It's the sort of documentary that once you start, you don't want to let go.

Josh Samford,   Rogue Cinema

the award-winning film

is now available on DVD

That movie had such an effect on me, it took a long time for me to get to sleep last night.

Jennifer Layton,  Assistant Editor

Nathan Davis Still Lives is a triumph. It couldn't have been better, more accurate or more powerful. Bravo, Dean!

John Custer,  Grammy-nominated music producer

Garris' film is a quality documentary that is the perfect mix of technical and directorial skill and strong subject matter. (Jerry Dalton, Myrtle Beach International Film Festival Organizer)

from an article in the Southern Pines, NC Pilot - read more...

Last week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see Nathan Davis Still Lives. It is a must-see for musicians, music-lovers, and especially for anyone who can appreciate a well-told story of an amazing talent and passionate soul, gone too soon.

MaryLee Herrmann, producer/director of the award-winning film, The Necklace

letters from dreamland

the music that inspired the film

This is the music that spoke to Dean Garris as he made the movie. You can let it speak to you. The film's soundtrack, this album, is available here.


With his trademark fedora hat, raw lyrics, and his amazing awe-inspiring live performances, Nathan Davis was a musical sensation waiting to happen. Director Dean Garris' fascinating and ultimately touching portrait traces Nathan's story from his early experience as a musical prodigy and turbulent years of self-discovery to his ultimate rise as a singer-songwriter on the edge of greatness.

After releasing 4 records independently and gaining a small but loyal fan-base across the Southeast, Davis was in the studio recording his next album with Grammy-nominated producer John Custer when tragedy struck. Years later, Nathan's music refuses to die and his legacy continues to grow through the fans and musicians he inspired.

An astonishing archive of video, performance footage, and photos complements interviews with Nathan's parents, producer John Custer, music writer Jennifer Layton, along with fellow musicians, friends, colleagues and fans to reveal someone who was not inspired to play music, but driven to play as a way to save himself.

who was he?

Born in Southern Pines, North Carolina, in 1976, Nathan Davis was a singer/songwriter who, in addition, was an accomplished guitarist and pianist, a talented vocalist, and played mandolin on occasion as well. A musician's musician, he was a strong advocate for local, independent music of all types, and a fierce supporter of emerging talent.

In his all too brief career, spanning a little over a decade, he wrote dozens of songs, recorded four albums, with a fifth that was nearly completed when he died entitled Revolution Lane, which was finished by his producer, John Custer. Two full length performance DVDs have also been produced by Dean Garris. In addition to these works, Nathan left behind unfinished lyrics and poetry, and many hours of unedited video. Much of this material was used as the basis for the film, Nathan Davis Still Lives, produced by DEANO Pictures.

film reviews: nathan davis still lives (2011)

Josh Samford

Exerpts from the article...

Musical documentaries are usually reserved for those who have proven themselves on a large scale. Certainly I would think that our audience would be most accustomed to that type of movie, the kind that focuses on Grammy nominated artists who have garnered fans across the globe. However, occasionally you'll run into projects that cover slightly more obscure subject matter and this is usually the much more intriguing projects since they introduce us, the audience, to an artist and a world we are not accustomed to.

Starting off in his earliest days where he found himself at odds in the Christian private school that he attended for high school, Nathan Davis proved to be a music lover who refused to bend to anyone's whim.

What I find to be most interesting about the feature, aside from Nathan Davis and his music of course, is the culture that is presented within the film surrounding this Raleigh bar scene where Davis sows his musical oats. For me it proved to be the major key in being absorbed into the film. The filmmakers introduce us to both it and Nathan early on, and we see how this sub-culture ultimately sort of flew behind the Nathan Davis banner. From one bar to the next, one friend to the next, Nathan Davis left an indelible mark within this group of aspiring musicians, bands and entertainers. This music-town, that I didn't even realize had such a focal point of musical energy, all felt a strong kinship to the young entertainer and it is their love and fond remembrances that ultimately suck the viewer into this project.

It's the sort of documentary that once you start, you don't want to let go... Whether you like the music or not, this is a documentary that will speak to a vast audience.

'still lives': film spotlights local artist

Tom Embrey

Exerpts from the article...

It's been five years since Nathan Davis, decked out in his signature fedora, frequented the bars of Southern Pines and moved people with his heartfelt music.

Friends, like Brad Stockham and Will Page, say they are constantly reminded of Davis.

"Any time I see one of those hats," Page says, "I'm taken back to him playing."

[Dean] Garris called his documentary, a good portion of which was filmed in Southern Pines, a "good snapshot" of Davis' life and music.

"It is interesting how so many people still feel that connection to him," Garris said. "Amazing to see how many people still play his music. It's just fascinating to see how he still lives."

Using an extensive archive of video, performance footage, photos and interviews with family, friends, musicians and colleagues, Garris tells Davis' story "from his troubled years of self-discovery" to his "ultimate rise as a singer-songwriter on the cusp of greatness."

