Ray Davies

We chat to the songwriting colossus about how music keeps him going.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 1 Dec 2014
  • min read
At 70, Ray Davies remains a songwriting colossus.

A revered performer, creator and educator, he’s had a hand in some of the finest moments in British pop, produced several lauded West End shows and shared his songwriting secrets with a whole new generation of talent through his masterclasses.

Fifty years ago he started The Kinks with his younger brother Dave, and quickly became the front man of one of Britain’s best loved groups of all time.

Their iconic debut single You Really Got Me was released through Pye Records in 1964, quickly followed by another massive hit, All Day and All of the Night.

The tracks firmly put the band on the map and underlined London’s position as the new capital of cool.

The band went on to score 17 top 20 singles and five top 10 albums, while their unique guitar sound helped spearhead the British Invasion of the US, along with The Beatles and The Stones.

When they officially split in 1996, Ray went on to cultivate a successful solo career, becoming a Glastonbury Festival favourite. He’s since turned his hand to writing short stories, novels, stage shows and choral pieces.

We were lucky enough to chat to him at Clarence House last week, where Prince Charles threw a reception to mark 100 years since the Performing Right Society was formed.

Here he explains why songwriting keeps him going…

How does it feel to be at Clarence House celebrating 100 years of British songwriting?

Songwriting is very solitary and it’s wonderful to be here tonight to meet people as lonely as I am. There’s the whole spectrum here, from Lily Allen to Mitch Murray.

How has the craft changed since you first started out?

It’s changed drastically! I remember the days of Denmark Street, where all the publishers and songwriters used to hang out.

What do you remember most about it?

Well, there’s a song in our musical Sunny Afternoon which is all about Denmark Street, and about trying to get your music heard as a young songwriter. But it’s all changed now. We’ve all had to evolve. The thing about songwriting is that it’s always changing and you’ve got to move with the times.

How often do you write these days?

Well, what’s the first thing I did this morning when I got up? I wrote a song!

What’s it about?

I’m doing an album next year based on my book Americana. There’s a character in it from Minnesota so I wrote about their journey.

Is that your daily routine?

Yes. I think songwriting keeps me alive as a person. It’s not my job – more than anything it’s the thing that sustains me.