Please Forgive Me

Album: White Ladder (1998)
Charted: 18
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Songfacts®:

  • This song finds David Gray in a state of infatuation, unable to express his love with mere words. He asks forgiveness only because he's overwhelmed every time he looks at the lady, which makes him act a little strange.

    It's a sincere expression of ineffable love, and while Gray doesn't like to assign tangible influences to his songs, it's safe to assume inspiration for the lyric came from his wife Olivia, whom he married in 1993.
  • "Please Forgive Me" hit Gray in a flash of inspiration that he describes as a "weird, almost out-of-body experience." In an interview with Songfacts, he explained: "Those words were hitting me so hard as I was writing them, I had tears in my eyes at times. And yet, at the same time, the objective part of me was going, 'Don't blow it! Stay on it!' You know, don't overdo it, don't overcook this. Don't throw things in just because you can. Don't over-flavor this particular broth, just use the sparest amount of vivacity to bring this thing into life. I had these two voices operating."

    He says the song was written in about 40 minutes.
  • Gray recorded this song in his home studio using a Roland Groovebox to supply the beats; the device had come on the market in 1996, so its sounds and stylings were fresh. On the White Ladder album, he used two key collaborators - percussionist Craig McClune and beatmaker Iestyn Polson - both of whom acted as producers. By ceding some control, he was able to expand his sonic palette and bring new ideas to the project early on. They achieved a warm but very modern sound that set a new standard in low-budget home recording. The drums were the tricky part, but also a key component: McClune played them live at another location where they were recorded and played back in Gray's studio through a sampler.
  • This was the first single from White Ladder, Gray's do-or-die album. He had been dropped by his label, EMI, and spent his own money to make it. He's British, but enjoyed ardent support in Ireland, where he released the album independently at the end of 1998. Early in 1999, he issued "Please Forgive Me" as a single in the UK, where it climbed to #72 in April, quite impressive for an independent release. He secured a UK deal with the EastWest label, which issued the album there and put out "Babylon" as a single. It took a while, but both caught on, with "Babylon" climbing to #5 in July 2000. EastWest then re-released "Please Forgive Me," which went to #18 in October.

    Meanwhile, in America he got a record deal with ATO, a spanking-new label formed by Dave Matthews and his cohorts. Gray and Matthews occupy a different creative space, but White Ladder was already a proven winner in Europe and Matthews was keen on introducing it to America. ATO issued it in early 2000 with "Babylon" as the first single. Gray became a promotional troubadour, showing up at radio stations to play the song before doing his concerts at night. The strategy worked, with White Ladder selling a million copies there by February 2002. "Please Forgive Me" was released as a single a short time later but didn't chart.
  • The video, like the recording, was done on the cheap. Directed by Kieran Evans and Russell Thomas, it shows Gray in an alley singing the song while staring directly into the camera.
  • Gray told BBC Radio 4: "There's nothing to 'Please Forgive Me.' It doesn't even have a chorus, it's just a straight line, really, but it blooms at the end when the voice stops and the music fills the space. Every now and then, something special happens, something electric. As corny as it sounds, I remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as I started to write."

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