Interview With David Gray

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in @The Eve}ning Echo 2014-11-20

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Interview With David Gray

Following his triumphant concert in Cork earlier this summer David Gray returns to The Cork Opera House in support of his new album ‘Mutineers’, which was released in June, his first album in 4 years.

This is the tenth album of his recording career and one with which he decided to try a new method of making a record, “it was mainly me and Andy (Barlow of Lamb) who made the album, I’d draft in extra musicians in to do the strings and drums at various points but most of the time they weren’t there. While they were a big part of how the songs developed before I went into the studio, Andy really wanted to make the album with just me, so we could explore different sonic territories without treading on other people’s toes so to speak, it was very much just the two of us.”

The decision to make the album without a band in situ was a change from some of his previous recording experiences but one David was drawn to, “I was keen to try something different, I could see where he was going with the ideas and I went with it. I trusted him, after a few successes with tracks I could see he had a great way with sound. I wanted more of that, a new sonic terrain, Andy had the keys to that world and I had to go with him if I wanted to get there and it was worth it.”

Of course every new David Gray album released in Ireland has the shadow of his success with ‘White Ladder’, the biggest selling in Irish history, looming over it. David notes that not only are songs such as ‘Sail Away’, ‘Babylon’ and ‘Please Forgive Me’ incredibly well-known people seem to think they know him as well, “obviously I’m somewhat embedded in the culture here with ‘White Ladder’, the success of it was overwhelming and made me almost ubiquitous, I guess I was a face that was just everywhere for a while so it has led to a lot of people thinking they know me a bit. I am an approachable kind of person so that possibly feeds into that too.”

David doesn’t just put it down to the ten tracks on the record for making such a connection though, “there is a degree of familiarity that is borne from all that exposure that I had and from all the time I’ve spent in Ireland. I didn’t just pop in and out to do the odd show, I was here a lot!”
Despite his extensive gigging throughout Ireland and Cork City and County in particular there is one place he never performed in that sticks in David’s mind, “I never got to play Sherkin Island, I wish I had, I always wanted to get to the Jolly Roger. I’ve played in Baltimore but I never made it across to Sherkin!”

Another connection David feels with Ireland is one with Donal Dineen, who played the music videos from his albums ‘Sell, Sell, Sell’, ‘A Century Ends’ and ‘Flesh’ while he was the host of RTE’s No Disco, took the photographs that were used in the liner notes of ‘White Ladder’ in 1998 and more recently directed, along with Myles O’Rielly, the music videos for ‘Back In The World’ and ‘Gulls’, two of the singles from ‘Mutineers’, “Donal Dineen is an example of someone who has played a huge role at many points in my life; he’s a creative force to be reckoned with himself. I don’t work with people and then drop them to one side I believe in building long running relationships where there is some depth, not just with musicians but with all collaborators. I try to keep continuity where possible, of course sometimes change has to happen. A lot of energy gets used up getting to know someone and gaining their trust or vice versa and only once you are past that point does the good stuff happen. I treasure those relationships, I think the two videos he’s made for this album are the best visual representations I’ve had for any of my songs at any point. Perhaps it’s the culmination of our creative relationship that has lasted over 20 odd years. The relationship is a fruitful one and show no sign of flagging.”

While in no way undermining his recent albums such as ‘Life In Slow Motion’, ‘Draw The Line’ or ‘A New Day At Midnight’ David reflects “I had a bit of a lull after the huge success of ‘White Ladder’. I was everywhere all the time, there is no following that up, but I felt a huge reconnection with the last tour I did in Ireland, it was a proper visit all over the place. The spirit, the atmosphere, the hospitality, and the craic – it was a wonderful thing, a spontaneous band thrown together and some great shows, I’m hoping this tour of Ireland will be more of the same but on a larger scale basically.”

The larger scale he refers to is a lot different to the original gigs he used to play in Ireland when he travelled with just a backpack, a bag of CDs to sell and a guitar case, “for this tour I’ve got an 8 piece band, where everybody except the drummer sings. That was what was needed to try and do justice to the vocal and musical arrangements that we have on the record, we’re trying to get as close as we can in a live format to the recorded sound. We take every detail into account and by creating this crazy band it has also given me a fresh look into the old stuff. It’s a very joyous thing when it all cranks up and starts to move; when everyone starts singing it’ll be an amazing thing to be a part of.”

David Gray plays the Cork Opera House on Friday 5 December. Tickets available at www.corkoperahouse.ie or 021-4270022

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