Musician Davis Marshall has been a Beaufort boy since his father moved the family here in his teens in 1995. He has spent just one year away from the Lowcountry since then and was eager to get back to the place he will always call home -- a place where he was able to turn his greatest hobby into a thriving business.
His budding music career began at age 10, when he was at a friend's house.
"One of my friend's dads had the biggest music collection I had ever seen. He listened to more records than anyone I knew, and he bought his sons guitars. I remember picking one up and strumming it the first time, and I was able to make it sound good," Marshall said. "I wanted one, and my parents said if I could make the honor roll, they would buy me one. I did it and eventually began taking lessons and learning the chords. The more I played the more I learned."
Marshall's father moved their family here when he was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort when Marshall was 14 years old. His mother worked (and still works) at MCAS as a teacher's assistant for their kindergarten class, and he and his brother and sister were left to enjoy their free time with their friends, exploring the waterways.
The popular local rocker is putting himself through college at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. His major is biology.
"I'm trying to be a doctor," Marshall said. "I'm taking college much more seriously now that I'm a little bit older. My career is music for now. And it is putting me through a lot of school. I'll never quit but would like to turn music fun again instead of just business. Anything you do almost seven nights a week can feel like work, but I would feel lost if I didn't have a guitar."
Marshall briefly worked for the real estate arm of Bundy Appraisal & Management, but for nearly eight years, music has supported him. In his busiest time of the year, between March and October, he is performing all over the Beaufort and Hilton Head Island areas, five to seven nights a week. He can be spotted out on Fripp Island, in downtown Beaufort at Plum's or singing at family events on Hilton Head Island.
"I do a lot of private events ... private parties, restaurants, resorts and country clubs," Marshall said. "They have made my career, and I keep very busy."
He likes a mix of music and is eager to please his crowd, but his one true love is reggae. He plays reggae in his solo stage shows, but he also has a band he jams with that includes friends Eric Daubert and Andy Clark. Davis is a versatile musician, and while he normally plays the acoustic guitar, he switches to the bass guitar for his band, Red Moon.
Red Moon features a heavy mix of reggae, and about six years ago, the group opened for headliner Mickey Mills at the Beaufort Water Festival.
"We got to play Reggae Night, which at the time was the biggest night of year, especially the biggest night for the Water Festival," he said. "Growing up, that was a dream, and at that point, it was the biggest show I had ever played."
His current set lists include covers from James Taylor, James Brown and, now, a few originals.
"I'll play country music, mix in rock 'n roll, anything the crowd seems to like," Marshall said. "I do throw original songs in. My favorite is called 'Riverland,' and I wrote it about the time I lived in Colorado and found myself being drawn back to Beaufort."
Marshall lived for a year in Colorado but found nothing could compare to the people and natural beauty of Beaufort.
" 'Riverland' has a lot of meaning to me, more than any other song ," he said. "I was in a rut in 2001 and ready to try something new in Colorado. I stayed one year, and the Beaufort River brought me back."
In rare moments of free time, Davis enjoys fishing and boating.
"There are so many great people here and places to play. I missed being able to go out on the water, and it turned out that this area is a prime spot for music, especially solo shows. I can live here, and I don't have to travel far to work."
The musician met his wife, Cordes, at a friend's party five years ago, and the two have been married for three years. They first met when they attended Beaufort Academy together, and Marshall wrote their wedding song, "All I Need."
Cordes remembered Marshall as a "goofy class clown."
"When he asked me out on a date, I was not thinking we would really date, much less get married," she said. "Timing is everything. Davis is very laid back, but he is a kind, generous and motivated person. He is driven. I know he could continue to do music as a career for a long time but he is ready to phase into a medical profession. He has a goal in mind for something new, but he will always find a way to do something music related."
Cordes accepts his busy schedule and finds ways to enjoy her husband's creative hobby-turned-career.
"He's super busy with work and school. It is hard, and it is not ideal, but I don't mind. I still think it is fun to go and watch him when he is playing in town."
Marshall has picked up wisdom from many different sources along the way, especially the critics. "Learn to take criticism," he said. "If you want to play for people, learn to listen to advice.
"When I started, I wasn't great, and my brother and sister didn't like a lot of what I was doing. So I worked on it, made it my own and got better and better."