"During this process," Garris says, "I learned that Nathan was a more successful musician than I first imagined."

His extensive research and tireless work listening to music and interviewing those who knew Davis left him with a detailed portrait of a musician.

"I think this is a film that musicians will flock to because it is a portrait of the ups and downs in the life of musician," Garris said. "They'll say, 'That's what a musician's life is really like.'"

"I think this is a film that musicians will flock to because it is a portrait of the ups and downs in the life of musician," Garris said. "They'll say, 'That's what a musician's life is really like.'"

Stockham has seen the film and said it will have wide appeal.

"Anybody who doesn't know Nathan would walk away from this film and feel like they knew him," Stockham said. "It's about the music, and in the end all Nathan wanted was for people to listen to his music."

[Jerry] Dalton [of Dalton Pictures, and the Myrtle Beach Film Festival] said Garris' film is a quality documentary that is the perfect mix of technical and directorial skill and strong subject matter.

"It's not always interesting to do a documentary on one person, but this was because Nathan Davis had so much character, so much life," Dalton said. "Everyone he seemed to come in contact with had a special relationship with him. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I would have liked to. There was something very special about him."

nathan davis still lives (critique)

Jeremy T. Hanke

Exerpts from the article...

Curt Cobain. Jimmi Hendrix. Janis Joplin.

All musicians who died too young due to personal demons.>

But why do we know them?

Because they managed to stay alive at least until our culture had come to revere them. However, every year, musicians no less talented die too young, but, because they were unable to hold on until their big break, they are not household names. It doesn't make their loss any less tragic.

In that vein, filmmaker Dean Garris chose to explore the life of one such musician, a blues singer/songwriter from North Carolina named Nathan Davis. In this film, he explores Davis' formative years, his lost love, his hustling love for music, the brink of fame and fortune that was swallowed by death, and the lasting impact he had on those whom he touched with his young life.

The overall content of Nathan Davis Still Lives is really quite good and the ending is strong and impacting.

The overall look of this film was quite accomplished and really did look like a music documentary. While there were a few issues with soft focus at times and a couple of overly "framed" looking interviews, most of the camera shots and angles were well composed, retaining a gritty and low-fi feel which fit the documentary nicely.

Nathan Davis Still Lives has some amazing elements to it and tells the story of a very fascinating singer/songwriter... I really look forward to future films from Mr. Garris, because I think his heart to look at these sorts of stories is really welcome, especially in a world that is growing more and more tired of mass produced musicians!

My sincere thanks to everyone who was part of the film's festival screenings! Everywhere the film played gave me an opportunity to see friends I've met throughout this journey and to make new friends along the way. I've also had the opportunity to introduce new fans to Nathan, which has been exciting and rewarding in and of itself.

Although the film has finished its theatrical run on the festival circuit you can still be part of our screening family by heading over to the merchandise page and getting a copy of the film on DVD or get some other cool items we have available as well, like the official film t-shirt (as seen in some of the photos below).

Nathan Davis Still Lives premiered at the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival on April 20, 2011. The film was one of just a few awarded an Honorable Mention. Many of Nate's fans, family, and friends attended the screening.

On May 1 2011, the film was featured at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival in Wilmington, NC. It was nominated for Best Documentary and Best Feature, and won the Director's Choice award.

On March 12 2012, the film ended its festival run at the Charlotte Film Festival. It won the Audience Choice award for Best Feature Documentary and was a finalist in the Best Music category. A copy of Nathan Davis LIVE was given to everyone in attendance.

The movie has resulted in new Nathan Davis fans wherever it goes


Full Press Kit 242kb

Nathan Davis Still Lives - one sheet 90kb

Nathan Davis Bio 47kb

Director Notes 90kb

hi-res images

Nathan Davis in Raleigh
© 2010 Deano Pictures

John Custer, Nathan's producer
© 2010 Deano Pictures

Sally Davis, Nathan's mother
© 2010 Deano Pictures

Nathan at the Sunrise Theater
© 2010 Faithless Music

Nathan Davis in Southern Pines
© 2010 Courtesy of Valerie Sherrington

Nathan Davis
© 2010 Faithless Music

Director Dean Garris interviewing Maria Scureman
photo courtesy of Daniel Albright

Nathan Davis Still Lives poster
© 2010 Deano Pictures


Dean Garris began his career as an expressionistic painter and freelance artist. He moved into video and film in 2000 and began working with industrial and private clientele on video projects over a period of eight years. He successfully produced a year-long episodic public affairs program for the Raleigh and Chapel Hill TV and online markets in 2008.

In early 2009, while posting online video he'd taken that included footage of Nathan Davis, Dean discovered that Nathan had died in 2006. Intrigued by Nathan's story, and in search of subject matter for his first full-length documentary film, Dean contacted Nathan's parents to ask their cooperation. Production began in April 2009.

The complete production history can be found in the director's notes on the Press tab.