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'White Ladder'

David Gray's homegrown recordings

David Gray said recording "White Ladder" at his home gave the CD a mellow and natural sound -- plus he didn't have to pay for studio time  

In this story:

'Rose-tinted spectacles'

Songwriting by instinct


(CNN) -- The power of "White Ladder" rests in its spirit, says artist David Gray. The album is mellow, natural and free-flowing.

Recording in his home in London helped achieve those qualities, Gray says. He had his reasons, both creative and financial, for forgoing the traditional studio route.

"I recorded it at home, in part, because I didn't really have any money," Gray says, "but also I like the sound of it. I thought there was a kind of character to the stuff that we were doing. It sounded very natural.

"There's none of those weird people chipping around in the studio annoying you. ... We didn't have a clock ticking down, all the money pouring away. And there wasn't some horrible deadline looming, so we could basically carry on until we were happy."

English songwriter David Gray discusses his latest work with CNN's Worldbeat

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'White Ladder'

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'Please Forgive Me'

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'Rose-tinted spectacles'

Gray admits he may be looking back at the home-recording experience through "rose-tinted spectacles." Work became chaotic at times, between computer crashes and construction workers digging up the street outside.

"It was just ridiculous," he recalls. "There was a whole team of fat people with pneumatic drills outside. The only good thing about that was they were so lazy they'd knock off at 1 in the afternoon, so at least we could work for a while.

"Everything took a hundred times longer than it perhaps should have, but it didn't really disrupt the creative side of things."

Recording at home also meant some sacrifices on the technical side. But Gray says he doesn't think the album suffered as a result.

"I think we gained more in spirit than we lost in ... high-fidelity sound," Gray says.

Songwriting by instinct

One of the biggest hits off "White Ladder" is "Babylon." To Gray, "it's just a simple, little pop song."

"I think there's a lot of feeling in it from a period when things hadn't been going so well for me," he says. "I was questioning ... my relationship (and) just about everything else as well. So I think there's a lot of emotion from my period of doubt that are kind of in the song."

When writing songs, music generally comes first, Gray says.

"If I come up with something, I might start singing something along with it, and then I'll do the lyrics later," he says. "I'll try to keep as much of what I was singing originally as I can, because I prefer the instinctive feel of things, even if it doesn't make complete sense."


His previous albums, "A Century Ends" (1993), "Flesh" (1994) and "Sell, Sell, Sell" (1996), were getting "a bit schizophrenic," Gray says. He tried to keep the same mood throughout all the songs on "White Ladder." Part of that decision had to do with aesthetics; the other, with necessity.

"We hardly had any equipment, (so) we had to kind of keep it within a certain sphere," he says. "We couldn't get too loud or too big because we just didn't have the stuff. Basically we kept it quite simple and quite mellow."

Gray has been likened to Van Morisson, Bob Dylan and comparable artists. The comparisons are flattering, says Gray, if somewhat unnerving.

"It always takes me aback," he says. "I know that I've only just started learning how it all fits together. I'm just at the beginning of my creative mountain, and I think most of these people are well up at the peak."

David Gray (Official site)

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