"It’s a more honest way of drawing attention to what I’ve done in the past" - hmv.com talks to David Gray
David Gray looks back at his 25 years in music with the release of a new collection The Best Of David Gray today (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of the page) and we sat down with him to find out all about putting it together...
Why did you decide now was a good time to put out a Greatest Hits?
"I’ve got a swathe of new music that’s going to be released next year, and this made sense in many ways. I have my own label, and we need to make ends meet, so we’re just trying to choose an honest way to draw attention to the catalogue. I also had a couple of new tracks that needed to find a home, ‘Smoke Without Fire’ and ‘Enter Lightly’. And although I wasn’t planning it at the start of the year, it seemed like the sensible thing to do."
"So we’ll be making a new album to follow next year, with a possible further side project, so it’s a busy time ahead. So this just felt like the right thing at the right time. I just think it’s a more honest way of drawing attention to what I’ve done in the past, rather than sticking an old song on an advert, which doesn’t sit comfortably with me. "
This is your second Greatest Hits collection, how did you want this to be different from the first instalment?
"Well I’ve released three albums since the last collection, plus a live album. So when the first one came out, I don’t really remember that much about it. It was hard on the heels of touring Life In Slow Motion. This time it feels like taking stock after the 25 years since I recorded my first single. So it feels different- we’ve changed the list of songs that’s on there, partly reflected by the way people stream music, which has been interesting."
"So there’s a track like ‘Only The Wine’ appearing on The Best Of, because it gets a phenomenal amount of streaming, and I find that part makes the whole thing a lot more interesting. So it’s the extra almost-ten years since the last time I did this which have shone a different light on the music and the way people listen to it, and we’ve tried to reflect that."
Was it easy to choose which tracks made it onto the collection?
"I think it was relatively straightforward, picking the obvious songs, and then combining them with some of the things that for various above reasons get a lot of listens, and people have a real affection for. So I wanted to reflect all the albums wherever possible and it was relatively straightforward."
Were there any tracks you were particularly sorry to leave off the album?
"Yeah it’s hard to put everything on there, but I think, listening to all the big songs one after the other, if you try to put something more esoteric or more of an album track amongst them- say like 'Nemesis', which has been massive live for years and by rights it should be up there with the others, but it doesn’t sit with the pacing of the record."
"A record sets its own rhythm, when I tried putting more interesting things on they didn’t necessarily fit comfortably amongst the singles, so not everything worked."
There are two new songs on the collection, tell us about them, are they brand new or were they recorded for previous albums?
"These were recorded about a year ago, with Andy Barlow who made Mutineers with me. This was at the beginning of a new swathe of work, but he was dragged off on a different project, so I will be making my new record with a different producer."
"So these new tracks were two things that we finished, that we were very happy with and didn’t have a home, so one of the reasons The Best Of happened was we felt like the material to supplement it. I’m very happy with them both, and they carry on the aesthetic that we began with Mutineers, and maybe push it a little bit further."
What are your plans to take the collection out live?
"Well I’ve got a solo tour which starts in the US and Canada, then goes through Europe and the UK. I might add more dates to incorporate Ireland, and maybe some more UK shows and more mainland Europe and U.S. shows going into next year, but that sort of depends on my recording schedule."
Your last album Mutineers came out in 2014, are you working on a follow-up or just focusing on this retrospective?
"No, The Best Of has very much interrupted my creative flow! I was in the midst of making a new album, and was dragged screaming out of the studio and made to take my headphones off! I’m very excited about what’s coming next. I think it’s going to be the most uplifting record I’ve made and should be due for release towards the end of next year."
"I’m hoping to have it finished by Easter. There’s also a side project which is probably going to see the light of day, a different batch of songs which I’m going to realise in a different way."