David Gray was in pretty good shape even prior to the release of his latest album, “Draw the Line,” in September.
The British singer and songwriter had sold 12 million records worldwide and notched two consecutive Top 20 titles in the U.S. and a global hit with “Babylon” in 1999. But as he began working on “Draw the Line,” his seventh studio album, Gray opted for “a complete overhaul” in his creative world.
“I knew I was gonna change things even as far back as making (2005’s) ‘Life in Slow Motion,’ ” explains the Manchester-born Gray, 41. “I could feel the creative spark was sort of diminishing between the people who were involved, and it was maybe going to be time to move on and try to do something different.
“So that’s basically what I set about doing in a whole manner of different ways, just reconnecting with music and building a new band and a new sound. It was really exciting to get rid of everything and start all over again — obviously nerve-wracking, but very exciting at the same time.”
The most painful part, Gray says, was jettisoning some of his regular cohorts — particularly drummer Craig “Clune” McLune, who had been working with Gray since 1994’s “Flesh.” “He was obviously disappointed,” Gray notes, “but at the same time he understood. It’s not to be sniffed at, what we accomplished.” But he feels the results on “Draw the Line” speak for themselves.
“There’s a muscularity to this new sound that sort of unleashed a tide of imagery and a whole other perspective, a voice I sort of lost for a while,” Gray explains. “It just enabled me to sing in a whole different way. I felt 100 percent awake again, so present and in the moment and in the music. There’s a directness and a joy to the sound that’s just right.”
Gray, who released a greatest hits set in 2007 and changed labels between albums, also found a new locale to record “Draw the Line” — The Church, a London studio previously owned by the Eurythmics. “We recorded old school — no click tracks, no studio trickery,” Gray says. “Everything was done as a (single) take. That was our rule going into it.”
Gray and company also welcomed a couple of guests to the sessions, Jolie Holland for the track “Kathleen” and, most appropriately, Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, who joined Gray on “Full Steam Ahead” — and admonished him for not changing the carpet from the days her group owned the facility.
“When I wrote the song, I was thinking about it as a duet, with this stupendous, Righteous Brothers kind of arrangement,” Gray says. “Then it was like, ‘Well, who’s gonna sing the ... thing?!’ We started throwing names in the hat, and my manager threw in Annie, which we thought would really work. She’s got a slightly edgy quality when she wants it, and a very strong voice, a slight androgyny with her whole style.
“We sent her the song and she basically loved it and wanted to do it. She came into the studio and it was like a breath of fresh air — no ego, no nonsense. She has so much zest in her voice she makes everything sound like fun, and it immediately lifted everything up a level.”
Gray feels he achieved that creative ascension throughout “Draw the Line,” of course. And the best news, he says, is there’s more where that came from.
“This is really just a small slither of it, this album,” Gray reports. “We did 35, 40 songs; there was just something going on, I think, and I didn’t want to stop it.
“These (songs) are what we picked to go out, sort of be the frontrunners to go out and punch the world in the face and then follow up with the rest.”
David Gray performs at 9 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 2) at the Colosseum in Caesars Windsor, 377 Riverside Drive East, Windsor. Tickets are $32, $45 and $57. Call (888) 345-5885 or visit www.caesarswindsor.com.
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