In all respects, Wilmington native Chad Michael Jervis is just getting started. The 24-year-old joined up-and-coming pop country group King Calaway in May of last year after being brought on by country music producer Robert Deaton. Since then, the group has opened for Garth Brooks, played at the Grand Ole Opry and performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”—not bad for a band only in existence for a little over a year. But Jervis’ love of music goes back much further than that.
“I discovered Elvis Presley at a very young age,” he recalls. “I think my first goal for my career in music was to be an Elvis impersonator when I was 8 or 9.”
The more Jervis began to embrace music, he began to realize that he could make a career out of music of his own. He began to write songs at around 12, and by the time he reached high school he was performing his own original songs at shows throughout the state.
“Around then is when I started to realize that there wasn’t anything else that I wanted to do with my life besides play music,” Jervis says.
He credits his upbringing in Delaware with shaping much of his career and musical perspective. Attending Cab Calloway School of the Arts and being a member of the Wilmington Drama League allowed him to express himself creatively and find out what kind of a musician he wanted to be.
In the years after graduating from Cab Calloway, Jervis was working to answer that question. He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he majored in songwriting. He left school after two semesters to tour the country with a previous project, rock band The House on Cliff. Jervis returned to Berklee in September 2017, but was pulled away once again, this time to Nashville where King Calaway was born.
“When we first got together, we were just trying to figure out whether a band could work,” he says. “We got into a practice room to see if a band could happen.”
They were a group of six guys from three different countries. The other members include Caleb Miller, Austin Luther, Simon Dumas, Chris Deaton and Jordan Harvey. Many of them had already made names for themselves as solo artists, but there was no guarantee that there would be musical chemistry between them.
Fortunately, there was.
“It’s been a little over a year since we started playing music. Looking back on that year, I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” Jervis reflects.
On top of their musical compatibility, the guys formed a strong friendship early on, bonding over their highly varied upbringings. Dumas is from Gibraltar (a territory of the United Kingdom), Harvey is from Scotland and the four others hail from the United States.
The group purposefully has no front man; Jervis, Dumas, and Harvey provide lead vocals while Deaton, Luther and Miller contribute back-up harmonies. The choice to forego a single leader was important to the band to create a fresh and original sound. In addition, the band is highly influenced by other vocal harmony groups like The Eagles and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
“You don’t hear a lot of multiple lead vocalist groups nowadays, so we wanted to stand out,” says Jervis.
Listening to their debut self-titled EP, released in January 2019, the star factor in this country act is apparent. Songs like “World for Two” feature silky vocal harmonies reminiscent of an Ed Sheeran ballad. “Love the One You’re With,” on the other hand, has a more distinctly country vibe to it, featuring energetic guitar with radio-ready keyboard notes.
Some country music purists have already turned up their noses at this country group whose inception was manufactured by a prominent producer. A facetious article on website “Saving Country Music” accused the group of being a “test tube boy band” weeks before their EP had even been released.
It is true that the group was not born organically. But despite the accusations of inauthenticity, the six musicians had proven their talent before King Calaway had even formed. And they’re not going anywhere.
This summer, the group is gearing up for a radio promotional tour across the United States, as well as opening for Rascal Flatts (along with fellow Delaware native Jimmie Allen) in July. In September, they will take the main stage at the Gibraltar Calling music festival. And by the end of the year, the band hopes to release their first feature length album.
For Jervis, the main message he hopes King Calaway can put into the world is one of positivity.
“A lot of our songs try to focus on positivity rather than negativity,” he says. “Growing up in Delaware, it was easy for me to do that—I grew up in a positive environment that was focused on the arts.”
His affinity for his hometown is plain to see. He jokes that so many of his friends have eagerly moved away from Delaware as soon as they get the chance, only to find their way back after a few years. Yet, Jervis himself has left the First State behind to pursue his career in music. He has no regrets though.
“Moving [to Nashville], starting this project with these guys and working with Robert has been one of the best experiences of my life,” he says.