producing the album, due out this September – “in time for the midterm elections,” he says – and Troy Carter, global head of creative services at Spotify, is sponsoring the project, although there is no exclusive DSP deal. The recording studios were donated for use by the U. of Miami, NYU and the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music (Doug, son of Clive, also sits on the board, and his sister teaches there as a professor). A documentary about Dreamers is also in the works, with Davis interviewing many of these young adults on-camera.
“These kids are all so special,” says Davis. “One student I interviewed got accepted for a scholarship to Dartmouth to study engineering, and he couldn’t go, because DACA recipients are not allowed to take financial aid. He asked me, ‘So what am I going to do? Am I going to be a dishwasher? Am I going to be a rapper? What is my path now?’”
Davis continues: “There was another kid I sat with, a guitar player who had gotten into community college, and when DACA [was rescinded], he lost his finances and he’s not able to pay for it. Now he’s working as a busboy.
His dream is to study music, to be a working musician. To see him play with a big band with his guitar was one of the most touching things I’ve experienced. I interviewed another student in a school in Southern California, and [she told me], ‘If they send me back, I’d be kidnapped for ransom.’”
The album, says Davis, will not only show “that these DACA kids love America,” but that they are talented musicians and singers deserving of every chance they can get to see their artistic and professional dreams through.
“I was really operating with purpose,” says Davis of his passion for the project. “I’m a frustrated musician; that’s why I became an attorney. I can’t create the music, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make an album happen.
“We have this incredible Rolodex and resources and relationships, and I was able to pull favors from these different worlds and get this album made. The project will allow us to have a say. I think we’re going to have an important seat at the table when it comes to the conversation about Dreamers, and use music to tell that story.”