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It’ll be both a homecoming and a “local boy done good” celebration on October 17 when Nashville singer and songwriter Ward Davis takes the stage at the University of Arkansas at Monticello Fine Arts Center. Davis will perform at 7 p.m.

Davis, a 1998 graduate of Drew Central High School, is making a name for himself in Nashville, having co-written “Unfair Weather Friend,” which was included on this summer’s album of duets by country music legends Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. Nelson returned the favor, guesting on the song “Old Wore Out Cowboys,” which is the first single off Davis’ album, 15 Years in a 10-Year Town, just released in September.

The Seark Concert Association is presenting Davis’ show as a fundraiser for its SMARTS (Schools Majoring in the Arts) program, an effort to bring music, dance and theater programs to area students. As part of his visit home, Davis will talk to high school students about his performing and songwriting career.

“It’s important for me to come home and visit these schools, just because I think it’s important for kids to know that there’s a world out there to go get,” Davis said. “It doesn’t mean leaving their home, or pulling up roots; it’s more about putting yourself out there and working for something out of your comfort zone. I was pretty popular in Monticello back in 1999, but when I moved to Nashville, I was a little bump on a very big pickle – still am, as a matter of fact, just a slightly bigger bump.”

Davis said he hopes to be able to convey to students that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. That includes working with one of your musical heroes, just as he had the chance to do with Nelson.

“Hearing Willie and Merle sing a song I penned was the greatest satisfaction a songwriter could have, in my opinion,” Davis said. That satisfaction only grew when Nelson agreed to guest on Davis’ album. “Willie is just such a great guy,” Davis said. “When I asked if he would sing with me on my record, his response was a quick ‘Sure!’ I’d guess he wanted to help because of “Unfair Weather Friend” being a big part of the ‘Django & Jimmie’ album, but I think he’s just a great guy who loves music and helping people.”

“We are thrilled to host ‘An Evening with Ward Davis’,” said Seark Concert Association President Susan Akin. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase a musician who got his start right here, and for us to see the performer he has become. We are also blessed that he is willing to take time to share his story with students who might draw inspiration from it.”

Tickets for the concert are $20 and may be purchased at the door, or in advance in the office of the UAM Music Building Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 870-460-1060. Visit Davis’ website to learn more about his music.