Meet Ray Davis: musician, songwriter, composer, singer – prolific in creating his own original sound – he’s also performed with renowned artists including – will.i.am, John Legend, and the Agape International Choir. The venues have been as famous as the performers: 2008 Democratic National Convention with President Barack Obama, 2009 Lincoln Memorial Inauguration Concert in Washington D.C, PBS Special – Michael Bernard Beckwith: The Answer is You.”
Q: Ray, on your web site there’s a quote of yours that seems to encapsulate your life perspective, and the focus of the music you create: “It’s an Evolution Revolution and I’m providing the soundtrack!” Can you expand upon what you mean by “It’s an Evolution Revolution?”
A: It just seems to me that this world is ripe for a change in perspective – a broadening perspective. In the same way that astronomers study the stars, and are able to detect black holes by the activity around them, I feel as though we are ready for a change in perspective. Not so much because leading experts are saying it, but because of things I see around.
For instance – my observation is that as we’ve gotten into more politically conservative times, the television shows and films have become more violent – more violence-based stuff.
Years ago, before I started ‘waking up,’ I was a big fan of the Law and Order series. But even then I noticed as I watched episode after episode, week after week – after a while I noticed that at the end of the show, I wasn’t feeling better, I was actually feeling worse. I was feeling depressed. I felt horrible. I didn’t like it. I was becoming a little unsettled watching that show. I would notice that my body felt terrible. My mind felt terrible. So after a while, I just stopped watching Law and Order, and I felt a little bit better for it. Eventually, I just cut television out entirely (or mostly). I don’t have a thing against television so much, but as my perspective on life started to change, I found less and less use for the things I was being offered in commercial television.
So, after a while I started to notice – and this is what I call my ‘waking up’ – one of the signs that something was changing in me.
There is a tremendous amount of violence in television, films, and the kind of explicit conversations going on in our popular music. I have nothing against sex – I love sex – sex is wonderful. But the way it is being handled in pop music – my feeling is, it’s not even about sex. It’s about the most tantalizing surface discussion of body parts – as opposed to any real human interaction.
We actually have to get together and perform partnership and unions. Now, if you want to write a sexy song about that, hey, I’m all ears.
Another sign of the Evolution Revolution is the reaction to war in these days. There’s so much war, so much conflict – and it seems as though people are getting a little bit tired of not just war, but conflict itself. There are signs of it showing up everywhere. Certainly the backlash of our war activities here in the United States – and there is a tremendous amount of backlash, regardless of affiliation. People are tired of sending their kids overseas to kill other kids. It shows up in our popular culture – in our comedy and our music.
So, on the one hand in popular culture I’m seeing a full abandonment to commercialism and to conflict as a way of life – to pain and murder. On the other hand, you find popular uprisings – an example would be the Occupy movement – which has its basis in protesting and speaking out against the way that money is handled – public policy regarding money. But it also speaks about other things – about how we’re treating the planet – about how we’re treating each other.
The other beautiful thing about the Occupy movement, whether you agree with everything or not – you’ve got to hand it to them, because it’s an evolutionary approach to protest. It’s not just a single subject, or personality based. There are a bunch of people from different perspectives who find themselves drawn into this movement referred to as ‘’Occupy.’’
They’re sitting, they’re saying: “We have to pay attention. We have to do something differently. So it’s not single focused. It’s a broad perspective. It’s a broad spectrum. I love that. That’s a beautiful sign of what I’m referring to as, “An Evolution Revolution.” The mainstream media misses it entirely. [They give] little sound bites – but that’s not it.
Another wonderful example is what’s happened in my business – in music. The music business is going through a huge shift, and has been for the last 10 years, at least. Over the last four years, the major labels feel as if the bottom has fallen out. Everything that they’ve relied on – ways of making money in the past has just fallen away. Well the truth is that there are still billions of dollars in music, and the vast majority of it is controlled or at least funneled through the major labels all over the world – the Western World. So, it’s not like anyone’s going broke. But, it’s a perspective thing. ‘Whereas we used to make $10 million, it’s now $5 million.’” Oh gee, “cry me a river.” There’s a lot of money still to be made.
Q/O: I hear some new song titles about to come.
Yes! So, the thing that is causing the shift is that technology has totally interrupted the revenue stream. This is another example of the Evolution Revolution. People are taking music into their own hands. A lot of musicians are less interested in signing a major label deal, and are simply finding a way to connect with their fans – one way or another – using the technology for that purpose.
There’s also an Evolution Revolution the way we’re thinking about our environment. What’s interesting to me is that just a few years ago, there was very little noise in mainstream media regarding ecological issues. Now, every company wants to get on the green bandwagon.
Q/O: They want the “green label.”
That’s right. I think that, more than anything else, can illustrate that if the market develops and shows itself, then the business will come. We don’t have to demonize corporations. Just do the best we can to live the most positive empowering life we can – and business is going to follow. Whether it’s the establishedbusinesses that are here now, or new businesses. It’s going to find its way to serve that emerging market. It happens every time. We don’t have to worry about the mechanics of it.
