Interview: David Gray — "You can break a string or you can break a leg…all you need is the raw song…"
Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:21:56
It's not a big surprise that David Gray spends a lot of time with his head in a book.
Listening to "Full Steam" his collaboration with Annie Lenox as well as "Fugitive" from Draw the Lijne, there's a profound and poetic aesthetic inherent in Gray's style of ethereal pop. Right now, he's gearing up to make Draw the Line's follow-up, and there's no doubt that he'll be flipping through a variety of literature in the process. In addition, he's going to embark on a major tour of the United States this spring.
David Gray sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino to chat about some of his favorite books, the upcoming tour and so much more in this exclusive interview.
Do you have anything different planned for this upcoming tour?
Yeah, I think that's essential. I've got a great support act from New York called Phosphorescent on this tour. I'll also start introducing some new songs. I've got another record that was cut at the same time as Draw the Line, which will come out later this year. I’ll start playing some stuff from that. I'm going to develop a few of the songs that I haven't been playing in the set too. We've got some rehearsal time before the tour, so the set will be different. It's always changing, otherwise it gets dull, as you can imagine.
Are there any tracks in particular that have evolved in the live setting?
Definitely! Things find a correct and comfortable tempo. A track like "Jackdaw" has become very upbeat and very playful. "First Charm" is a song that slows down live because of the way it was built. If you just relax and slow down, the whole thing comes across much better. We play "Fugitive" an awful lot, so that one is real strong. "Nemesis" is a bit epic, so it has a whole part that almost goes into a completely different song. The whole thing is constantly evolving. It's always strange when you listen back to the album you've been playing on tour. You lose your perspective on what the recording sounds like because you're used to hearing everything in three dimensions.
Vibing off the crowd's energy must help as well.
Of course, the gig is where it's at, because nothing matters apart from the gist of the song. You can break a string or you can break a leg—who gives a fuck? As long as you're playing the song from the heart, people will get into it. The niceties, trying to perfect things, the presentation, everything underneath it—you can throw that all away. All you need is the raw song. The crowd can lift you up. They can take you up into another plane entirely, if they really give you everything. It's the best part of the job, and you never know what each night is going to be like. I try to change things up, and I never play the same run of songs. There's always something different thrown in. It's different every night. It keeps you thinking and keeps you interested. Otherwise people just get stuck in a rut.
Where do you feel like that sound is going to go next?
Obviously, I know where it's going next [Laughs]. The new music doesn't try and impress. It's very stripped down. I think it stands out, anyway, for me. There is some stuff on there that is the best stuff I've ever done, but it's a little bit more "out there" in places. It doesn't really strive to get on the radio. It's not going to be selling as many copies as Draw the Line. Maybe some filmmaker will pick up on it and it will end up in a movie or TV program, I don't know. It's a different creature than Draw the Line. Draw the Line is on the front foot. I have a couple of some big songs on there that had a chance at least of getting some air play. This [new music] has a different vibe.
Now, in terms of stripping things down, do you think it allows the listener to get closer to you?
Yeah, making music, sometimes you want everything. You can hear it in your head—that's just all of the racket you make [Laughs]. Playing stripped down, there is more there than there is when everything is going full blast. Stripping back the song, album or gig is vital. You definitely get more of the soul of it; the essence of the song comes across more like that. That's a vital part of my craft. I started out with me and my guitar, and it’s something I constantly go back to.
Do you read a lot when you write?
I’ve been reading an awful lot these last six months, but not while I write. I get very thirsty for books every now again. I'm the same with music, and I'll suddenly listen a lot and read an awful lot. Then I'll get stuck in what I'm actually doing. When I'm actually working, I'm mainly thinking about that and listening to that and writing. So, I read poetry off and on and I read a lot of novels. I've been reading a lot of nature writing, some brilliant stuff actually. I just read a book called The Peregrine by J.A. Baker, which blew me away. It was deep. Moby Dick is one of my favorite ever books. I'm a big Cormac McCarthy fan. I read The Road. I absolutely love reading. I’m not much of a TV head; I don’t really turn the TV on. I don't really listen to the radio either.
That's the best place to learn from.
Yeah it seems to be getting stronger to me. It's funny with books because when you really get on a roll, one leads to another. Someone will see what you're reading and say, "Oh, if you like that you must read this." It just becomes endless. I've got a real passion for writing at the moment, I mean I think that’s obvious on Draw the Line and likewise on the new material. The words have really come back to me. A real passion is there, and the writing part is really exciting.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…