David Gray has announced the release of a new album Mutineers. Released in the UK, June 30 on iht Records via Kobalt Label Services, the record will be Gray’s tenth studio album and his first in four years. To mark the news, Gray has unveiled the video for ‘Gulls’, the first track from Mutineers to be streamed ahead of release. In addition, Gray has also announced a full UK headline tour, commencing at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on June 23 and including London’s Royal Albert Hall on June 24. The dates follow a sold-out US tour across April and May and a run of three intimate shows earlier this year at Westminster’s Emmanuel Centre – each night selling out immediately following an online announcement from Gray.
Twenty-one years since his first studio album, Mutineers finds David Gray steering into unfamiliar territory while cultivating a pugnacious but respectful relationship with his own history. “You have to sort of tear up the past and let it go,” says David.
David’s past includes the phenomenal success of White Ladder (seven million copies sold), one of 3 UK number one albums, Brit and Grammy nominations, and recent albums Draw The Line (2009) and Foundling (2010) both reaching the Billboard Top 10 in the US. Despite this, 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. And that was a bizarrely uncomfortable process. And I was layering my voice; something I just found myself doing a lot 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.”
It’s a shift instantly audible on Mutineers, an album whose ancestry David sees as more in the neighbourhood of 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. 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!”
It was spontaneity of process and feeling that, says David, recalled some aspects of making White Ladder, in a bedroom studio back in 1997.
“It was a very special thing that happened with White Ladder. No one could take it away from us and it was a wonderful thing, but of course you go beyond a certain point and the game has changed. But I think now it’s the morning after the night before – I don’t want to just be going on about that. Now I’ve got 15 years between me and it, and also I know I’ve done something here that has an authority that is inspiring me and I don’t have to worry about my past or any of that. The lovely thing about this is we’ve had the time to experiment, and it’s been wonderful so far.”
Mutineers then is a record that seems to fizz with the joy of its own assembly. The sound of a musician making a clean break and some sharp turns but also reconnecting with the freedoms of an earlier dream.