David Gray

June 13, 1968
  • He was born and raised in the UK, but his most fervid support comes from Ireland, where according to the Irish Recorded Music Association, his album White Ladder is the best-selling album in history.
  • Gray got a big break in 1993 when he appeared on Later With Jools Holland, performing "Birds Without Wings" before his first album was released. In a sign of his aversion to genre classification, he shook his head when Holland said he was in the "folk idiom."
  • Gray's music has always been impassioned, but in places on his first three albums there was a palpable anger that came through. "When I began recording, I was hammering my guitar, hammering my vocals," he told AOL.
  • He's been married to his wife, Olivia, since 1993. Many of his songs are about the travails of love, but they're not specifically about him. He's explained that he's a "vicarious" songwriter, often channeling the experiences of others.
  • The album that changed his life is Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. "I didn't know what to make of it on first listen, and somehow it hooked me in and I began to become obsessed with it," he said in a Songfacts interview. "I realized it was like a stream-of-consciousness moment where there weren't any certainties. It was like quantum music-making."
  • He was signed to EMI in the mid-'90s but released just one album on the label: Sell, Sell, Sell in 1996. At their behest, he recorded much of it at Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca, New York, which according to Gray was a disaster. The album flopped and Gray left the label, going independent for his next album, the seminal White Ladder.
  • White Ladder, recorded in 1998 on the cheap in Gray's home studio, benefited from advances in technology. He used an 8-track digital recorder and a Groovebox, a device introduced by Roland in 1996 that could create beats and generate the sounds of string instruments.
  • Gray spent a year promoting White Ladder in Europe, then another year promoting it in America. The grind and repetition took a tool and depleted his energy for the songs. It was years before he would discuss the album again, and one track, "Babylon," he had to stop playing for a while for the sake of his mental health.

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