Page last updated at 07:27 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 08:27 UK

David Gray: No more Mr Nice Guy

David Gray
David Gray had his breakthrough with the White Ladder album

David Gray has a lot to get off his chest.

He wants the world to know in no uncertain terms that he has found his musical mojo, that fame makes you paranoid, that the music business is finished and that the masses need not bear the guilt of global warming. Among other things.

He is an angry man. But not so angry that he does not get a bit sensitive about being called a sensitive singer-songwriter.


What mindset were you in when you wrote the new album?

Dating back to the recording of the last album, I knew I had to change stuff. There was this waning of whatever vital energy had inspired me to be creative.

So mentally I was stepping into the void and getting rid of the comfort of what I knew. The previous couple of records have been much more inward and introspective - they were interior scenes of my emotional world.

With this one, I've kicked the front door down and started roaming the streets like a Magnum photographer taking a snapshot of anything I can find.

If I can't be loving every second of this, then someone please shoot me. It's got life flooding through his veins. There's grit, there's gristle. I don't think this is a record of the sensitive singer-songwriter, I think this record comes out and grabs you and looks you squarely in the eye.

What happened to change things?

I think I just got over a lot of stuff. There's a spiritual force running through me, the force of being alive and unafraid and loving it, and not caring about the past or fame or success or the pigeonhole they stick you in.

If you try to resist all that stuff you always lose. It's like quicksand - the more you wriggle, the deeper you go. So a giant act of surrender is required to overcome the sense of vertigo that success can give you.

Did the fame and success get on top of you?

I think I took it too seriously. Life's just too short. As the first track on the record says, you can't take it with. You've got to wake up and live. Don't sell yourself a lie. I was maybe living 80% with 20% hiding. A bit of fear got in there.

What were you afraid of?

Of being hurt. Of being exposed. Of being misunderstood and misrepresented. It's a hall of mirrors, fame. You get all this stuff coming back at you, this distorted sound of lots of tongues babbling, and you think, is that what everyone thinks of me?

When they float you high above the parapet, anybody can take a pot shot, and it stings. Ouch. You want to kill someone sometimes. So these things make you retreat. You hide. But you can't fight it that way. You just have to love it all and not care.

Does the album just contain snapshots or is there a story?

There are scenes that repeat. How to function and cope in a world that constantly castrates you with information and total nonsense - that recurs again and again.

You've got to draw the line, as the title track says. Make sure you draw the line in the right place. We need compassion, we need all these things. They glue us all together.

But if you go too far, if you shoulder the guilt of environmental destruction every moment of every day, you're going to drive yourself round the twist. It's all nonsense. How they shoved that one onto us I'll never know. Corporate and governmental mismanagement and abuse of the world and we suddenly have to change our habits and rescue the whole thing. It's a joke!

So it's the guilt of the modern world?

We all feel guilty - we're brought up that way. Think about all the suffering people! Think about them for once, you fool, luxuriating with your M&S meals for one! Think about the starving! You can always feel guilty at any moment of any day.

Is the sensitive nice guy singer songwriter tag something that got on your nerves?

People can create a false impression. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm not trying to destroy an image that the media's created of me as some boring dull person who's constantly moaning and writing these sensitive withering songs in the corner.

Is that what you think the impression is?

No! I am sensitive - artists are. I'm now sensitive about your jibes about my lack of sensitivity.

You funded this record yourself and signed a short-term deal - are you glad you didn't sign a full deal with a record label?

I'm glad we've kept our options open for the future because it's going to collapse into rubble, that much is obvious. The music business is already half way there.

But something else will have to be built. The current model doesn't make any sense. Nobody paying anything for stuff that they love doesn't make any sense either. Something else will have to come from the ashes and hopefully we'll be placed to play a meaningful part in that.

Is it harder to make money now as a songwriter?

If my record gets played a zillion times on Spotify, I'll probably receive about 50p. That isn't an exaggeration. Whose idea was this?

The music business is unsurpassed in its utter incompetence for just giving itself away on some panic-based decision making. The callous-hearted digital age, hand-in-hand with the oafish incompetence of the music business blundering its way into the future, is a shocking sight.

David Gray's album Draw the Line is out now. He was talking to BBC News music reporter Ian Youngs.



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