Stepping free of the shadows

David Gray performing at the Dubai International Jazz Festival. Photo: Tracy Brand/AP/PA Photos

David Gray performing at the Dubai International Jazz Festival. Photo: Tracy Brand/AP/PA Photos

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When David Gray released White Ladder in 1998, it became something of a slow-burning success.

A slow-burning success that sold almost eight million copies, spawned the giant single Babylon and breathed new life into the solo male singer-songwriter genre, admittedly, but slow-burning nonetheless.

The newly-released Mutineers, his 10th album, is a direct relation of White Ladder, not just in that the shuffley beats that underpin many of the songs call to mind a sort of after-club mood, but because it finally sees Gray breaking free of the shackles of association with his breakout hit.

“There’s a lot of baggage that comes with success,” he begins. “Of course, I’m not complaining, but I made that album in my bedroom and didn’t think anyone would be listening. Then, all of a sudden, it sold seven or eight million copies. What are you supposed to do after that?”

Add in the fact that Gray’s father died not long after the album’s release, and his first child was born, and the picture becomes more chaotic.

For Mutineers, he teamed up with Andy Barlow, who helped put new wind in Gray’s sails. There’s no huge change in direction or clichéd return to form.

The main difference between Mutineers and its recent predecessors is that it sounds like Gray is having fun.“I remember starting the album and slapping this big [stack] of songs down for Andy to go through and he said, ‘Dave, you’re too intense, you make recording an album sound like some sort of prison sentence’, and reminded me making an album should be some creative flight of fancy to be seen as a treat.”

The first song on Mutineers is called Back In The World, and that’s quite clearly how Gray feels.

“It’s a very literal song. In making this album I’ve stepped free of the shadows of the past.”