Gray DaysDavid Gray will be performing in the City which has most taken him to its heart. Paddy Kehoe spoke to the singer on the line to Buffalo, New York.
Although an Englishman, the Welsh upbringing has been of paramount influence on David Gray. "I'd be lying if I said I was Celtic, but it definitely was a formative thing for my psyche," he says. "It made a huge impression on me moving to Wales as a child, it formed me in so many ways. I felt immediately at home there, by the sea and in the woods."
Gray's voice has that gnarled, world-weary quality that the young Dylan had in his early songs. In somewhat more unlikely comparisons, he has been compared to Van Morrisson and Dylan Thomas."Well it's very flattering," he says, "but its not like I go, 'God I'm like Van the man, I must be brilliant!'" (In fact he sounds most like the Glasweigian folk singer Dick Gaughan.) Is he happy at how the press have treated him to date? "How can I generalise? This morning, for example, I have spoken to seven different journalists from Ireland, with varying degrees of sucess. Some people, I would say, didn't understand me at all, soem peopel made no attempt to understand me, somepeople seemed to understand me quite well. The press doesn't really do me a service, it's just something that's there to let other people know what I do." One imagines that he would be the sort of singer who would like Nick Drake, and sure enough, he is. "I like him a lot," he says. "Pink Moon is one of my favourite records."
One of the most striking songs on his new album Sell Sell Sell is Gutters Full of Rain, where skillfully- wrought lyrics deal openly and candidly with the subject of his parents recent divorce.
He describes it as "a weird one, a painful thing, and the emotions I felt surfaced as an emotional current in some of the songs that are on the record." Although he is still in contact with both parents, the break-up has "absolutely altered my relationship with them, it has had a profound effect. It has made everything compltely different, my whole slant on the past, and the way things actually were, and what I actually saw, and what I didn't see. My whole take on the family unit has been shattered by what's happened, and the things i have found out since then have had a massive effect on my relationship in the family and on myself."
When we spoke, the 27-year old singer was preparing for departure to Toronto where he would beperforming that night. How do Americans take to his music? "Some of them seem to go wild for it, in other places they just sit there like they've had a frontal lobotomy and just cant wait to go down to MacDonald's."
"I fell in love with a tower block in the middle of London, surrounded by London and all its madness," he says, explaining the background to Mystery of Love, from his second and much-feted album, Flesh. "I had a brilliant time because I went down there, got a record deal, and then I, like, fell in love, got married and all that stuff."
"I used to find it quite alien when I went down before I lived there, but I never really had a bad experience there. But I can see how alien it can be, its a cold place in so many ways." He misses that girl from the tower block when he is on the road. "It's one of the hard things about the job," he says with characteristic honesty.
David Gray plays the Mean Fiddler on Monday, September 9.Transcribed fromThe RTE GuideAugust 30, 1996.