Ten years after his breakthrough album, White Ladder, David Gray threw out his old formula and enlisted a new band to create his latest effort, Draw The Line, an inspiring album that features a duet with Annie Lenox. David tells RadarOnline.com how it all happened.
RadarOnline.com: What’s the significance of the album title—and song title—Draw the Line?
DG: There’s a sort of demarcation of the end of one thing and the beginning of another with this record, for me anyway. And there’s also a bit of a glint in the album’s eye, like enough is enough, like this should be taken on it’s own merit. So it just seemed appropriate on lots of levels and it didn’t seem to overstate anything. And it’s a sort of forceful title.
RadarOnline.com: You’ve said your songwriting formula had become stale to you. Tell us what you were going for with this album, and how you wanted it to be different from your previous work?
DG: One of the problems is repeating yourself. I needed to reinvigorate thing, I felt like there was a waning of the vital sparks that new music comes from. It takes a certain amount of courage to sort of tear everything down and start again. The first thing I did was say goodbye to most of the people I’d worked with and went about building a new band with a view to be recording in this kind of old-school way that I’d always felt instinctually that I’d wanted do it, which is to play live in the studio, to go for the spirit of the thing. As soon as we started working together properly it really clicked. It unleashed a huge wave of creativity for me.
RadarOnline.com: How would you say playing with the new band has affected your sound?
DG: It has a sort of toughness to it, a bit more attitude to the sound in places. And it enabled me to sing a different kind of song and find a different kind of voice I’d lost for a while. All the changes are indicative of a broader change, a bigger change in me, a total change in mood and I was dynamic in trying to make things come back to life and it worked. It’s a joy to play it live because it was all recorded live, so it’s not like you’re trying to recreate songs you labored over in the studio. It’s easier to represent the songs. They stand up by themselves.
RadarOnline.com: What were the big influences on this album, not necessarily just musically, but also in film, literature, art or whatnot?
DG: I’m always reading. It was over such a broad period to make the record, such wide period, but I watched a lot of Werner Herzog films. My favorite being Little Dieter Needs To Fly. But the biggest influence was the sound of the new band. The world of possibility just burst wide open to me in the writing of it. There’s a relish to the lyrics when you listen to the record, in my opinion. I had an enormous amount of fun just throwing ideas around so it was like I got about 150 things off my chest.
RadarOnline.com: Tell us about the single “Fugitive.”
DG: The lyrics are like wake up, life’s too short, don’t sell yourself a lie that it’s a pile of shite and there’s nothing you can do. Miracles do happen, small ones, big ones. It’s just a wake up call, saying don’t hide from yourself, don’t let fear get a slice of you. And maybe that’s what happened to me, maybe fear did get a slice of me. Being in the spotlight, big success, crazy stuff and all the tumultuous stuff goings on in my personal life at the time, maybe like a hermit crab I scuttled into my shell until I really knew it was safe to come out again. Now suddenly I’ve woken up and I’ve let go of that. But it’s not an inward song, it’s a much more outward wake up call.
RadarOnline.com: How did the collaboration with Annie Lenox on “Full Steam Ahead” come about?
DG: It was wonderfully unpremeditated thing. I wrote this song thought it was a duet, I was thinking of the Righteous Brothers, and another male lead who could sing with me. And my manager was like, ‘what about Annie Lenox?’ And she said I love it, I want to do it. So she came down to the studio and she was absolutely fantastic. She had a ball. She really threw herself into it. She’s superenergized, supercreative, and she just lifted the whole song up. She sings it with such a zest. You get carried through on the glory of the music and after a few repeated listens you notice the lyrics and what the song is kind of getting at. So that was a fantastic adventure.
RadarOnline.com: It’s been 10 years since your breakthrough album White Ladder, tell us about the moment you first knew you’d arrived.
DG: I was on stage at Glastonbury and I came off and the single “Babylon” had gone into the Top 5. The sun was going down and I was talking to David Bowie, my dad was there, my friends were there, it was like I was so high off the whole experience it took me about two weeks to come back to planet Earth. I was basically sent into the stratosphere. I played, Top Of the Pops a couple days later then we went to play a festival in Scotland and we were first on the bill so we were expecting about 500 people, and they literally opened the gates and like 10,000 insane Scots people just charged the stage started singing “Sail Away” with us and that was the week that I was like Christ, nothing’s ever going to be the same again.