British singer-songwriter David Gray is drawing a line in the sand, quite literally, to distinguish himself from the success story of his breakout 2000 album White Ladder.
His latest effort, Draw the Line, hits stores September 21, and Gray chatted with the Music Mix to discuss his new musical direction, the upcoming fall tour and why he hopes certain tunes won’t make you gouge any eyes out.
Entertainment Weekly: You have two immediate standout tracks on Draw the Line — duets with Annie Lennox [“Full Steam Ahead”] and Jolie Holland [“Kathleen”]. How did those collaborations come about?
David Gray: Well, with the Jolie track, I already had the vocals all worked out. It sounded so country to me that I needed someone who just had that Southern music in their blood. Dolly Parton was the first thing that came into my head, but Jolie was playing in London and someone rang me up and said, “Dave, are you going?” And, it was like the penny dropped: “Jolie is the person to sing this.” I’m such a huge fan of hers. She’s got music in her blood, that Southern twang, the jazziness, the blues, it’s like as natural as honey suckle climbing up a wall. Most people are just aping that style, albeit aping it well — Tom Waits, the Rolling Stones, you name it — but she’s just got it in her. So, I went to her show and saw her afterward and asked her if there was any way she could find an extra day to come in.
I think that song, “Kathleen”, it’s like the sleeper song on the record. And then we weren’t finished yet; there’s Annie Lennox on this stupendous album-closing track, which cost us about an album’s worth of effort to make, actually. It was all finished, except for the vocals, and it was obvious it needed to be a duet. I thought it should have been another man, like a Righteous Brothers sort of thing, but it was my manager who suggested Annie. Now I can’t imagine anyone else on that track. There’s a dark sentiment to the song and the lyrics are quite harrowing, but she makes a line like, “Bullied, cornered, pimped, and patronized” sound like fun. The duets provided such a treat. Obviously I love the sound of my own voice (laughs) but it’s nice to have somebody else involved.
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