More than 26 years into his career, nothing about creating is rote or weary for award-winning English singer-songwriter David Gray.
Songwriting, he says, was just as challenging for his 11th studio album — Gold in a Brass Age, due out in March 2019 — as it was for his first. And part of that was deliberate.
Gray tells Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke that he purposely approached the songwriting for his forthcoming album in a brave new way.
"I'm starting to listen," he says. "I'm tuning in to the potential of songs springing from lots of difference sources. It could be from a piece of poetry or a bit of a book that I read. I will hear somebody say something on the bus and think, 'Oh, that's got such a nice rhythm to it. I'm going to steal that line, and I'm going to add to it.' And I'm going to start a piece of music there. Then I look for the chords that go under it. Then I'll sense that the rhythm needs to be whatever. I begin from there."
Previously, Gray says, he always wrote by first coming up with a melody, then writing lyrics and fleshing out an arrangement. But he says opening himself up to inspiration and influence from his environment was disarming, exciting and new. That's something not many musicians get to experience decades into their careers.
"Now I'm working from any direction I can find," he explains. "It just keeps things interesting, and it disables my sense of taste. When I work in a different way, I don't know if it's any good or not. That's an advantage because of the negative thoughts that you're trying to keep out of your mind — 'Why is this important?' 'Is this any good?' — things that don't really get you anywhere. You're best just doing it and making your mind up later."
Stripping away preconceptions and his critical senses allowed Gray to immerse himself in his creative process and focus on nothing but the piece of music he was writing.
Perhaps because of the way the songs came about, there's a bit of mystery in his new work, Gray says. But he's keen on living with those unanswered questions, even the ones raised by the album title itself, Gold in a Brass Age.
"I just think it's something special, something real, that may be neglected in a world of fast-paced nonsense," he says of the moniker. "That's sort of maybe what it means. I don't know, just something worth hanging onto, in a brassy world. We're certainly in a brass age now. It's gone to the next dimension."
Check out the full interview above, featuring Gray performing a solo and acoustic version of "The One I Love."
Get all of David Gray's tour dates here.
Here's the official music video for "The Sapling" from David Gray's album, Gold in a Brass Age.