So, there’s an Evolution Revolution. What I’m doing, when I say ‘I’m creating the soundtrack,’ it’s exactly that. I’m using music to talk about these issues.
We’ve got music all around, all the time, all the time. Music on the radio, music in the grocery stores, everywhere – everywhere – everywhere. It accompanies everything. The content, the ideas, the energy moving through that music has a whole lot to do with how we’re feeling throughout our day. I’d like to redefine the soundtrack that drives us. I’d like to be part of the redefinition – the expansion of the soundtrack that drives us.
Q: It seems like the song “Haven’t You Heard” is a direct reflection of what you were just talking about. Because it’s talking about how you see yourself, how you feel about yourself, and how you take that out into the world.
People go through stuff all the time. In the past, much of my life was spent wrestling with, and working with circumstances. Reacting to them. When that perspective can change, it transforms your life. So for me, the first verse is so meaningful:
“I know some times, it’s hard for you to clearly see just how you’re going to keep it together. Your obligations and responsibilities. How you gonna make them ends. How you gonna make it one more time.”
Then the conversation stops. We’re not going to try to answer that question. But now let’s hear the truth in it. You are much more than this:
Haven’t you heard? Haven’t you heard? You’re the light lighting up the world.
Haven’t you heard? In you, there’s not no darkness.
Haven’t you heard? You’re the bread, the wine, the word.
Haven’t you heard? You’re the light of the universe.
If you experience audio problems, you may click here to listen to the song in a new window
Q: That’s so great to hear your formulation of the first part of the song. Which is all about, as the saying goes – all of those tapes we play in our head on repeat loop, that are just…exhausting….but then there’s the interruption of the pureness of the spirit: “Haven’t you heard?” Fantastic. How did that song arise? What was the moment, the epiphany – how did it come up to you? Do you recall?
I was sitting at a keyboard, and I spread my fingers out – and the first chord of the chorus just fell into my fingers.
I was curious about a feeling – and it is very difficult to describe the feeling I was curious about – but I can hear it. The feeling had a sound. It had a vibration that was easily transferable into sound. Then, the chorus, fell out of my mouth – the words just started showing up: “Haven’t you heard?” I said ‘oh, that’s nice. Haven’t you heard? Haven’t you heard?’
It was almost like, perhaps what an archeologist does, when they’re on a dig. The little brushes, as they brush away the dirt to reveal something underneath. My interest, curiosity and love of the combinations of sound, rhythm, and lyrics helped to just dust away Haven’t you heard?…what? Then, oh! What if this is a song reminding of how great who we are. What if that was the case. It probably had something to do with what I was studying at the time, or something showing up in meditation.
Q/C: Yes, because the way you describe it came to you, it didn’t begin with your intellect at all. It sounds like it came from a very spirit driven subconscious wisdom-oriented place within you, and it just channeled to your intellect so it could arrive in the form of a song at some point.
Yes, that’s a very good description. I say that I do channel this stuff. I’m a songwriter – and as a songwriter I’m a channel. We’re all channels for something. Things move through us into form.
Q: How did you arrive at the type of music – the lyrics you’re writing, and the music you’re creating. How did you get to this point of arrival from feeling a shift in yourself, and starting to manifest it in your artistry?”
While I was in high school I was drawn to funk, jazz, and R & B. I was listening to all of that music. I could have been playing jazz as a trumpet player. But I walled those things off as being immoral somehow. I was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist. In my mind I had these divisions. If I wanted to be a good Christian, I couldn’t fully give in to the music that seemed to want to show up in me.
Q: So it sounds like that could have created a huge inner conflict in you. On one hand, you have this set of values that says that’s the devil, on the other hand, you’re dig’n the devil.
It did. I’m dig’n the devil sounds! I was, especially rock.
Q: So, were you in a lot of turbulence as you were going through those years?
Yes! What was in my awareness was, I don’t know how I fit in this industry. I can’t find my niche. Nothing worked. I couldn’t gain any traction anywhere, and it was mainly because I couldn’t gain traction in myself. Because I didn’t know myself. In the 90’s. I was writing from an identification that was lost.
I had given up on the religion I was raised in. I thought of myself as this agnostic. I didn’t have any spiritual beliefs, so what do you believe in? Nothing I could affirm.
Q: So you were kind of in this identity purgatory?
I love it, yes. I was just about to say purgatory. I was writing songs. Playing in orchestras. Right about 1994-5 while working as a house writer, I heard about a spiritual community called Agape. The feeling was very comfortable there, until I started thinking about it. I wasn’t ready to leave my stance of ‘no spirituality.’ I wasn’t ready to hear the term ‘God’ or any reference to Jesus.
I wasn’t ready to let go of spirituality as I’d always defined it – that revolved around a deity – who was a singular entity – supposedly all powerful – but he had an opposite called the devil. It was definitely male, and was somewhat vindictive. Loving, but don’t piss him off, [because you’re going to hell] yeah. Do what God says, or he’s going to have to kill you.”
