DavidGreyPRESS PHOTO 2 _ Jake Walters HR

Maranda Pleasant: Where do you pull from when you write?

David Gray: I don’t know. I guess I’m just a heart-on-sleeve type of human being.

In terms of writing, I think something happens to you, and you think, “Oh I’m going to write about that. That’s an emotional event.” But obviously, if you keep going, and it’s something you do with regularity, you’ve got to find other ways to write. You can’t just be reactive to the things going on in your life. You have to imagine, and you have to  plunder other people’s work, books, poems, ideas, observations. It’s amazing, the amount of detail and thought that goes into just an average day. Between the things you see on the news, or on the subway, or whatever, it all gets in there. You sort of shut most of it out, but it all goes in. So, in the creative act, you kind of reach down and look for things that will, when put together, create an emotional effect. These days, I probably work a little bit more in the abstract. It’s not just a narrative structure that I’m looking for to tell a story.

Anyway, I don’t know where emotion emanates from exactly. I’m full of it, that’s all I know. I don’t really know why I’m such an emotional person, that’s just how I was born. It’s a problem. [laughs] It’s not easy to be married to me.

MP: Does it feel different creating this new piece of work than, say, something you released five years ago?

DG: This album feels like spring. It’s like a rebirth. After the cycle of touring for the last couple of records, I felt pretty exhausted creatively. When I first sat down to write after that, I was a bit bored of myself. I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want: I don’t want to just repeat myself.

When you set that as your guide for what you’re going to try to do, obviously it is challenging. So, this album was a problem. It took me a long time to get into it, but once I began to find new ground, new vistas opened up, and something really special happened. My producer, Andy Barlow – he comes from more electronic music –  played a huge part in that too. His brief was to not let me make the same record I’d made before, and to take me out of my comfort zone. He was good to his brief and he’s really stood up to me courageously, in a creative sense, and dragged me, kicking and screaming sometimes, out of the comfortable world where I know exactly what I’m doing. But I think the best things happen when you’re reaching – in life, and not just in music and creative things.

That’s what ended up happening. As I say, I had a few successes and I began to see there was a whole new world of possibilities emerging, and that’s what I feel like I’m living in now. A whole new world of possibilities. I’m absolutely flooded with a raucous energy to get out into the world and tell my story again. I feel like this is spring. After a period of shriveling, out come the leaves.

MP: Is there something you’ve struggled with in your life that’s played a big part in your development as a man and as a musician?

DG: I find everything a struggle. [laughs]

MP: Is there something particular about this new album, Mutineers, you really love?

DG: I love this record. It’s hard to pick one thing off it. But I think some of the songs can just take you to another place. Making music as an act of reclamation, to reclaim what’s precious from this sordid world of overexcitement, hyperbole, and corporate blandness. Everything’s stolen. Everything precious – be it a kiss, or be it James Brown – gets misappropriated to the aid of the advertising executives. So, an act of reclamation, somewhere else to be: that’s what I want my music to be. Somewhere you can step into. A place. Because that’s what music is for me. It’s a place to go to.

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