British pop star David Gray possesses an impressive resume boasting 12 million worldwide album sales, but that wasn’t always the case.
The successes started coming in 2000, but his beginnings, starting in 1992 and lasting for the better part of a decade, were disappointing at best. During that time Gray had released four studio sessions, ending with White Ladder in 1998, which he self-financed. That album did well in Ireland, but tanked everywhere else.
“Disappointing is a very polite way of saying it,” Gray says. “I’d call it ultimate futility.”
He admits to wanting to give up during that time, but says that his Irish fans gave him hope.
“My fanbase in Ireland during that time made me think that maybe we had something in White Ladder after all,” he explains. “They laid the foundation for the worldwide effort that came later.”
A collaboration with Dave Matthews’ label ATO Records occasioned the re-release of White Ladder in the U.S. in 2000, and the album’s addition of computer-generated electronic accoutrements – a novelty in what was essentially a singer-songwriter milieu – birthed the genre moniker “folktronica.” The disc went 10 times platinum. And it remains the best-selling album – ever – in Ireland.
He’s gone on to be nominated for awards like a BAFTA and a Grammy.
Now touring in support of his 11th studio album, Gold in a Brass Age, Gray has taken the addition of electronica to new heights, opening acres of new creative real estate. It has even transformed his songwriting process.
“With this album, my position was to approach everything differently,” Gray says. “Instead of fitting words to melodies, I looked for snippets and phrases with a natural cadence, and let the rhythm and melody stem from there.” He refers to the process as “reimagining where a song might spring from and what form it might take.”
Gray’s lyric themes often involve the natural environment, like observations of an oak sapling or activities like watching birds. Though he has never performed on the Monterey Peninsula before, he has visited and is excited to return.
“It’s such a beautiful place,” he says. “There’s lots of great material for me there what with the bay, the sea otters, the kelp and all of the natural beauty.”
DAVID GRAY 8pm Wednesday, June 26. Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $77-$110. 649-1070, goldenstatetheatre.com