I stopped doing music for a while, and got a really good day gig in corporate training.
Towards the end of this 10-year period, I felt like life was killing me. I had probably the best gig I ever had as a corporate trainer. I stayed in four-star hotels but I was feeling worse and worse physically, I was smoking, and I wasn’t singing. Even when I wasn’t playing music I sang, but I found myself singing less and less.
One song that came about during that period was “The Average Man.” It’s a story song. One of my favorite types of songs. It’s about a guy who’s average in every measurable way – and who has considered himself that way. But then, he starts harkening to a feeling that there could be something more to his life. He asks a golden question that starts with: “What if?”
I find that “What if questions are some of the most powerful questions we can ask.
O.K. – I’m facing this situation, but “What if?” (spacing issue will probably be fixed in upload)I’ve never done anything good with my life, but “What if?” What would that look like?
“What if” questions can open up all kinds of stuff, and it was “What if” questions that made a big difference for me.
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything without facing this. I was dissatisfied with my life. I felt like I had lost myself. There was nobody to blame. It was not the job’s fault. It was not my ex’s fault. It wasn’t society’s fault. It wasn’t the church’s fault, because I had left the church.
I just started asking different questions. They all began with “What if?”
Well, what if, it is totally in me?
What if, changing jobs, isn’t going to change anything?
I said, well, then there’s got to be a change somewhere else.
Well, what if I wanted to change, what could I change?
I really started asking simple little questions.
So, I found a way to give up smoking, start exercising, to free my mind from clutter – so I stopped reading the news. I used to spend every morning reading five or six online newspapers. I stopped watching the news.
It was uncomfortable for the first few days, but then, I was comfortable – and clear. With that clarity – all of a sudden – things can start. Then, I heard about “The Secret” on Oprah. I thought this is interesting, what’s this law of attraction? I started reading everything I could. But that wasn’t enough, I started reading about the people behind it, and New Thought.
New Thought is a blending – an American born new thought of spirituality. It takes the best ideas of spiritual ideas from the ages – from everywhere in the world – the things that spiritual thought has in common – along with new discoveries, new revelations that are based in psychology, philosophy, and science. Scholars like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Ernest Holmes, along with the spiritual traditions of India, China – Buddha, the teachings of Christ without the trappings of vindictiveness are the foundations of New Thought.
Then I read a book called the “Science of Getting Rich,” by Wallace D. Wattles (written in 1910). That little book turned my head. He talked about the actual science of acquiring money and goods, but behind it is this spirituality. He talks about this invisible substance that permeates all things, and you can think into it, and it has the tendency to become the thing you think about.
Well “what if” that’s true, what about all the stuff that’s around me?
“Could it be that I’ve been thinking this stuff into form around me?!” That was a sobering thought. That was it. I was hooked. I had to know more about it. The more I studied it, the less I was interested in just acquiring money. I needed the money, for sure. I wanted to know what this was behind it – the spirituality behind it.
Well “what if” that’s true, what about all the stuff that’s around me. Then Agape came to mind again.
Q/C: Well isn’t it ironic. You were watching Oprah. Then here’s the guy Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith who a few years back had flipped you out talking about Jesus, now reaching you through “The Secret.”
Yes! I said, you know what, let me check out Agape. So I just went. I haven’t stopped since. I knew I was home, I understood what he was saying. I could hear it clearly. It reached down, caught something in my heart and the soul of me. Something said yes to everything. That was it.
Q: So, you left the four star hotels, and the marriage that was no longer working for you. What started happening with your music?
The thing that our gifts always do, they show up in response, or as a [result] of [our] practice. I began to devote time to just contemplation, because I really didn’t understand meditation, certainly didn’t understand prayer. Books helped, they added some framework. I still didn’t understand much of it, but as that practice started to emerge, the music started coming to me again.
Q: When did you start going public again with your music, and how did that come about?
That first Sunday at Agape, my competitiveness, and the sense of judgment toward other musicians was gone. It had to do a lot with all of the study and contemplation I had done before I arrived there. Also, I think a lot of it had to do with the spirit of Agape itself. I saw these beautiful musicians, and I was able to enjoy them. I remember having a conscious thought saying ‘You know, I’m not going to come in here trying to do some music.’ I don’t know why that came up. I decided, I’m just going to be. Then, I started meeting a few people. Several months later, I was invited to sing, and I was ready, and said “yes.”
Singing again (April 2008 @ Agape): It felt like this is what I’m supposed to be doing. After all of the musical experiences, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Everything leading up to this was lovely preparation.
Q: Who, and what continues to inspire you to live the life you are choosing?
What I’m hoping to see, is a time where conscious music is readily available. I see a time where there are more inhabiting that realm. Style of music has nothing to do with it – it’s all about consciousness.
I’m so eager to hear, all of the music that’s going to show up, from so many people around the world.
Ray Davis’ CD, Ray Davis: Live at Kula, is available for purchase in our Inner Compass Lifestyle Store.