Brackley singer/songwriter aims for Christmas number one

Musician and poet Ray Coates has overcome throat cancer and now has set his sights on getting his charitable single 'The Voice Within' to the number one slot.

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 11:20 am
Ray Coates (courtesy Rosie Simons Photography)

Ray has been writing lyrics and performing for the best part of 40 years and at one point could have turned it into a career.

Ray said: "I started writing poetry at about seven years of age, for me they were lyrics. Back in the 80's I saw Howard Jones, this single guy with keyboard writing songs and there was OMD Human League, all of that kind of thing.

"I thought I can actually use my lyrics to make songs. About 14 or 15 I got a keyboard started playing, and then the poetry started to become songs.

Ray added: "I got offered a small record contract. They said to me 'we want you to write 10 songs a week'. That sounds like hard work to me. I don't particularly want to do that, too busy doing other things."

In 2008, however Ray's world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

"One day I noticed a lump on the side of the neck, I thought 'that's a big, that's a big spot', it was sort of a golf ball size. Having a large family, being busy, I didn't really sort of pay much attention to the development of it.

"I went to a GP I was very, very fortunate because she had a history with nose and throat and oncology. She said to me, 'what do you think it is?

"I suppose you tend to think the worst but I knew there and then every fibre of me, I knew I had cancer. I went through the process of having a biopsy etc and they gave us the news that there's cancer in the tonsils, and it had spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

"I needed surgery, major surgery and six weeks of radiotherapy to basically get rid of this. A year of my life at least completely gone. You know, I couldn't speak or communicate at all."

The psychological impact on Ray was just as large and for a full two years this previously prolific song writer did not jot down a single word.

"It was just like an emotional blockage. I think it was just, my body was so invaded I just had nothing. I had nothing to give. For two years, it was like that. So I was basically trapped, just coping with the treatment," said Ray.

That blockage came to an end in 2011 when Ray wrote 'The Voice Within' which, although inspired by his battle with cancer has a wider meaning.

Ray said: "The idea of it was I thought if anybody's ever felt how I had felt, crying yourself to sleep on your own, I really never want anybody to feel like I felt.

"Lots of people have linked the song with cancer, obviously, because of what I experienced, the voice within this is guy who couldn't speak. It's more to do with If ever you get to that point where you feel you just cannot communicate, this songs for you."

The original version of the song was picked up by various media outlets and Ray was happy for it to help promote cancer charities. Fast forward to early this year and Ray had amassed a hefty catalogue of new material but was trying to find the right way to deliver the songs to the public.

The Voice Within, he felt, could act as the anchor for a show but Ray decided to let other performers record versions of his song to see what their interpretations were. One in particular spoke to him.

"Through social media, I said if anybody wants to have ago at this song, send me back your version. The only thing I ask is stick to the lyrics. You want to make your own melody, that's fine. If you want to do a rock version or rap version, no problem.

"The project was a little bit more along the angle of mental health, trying to connect with people that felt disconnected or isolated. People asked me is this for charity and what's it all about and my honest answer was I hadn't got a clue.

"So received a few versions very, very good from everything from a 12 year old girl in Ireland to a few actor friends, some that have experienced cancer themselves as well.

"Anyway, I received this one version from Zoe Evans. She's my partner's cousin, she lives in Warrington. And, anyway, it was a brilliant version of the song she's experienced homelessness herself.

"When I heard it I thought this needs to be a Christmas charity single. We have singles released this time of year, X Factor for example, but how about a song that really means something," Ray said.

What has evolved from that speculative request for new versions of The Voice Within is a full blown concert featuring Ray performing 14 or so of his new songs along with a reveal of Zoe Evan's version of The Voice Within all raising money for homelessness charity Shelter.

The concert will take place on November 10 at the Limehouse Theatre in Aylesbury from 8pm.

Ray said: "When people come here, there's gonna be I think 13 or 14 original songs. Very, very uplifting, a real positive vibe."

For tickets (£10) visit www.qpc.org.

To find out more about Ray visit his website.