Over the years Paul has interviewed countless artists and celebrities. In order to shamelessly cash in on this fact, The Paul Ransom Show will mine the archives and post past glories on this page.
This time round we go back to December 2014 for a chat with renowned Man U fan and multi-million selling artist Dave Gray.
Almost completely normal
From the freedom of obscurity to stardom and back again, David Gray’s “gradual curve” has inspired him to record ten albums and make a big noise on stage. As Paul Ransom discovers, the folktronic veteran still loves creative risk taking.
It’s been a decade and more since the name David Gray lit up charts and radio playlists, when songs like Sail Away and Babylon and his multi-platinum album White Ladder were hard to avoid. Indeed, many of us may well have consigned him to the nostalgia circuit. However, not only does Gray have a new record out but he will be back on our shores at Easter for Bluesfest in Byron.
Yet, the dimming of the golden lights has been an undisguised blessing for the father of two and mad keen Man U fan. As he says, “I’ve not been dominated by celebrity or ‘famousness’ for many years. I mean, there was a period when it was very intense around White Ladder and the immediate aftermath but these days it’s pretty laidback. I get to do normal things and be with my kids. Y’know I don’t hide or go to exclusive compounds to enjoy myself, I do my thing amongst everyone else and I love that freedom.”
Away from the lurid, ephemeral glare of stardom, the focus has shifted away from the man and back to the songs; a situation Gray clearly prefers. “At times I’m surprised by how well remembered I am and other times it sorta feels like you’re falling rapidly into obscurity. The world is always playing tricks on you. But once the music’s out there, it’s out there to stay. So y’know, I don’t really fret it because I feel like the songs are bound to people’s hearts and that’s a wonderful thing and always will be.”
Excused from the pressure, real or imagined, of hit making, David Gray gets to explore his craft in much the same instinctive fashion as he did prior to the hullaballoo. “I’ve always pretty much made the music that I felt I needed to make at any given time,” he explains. “I’m just following my own gradual curve of ideas.”
Across a twenty year, ten album recording career he has had plenty of opportunity to explore that curve. Indeed, with his latest release, Mutineers, he specifically instructed his producer (Andy Barlow from Lamb) to take him out of his comfort zone. “When you take creative risks and they’re rewarded you see the strength in that and you want to take more and keep trying to find new ground, because you can see that what’s there is far more precious than playing it safe.”
This philosophy translates perfectly into the live setting. “There’s certainly a challenge to stay completely wide awake in terms of doing songs you’ve played thousands of times,” Gray admits, “which is why I like to reinterpret things. So with this band we’ve got a different set up. We’ve got seven people singing – and a drummer.”
For his antipodean fans, Gray will be doing his trademark mix of new, old, acoustic and anthems; and depending on the mood, some obscure album tracks. Whatever the set list though, the sound will be expansive. As he likes to explain it, “When you’ve recorded a song it’s like a two dimensional capture. Then you play it live and it becomes this living, breathing thing on stage, where it’s loud and it’s big and there’s the crowd; and then you go back to record and it’s tiny.”
Which is why, on stage at Bluesfest, David Gray will be big again.