David Gray released his tenth studio album Mutineers yesterday.
It finds the British singer-songwriter steering into unfamiliar territory while cultivating a pugnacious but respectful relationship with his own history. “I think if you’re going forward with an open heart, good things will happen,” says David. “You have to sort of tear up the past and let it go.”
Career benchmarks includes the international success of 1999's White Ladder (seven million copies sold), one of three UK number one albums, with singles like the US adult rock hit "Babylon" that became ubiquitous and others that needed to be sought out to be heard. The richness of terrain and experience over a duration belies the traditions and expectations of popular music as surely as the songs themselves.
Despite such variance in both the content and reception of his prior output, the only certainty David had at the commencement of his new recording was the need to surprise himself, not just in terms of how he worked, but the ideas that drove him and the people he worked with.
“I always write melody first and lyrics second, so I started to write lyrics down and think, right, I’m going to put this to music now," said the artist in his bio. "And that was a bizarrely uncomfortable process. And I was layering my voice; something I just found myself doing on a lot of the new tracks. Again, to get away from the density of my voice, just the intensity of it, it’s so loud, it’s so intense, it’s so direct – so singing more softly, singing in falsetto, singing under the voice in a lower voice, finding new sounds, so that it was still me, but it sounded different.”
The shift is instantly audible on Mutineers, an album whose ancestry David sees as more in the neighborhood of acclaimed cult musician John Martyn’s Small Hours perhaps than its predecessors in his own catalogue. As well as the change in tone there’s a rising sense throughout the record, from the opening affirmation of “Back In The World” to its conclusion, of an artist liberated from even his own expectations.
“I got slightly away from the narrative of the kind of crucified middle aged man. I got into other more ethereal territory, and it was such a relief to me. And when these wide open vistas of the new sound began to emerge in front of my eyes, I rushed in.”
David’s collaborator, producer and occasional combatant during this raid on new horizons was Lamb’s Andy Barlow. “His brief was – don’t let me make the same record I’ve made before, take me out of my comfort zone. And he’s a very gentle kind of guy, but courageous. He really took me on creatively in a way that no one else has ever done. So I thought, yeah, this is going to work, but it was a tortured process because I found it so hard to take at times that he would tear up bits of my work in front of my eyes!”
Out of the apparent traumas of that procedure “tears, furniture getting thrown,” something more sublime began to emerge. “I was reaching, I was feeling for things rather than knowing and placing, and something far more interesting happened, and there’s such an authority about any recording that’s made in the heat of the moment when you’re actually discovering it as you’re recording it.”
It was spontaneity of process and feeling that, says David, recalled some aspects of making White Ladder, in a bedroom studio back in 1997.
Tickets for Gray's North American summer Tour are on sale now. A digital download of the album will be included with every ticket.
1-Aug Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
4-Aug New York, NY Theatre at Madison Square Garden
5-Aug Upper Darby, PA Tower Theatre
7-Aug Columbia, MD Merriweather Post Pavilion
8-Aug Charlotte, NC Uptown Amphitheatre at the Music Factory
9-Aug Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
11-Aug Raleigh, NC The Red Hat Amphitheater
12-Aug Atlanta, GA Chastain Park Amphitheatre
13-Aug Indianapolis, IN Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park
15-Aug Cleveland, OH Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica
16-Aug Cincinnati, OH PNC Pavilion
17-Aug Rochester Hills, MI Meadow Brook
18-Aug Chicago, IL FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
20-Aug Denver, CO Paramount Theatre
21-Aug Salt Lake City, UT Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre*
22-Aug Boise, ID Idaho Botanical Garden
23-Aug Troutdale, OR Edgefield
25-Aug Redmond, WA Marymoor Park Concerts
26-Aug Vancouver, B.C. Queen Elizabeth Theatre
28-Aug Oakland, CA Paramount Theatre
29-Aug Reno, NV Silver Legacy Casino
30-Aug Las Vegas, NV The Joint @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
31-Aug San Diego, CA Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre
3-Sep Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre