David Gray talks pot washing and nature programmes ahead of his Greatest Hits
You recorded your latest material in an old church turned studio. How did working there affect your music?
White Ladder was a bedroom record, and I didn’t really like studios, but now I’m a fully-fledged recording artist it doesn’t freak me out. It’s just like having a music factory, as you can keep doing it all the time if you want, although I treat it like a job really. I’m here at 10am and I leave at half six, and I always go to the same place for my lunch break. I’m getting old.
How does the song-writing process unfold for you?
Generally the music comes first and the lyrics come second. Occasionally inspiration strikes and a song ? music plus lyrics ? come together at once. Most of the time you start something, change it, then begin something else. You end up with these bits of songs, like severed limbs, all over the place. The song becomes like Frankenstein: you think ‘if I fit this bit to this bit, then maybe the arms will move and it’ll start walking’. Babylon and Sail Away were both Frankenstein songs.
What music has inspired you lately?
I haven’t bought a record for ages. You know when you watch a nature program and they say ‘And now all the antelope go over to the rocks and start to lick them, because they need the essential minerals in the rock’? Well, that’s what music is to me. I stop listening to music when I’m writing, but then become incredibly thirsty for music, and I’ll go searching for it. I do like Amy Winehouse though but I wish everyone would just leave her alone. The media should be banned from printing the words ‘Amy Winehouse’ for at least a few weeks.
What would you be doing if you weren’t singing for a living?
If I wasn’t a musician I’d probably be painting landscapes. I think I’m unemployable, there’s no real job I could do. Of my college jobs, pot washer was my favourite – I’m still good at that. I just can’t stand bad washing up, it’s unhygienic.
Greatest Hits by David Gray is released on 12 November