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Mildenhall songwriter breaks into South Korean and Japanese music industry writing hits for Kis-My-Ft2 and The Boyz



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Korean and Japanese pop music is not something you’d expect to see coming out of a rural town in Suffolk.

But that is exactly what 23-year-old Kieran Davis, from Mildenhall, has embarked on over the last few years.

The young creative has seen success writing music for the likes of Korean band The Boyz and Japanese band Kis-My-Ft2 – achieving three number ones with the J-pop band and selling in excess of 200,000 copies each.

Kieran Davis, a songwriter and business owner from Mildenhall, has had success writing for Japanese and Korean artists. Picture: Mecha Morton
Kieran Davis, a songwriter and business owner from Mildenhall, has had success writing for Japanese and Korean artists. Picture: Mecha Morton

But how does someone in Suffolk become involved in something as unusual as the Asian music industry?

It all started at university for Kieran, when a lecturer spotted his talent for writing pop music and invited him to join a song writing session with one of his signed writers.

“I had no awareness of the K-pop or J-pop market beforehand,” said Kieran. “I was really going into that session with a love for pop music but I had no idea where to start when it came to K-pop and J-pop.

“With the Asian market, it’s a lot more complex and intricate than what we have here in the UK. You have to have a deep understanding of how they use the various elements – rap, melody or dance even – and how that is incorporated into one song because it can be quite daunting at the start.

“I remember feeling I was never going to get a grip on it. Then one day I wrote a song on my own – I shut myself in a room, went for it and it just clicked.

“I do feel incredibly fortunate to have that opportunity and to have been in the right place at the right time.”

The first song Kieran wrote for the Asian market got released by South Korean boy band CIX in 2021, two or three years after he had initially written it. Success first came with his releases with Kis-My-Ft2 – Letting Go, which was released in March 2020 and and Catapult, in September 2020.

Since starting, Kieran’s catalogue for writing songs for the Asian market is in excess of 200 songs, with only five being released. But the key for the songwriter is resilience.

“I always say to people I truly believe the music industry is the toughest industry to get into and to be sustained. It’s a really tough gig. I always say this isn’t an overnight thing – you don’t write five songs and get five hits. It doesn’t work like that. You have to be dedicated and you have to be prepared for rejection and know that it will be worthwhile in the end.”

Going forward, Kieran hopes to remain in the Asian market and, for him, it doesn’t matter which band or artist picks up his songs. However, one memorable moment early on in his career saw major K-pop band BTS ‘hold’ one of Kieran’s songs.

“Typically the cycle of a song is that it will get written, then it will get pitched and if the label or artist like it then they will place it on hold, which means they are very seriously considering releasing it. The final stage is if the song gets cut. Unfortunately it didn’t get cut but that would be incredible – a BTS cut would be amazing.”

Despite selling in excess of half a million records, with three number one hits and one platinum, Kieran doesn’t often take stock of his achievements.

Kieran has written for Japanese boy band, Kis-My-Ft2, and South Korean bands The Boyz and CIX. Picture: Mecha Morton
Kieran has written for Japanese boy band, Kis-My-Ft2, and South Korean bands The Boyz and CIX. Picture: Mecha Morton

“I don’t take a huge amount of time to reflect on what I’ve done. I probably should more. But I am the kind of person who, if I’ve achieved one thing, I want to push on to the next thing. It just feels like another normal day to me.”

Kieran’s creative talent doesn’t stop there. He also runs a thriving marketing business, Dimension Creative, which has recently won Best Creative Agency in Suffolk 2022. His company, which was set up in 2020, allows him to be creative full time and offers web design, branding and digital marketing services to businesses.

“I’m fortunate enough that I can earn my money myself and be creative with it.

“It also helps me to understand the music industry sometimes as well – when it comes to digital marketing and branding. There is some cross over at times.”

Kieran hopes to grow his business a little more, employing a few more staff to be able to offer more services to local businesses in the area.

“I don’t want my business to become a huge agency because what we do, we do really well and we’re proud of what we do,” he said. “We also like to keep it at a very intimate, bespoke level.

“The next step would be to bring a few more people on board and bring even more talent into the business.”

In terms of his music, Kieran has been invited on a trip to Tokyo by his publishers later in the year, Covid restrictions dependant, which he is looking forward to.

“That’s a huge step because it really shows their loyalty and commitment to me. It will be incredible to be immersed in the culture there and to get an understanding and feel the magnitude of actually what we do. Sometimes it’s easy to forget these releases are huge over there.”

How it works

The world of writing music for K-pop and J-pop artists is a mystery to most, but here’s how the process works as explained by Kieran:

“After a song is written, it will get pitched by publishers to various artists, labels and A&R. If they like the song, artists or labels will hold the song – typically for six months, but it could be longer. It comes out of the market and is exclusively for them to choose - they have first dibs on the song.

A cut is when the song gets realised – when the artist has chosen the song and will release it.”

Discography

Letting Go – on the album To-y2 by Kis-My-Ft2

Catapult – on the album Endless Summer by Kis-My-Ft2

Ashioto – on the album Best of Kis-My-Ft2 by Kis-My-Ft2

With You – on both the single All For You and the album Pinky Swear by CIX

Toxic Love – on the album She’s The Boss by The Boyz