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Still Gray after all these years
30th Anniversary Retrospective: To mark Hot Press’ anniversary issue, David Gray embarks on a ramble down memory lane.
Colm O Hare, 27 Jun 2007
At the start of 1997 David Gray was just another singer-songwriter struggling to survive in a world dominated by Brit-pop and dance music. His third album, Sell, Sell, Sell had failed to do just that in sufficient quantities and he was dropped by his record company. He then began to spend more time in Ireland, where he had built up a small but enthusiastic following, and spent the rest of that year writing the songs that would eventually appear on White Ladder – to this day the biggest selling album in Ireland. Here he reminisces about the days just before stardom beckoned:
“Ireland had been more receptive to my music than anywhere else. I had done No Disco with Donal [Dineen] way back when my first album came out. They played the video for ‘Late Night Radio’ a lot and I became quite popular in a small way. But overall 1997 was a fallow year for me. I was out of my contract and I took a break to get my head back together. All through that period I was popping over to Ireland to do various gigs in places like the Temple Bar Music Centre. Then the Liss Ard Festival happened in Cork so that was a chance to hang out with Patti Smith and Nick Cave. I began writing the songs for White Ladder around then
“Around that time Mary Black came to my rescue. She was being recorded by a guy called Larry Klein who was a fan of my stuff. So they got in touch and they eventually did a few of my songs including ‘Late Night Radio’ and ‘Shine’ which became the title track to her album. They even did some new songs that I hadn’t quite finished. The royalties from that kept me afloat. Suddenly I had this PRS cheque for a few thousand pounds. Soon after that White Ladder came out and everything changed for me.
“It didn’t happen very quickly but there was an inevitability about it in the end. I knew we’d done something we could be proud of, but little did we know that the seeds of magic that were obviously sown in the record were going to unlock all kinds of doors. We’d made this record and it had something special about it. We became this quirky little unit of misfits and things just gelled together.