Risk, a word unfortunately weighed down by connotations of contingency and consequence, is also one of the most dynamic conduits through which artists can draw their inspiration. Just ask David Gray, the British singer/songwriter abandoned his figurative ship by bringing in a new band and returning to self-production for his latest album, Draw the Line. The result is a collection of songs with what he gladly calls, a new “fire in its belly.”
You just released your latest album, Draw the Line. It’s been about four years since your last studio release (Life in Slow Motion). Did you purposely take a longer approach to this record?
It just worked out that way. I think I knew I didn’t want to be on the road for a while. You know, I had done a lot of touring since the release of White Ladder. So there was an element of that, but it was more that things needed to be rebuilt. I sort of broke everything down and built it again from the ground up. It just took a bit of time. Then even when we were finished with the record it took time to find the right deal to put it out. It had all taken much longer. It looks like I’ve taken ages, but the first of those four years I spent touring with Life in Slow Motion as well. Then we released a greatest hits and we did about six months work around that. So I spent a long time on the record but it was sort of the start of a new era, a new band, and it took a while to put it together and get the whole thing in.
What made you decide to bring in a new band for this record?
Just on gut instinct, really. I just felt it was time for a change. There’s a real danger that you’ll start repeating yourself. There’s a real complacency to it. Just because you made some decent music a couple of years ago doesn’t mean you have the right to make any this year. You have to have a rabid appetite for reinvention and for starting again. So unless everybody shares that, you end up repeating yourself. You just make some musical shapes that are similar to the ones you made before. So there was an element of that. And yeah, I needed a new challenge, really. So it was just a gut-instinct thing.
What about the title track, “Draw the Line”? Did writing that one get the ball rolling for you?
Yeah. It’s not necessarily the first one I wrote, but it was the first time that a song was born in the studio. I didn’t bring in some already-written piece that everyone had to play on. This was the first time that everyone reacted to an idea that just happened in the studio while we were doing something else. And then, from the ground up everybody was involved in every grain of what turned out to be a very important moment. Then they all felt a part of it and I could see for the first time the potential of what we had. I could sense it before, but suddenly it was tangible; it was actual. It just crystallized in this great way from a very simple, driving riff, basically. But yeah, when I heard that song back through the speakers when we managed to capture it, it was all just done so fresh that I thought: “Alright, this is it. This is the standard-bearer for the record. This set the tone. We have to match this.”
Where do you see yourself in the next 18 years? Still playing music?
That’s an awful long time. I doubt I’ll ever stop. If left to my own devices, it just doesn’t go away for me. There’s no, “Oh! Thank God that’s over” at all. But it’s a tough process. I’ll take six months off. I think I do need to take a bit of a time out. I’m looking forward to enjoying life, which is something I haven’t completely gotten around to. I’ve always got other plans as soon as I stop doing one thing. So yeah, I don’t see that my spring is unwinding in any sort of great way. I think I’ll just keep on keeping on. I imagine if I’m still around and haven’t been, you know, killed by some terrible disease or hit by a bus, I’ll still be making music and playing gigs. It’s my life blood, in a sense.