The past year or so I’ve been called in to lay down some rocking blues piano and organ on a couple recordings for singer/songwriter David Bray.
Yes, there is the other side of David Bray (Bray and Partners); consulting and radio programmer, amongst many commercial entities, but lately it’s been all about his music.
As the tracks were going down I don’t think David was aware of hidden medical complications that would soon derail and put him in long term treatment. I had the occasional encounter with David when he would mention he’d like me to contribute to his music. That decade of music-making includes a star-studded cast – Colin Linden, Richard Bell, Jeff Healey, and Motown bassist Bob Babbitt – all world class, prime time players.
David dropped by my radio show Thursday past at The University of Toronto and we chatted and played a few selections culled from his two new discs – Night Rains and Crowded Isolation. The music plays as if from another music period yet performed with great passion and expertise.
Bill King: You’re all over the map – covering all areas of the music industry.
David Bray: I’m involved with all things radio. I’m consulting on everything from license applications to managing stations to consulting on programming. It all started as a musician back in the early days. I worked with Danny Lanois and Gene Martynec, John Capek, Marc Jordan etc. I started as a musician then transitioned into radio in general. I’ve been involved in all aspects of the industry, sort of left brain, right brain. Some of it statistical, a lot of it creative.
B.K: How did you arrive at working with statistics?
D.B: If you look at my family background, my dad was head of special investigations for the Canada Revenue Agency. That was heavily statistically orientated and that translated to me working on research methodology for radio. I was chair of a survey task force that worked on developing the survey methodology and my mother was more of an artist.
B.K: Where did you grow up?
D.B: I’ve lived in Scarborough all my life. I went to Trinity College at University of Toronto, and those are some of my fondest memories. I was an English major and I studied some business.
B.K: There’s plenty of writing involved in scripting commercials, isn’t there?
D.B: Most certainly. On that end I’ve written theme songs for many clients, including Burger King, Long & McQuade and a host of others. I’ve literally written thousands of scripts and planning campaigns. That’s only part of it. A lot is consulting on the radio side of things, such as working with CRTC applications. I worked on the original XM Satellite application with my friend Bob Mackowycz and John Bitove.
I started in poetry and that’s the key to my music – a strong emphasis on lyrics.
B.K: Radio applications must fill a need and when writing you must come up with sound reasons before appearing before the CRTC.
DB: It’s quite complicated statistically and in terms of the sound. What type of sound are you going for and what is the complexion of the potential audience? What sort of need is served in the marketplace and how will the artists be served?
B.K: I would imagine starting a radio station at this moment would be challenging with the Internet in big play.
D.B: Yes. I served as vice chair for BBM for a long time and it’s surprising that the listenership remains very, very strong across Canada and hasn’t trailed off very much at all. I suppose it’s a bit weaker with the millennials and a little weaker with the 12-17, 18-24 demographic – aside from that, it's very strong.
B.K: We talk about the battles in life and at some point we have to do something for ourselves. The daily grind of life can obscure and suppress those things we love the most. You recently faced a crisis in your life.
D.B: I was diagnosed with cancer – colon cancer. It came as bit of a shock and I was in the hospital a prolonged period. Right now, I’m undergoing a series of tests to see if it’s spread – cross my fingers and hope that it hasn’t too badly. The first test wasn’t that good but I’m hopeful we can bring to a suitable conclusion which I hope is not the end. That being said, it did help me in my work on this trilogy of albums for the last decade and now seems to be the time to bring it all to conclusion.
The first two albums, Night Rains and Crowded Isolation, will be ready very shortly and Land of Extremes is coming before too long. You can understand my motivation – this is my passion, my first love and I want to make it happen.
B.K: I find when there’s a traumatic occurrence that interrupts life we tend to look back at the first things that gave us joy and want to rejoin. Have you seen the Sharon Jones documentary?
B.K: It’s incredible. Jones is still battling cancer and it’s been a long one. A good portion of the film is given over to her chemotherapy sessions – painful moments in the chair as the fluid drips – then returning to the road, the next concert and another day in the chair before the downbeat. Her passion and will to live is powerful. Of course, you see her repeatedly in the Lincoln commercials with the Dap Kings and Matthew McConaughey. How do you balance both work and passion now?
D.B: I still do some consulting work, management work but this is my emphasis now. This has never been lost to me as a priority. Working on the lyrics and music the past decade has always been of tremendous importance to me. You still must make a living and I’ve got a family and kids but it seems time as you said to bring this to fruition and get it out there and tell people how much it means to us.