Sitting in Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern in the depths of Nashville this past Sunday, a pouring rain fell upon downtown with tornado warnings flashing across the TV behind the bar. After deciding to stay another night, and finding out Davies was playing that evening at City Winery, the last-minute mischief became clear — we had to see the rock legend in the flesh.
Guitarist and founding member of The Kinks, Davies is — quite literally — the foundation of not only what rock-n-roll is, in terms of sound and attitude, but also what it means to be an inspiring and gracious artist on the grand stage of life. In the half-century since The Kinks roared into pop culture with their timeless melodies, the rebellious freedom of the music and lyrics still strike a vital and urgent chord in where we stand today as a global society.
Onstage, Davies is a shining light — of optimism, positivity, and compassion. Moving around between iconic Kinks selections (“You Really Got Me,” “All Day And All Of The Night,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”) and his recent solo material (“Path Is Long,” “Open Road”), the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer aims to bring together a roomful of strangers. His voice and signature guitar tone find common ground between all souls within earshot, ultimately exposing the true beauty within each and every one of us, where time and age doesn’t exist — only memories and moments within songs immortal.
Smoky Mountain News: When I [watched your] show, you talk a lot about the joys of life. And it feels like that there’s this curious wonder within you that hasn’t left you since childhood…
Dave Davies: Well, I’ve always tried to hold onto it. As you get older, it seems you see things, innocence and purity, old and new. It’s important to try and see things from a different angle, “Oh, wow, never seen that before.” It’s always been important. We all go through the doom and gloom, the ups and down. But, if you get lost in that low point, sometimes you can’t get back.
SMN: And that’s one of the things we love about rock-n-roll, that when you play those songs time doesn’t exist …
DD: That’s very true. And it’s a bit like that onstage. When you get into the show, you feel like you’re in your own time zone with the audience, where time is irrelevant.
SMN: You just turned 70 in February. Do you see a rebirth at this age?
DD: I think so, yeah. A friend of mine, who is a philosopher and was The Kinks first manager, said, “It’s easier when you get 70.” Maybe he meant for reflecting and concentration. I do find I can concentrate a lot better than I did when I was younger [and] trying to do everything all at once. Because you can only physically, mentally and emotionally do so much. There’s always going to be someone who wants to pull you down, that’s just the nature of things.
SMN: What do you see these days when you look out there? I’m in the U.S. and you’re from Britain, both these countries are going through huge changes.
DD: In my view, we need to trust the earth and the universe a bit more. Because, we don’t know anything, do we? We have to allow things to happen more. Until we can really trust each other as human beings, we’re never going to make a breakthrough. In letting go, you see more. These prejudices and attitudes just blind us, blocks us from what’s going on. They’re just obstacles put in front of us to stop us from reaching out. I’m a big science fiction fan, and I think there’s so much wisdom that you can inject with alternative ways of thinking. Science fiction cultivates the area of imagination. We don’t know what we really are. We see what we think we are, but there may be much more.
SMN: Are you optimistic about the future?
DD: Yeah. Because I think, as individuals and collectively, we’re capable of changing our situation. We don’t know what we do when we really think about what we want and with [other] people, and start thinking, “Oh, I don’t like [that],” I think we just drag the whole thing down. I think we have to be optimistic. Because we tried pessimism, and it didn’t really work — we’ve got to be realistic. It’s like music. If you’re with a set of guys, wanting to go in a certain direction, then you play to encourage and inspire each other. If you’re playing just to make people feel bad, where’s that going to go? What’s the point? We’re constantly in a state of flux, we’re composing our lives just like musicians.
Editor’s Note: Dave Davies new solo record “Open Road: Dave Davies & Russ Davies” is now out. www.davedavies.com.