NEW ALBUM: English singer David Gray is returning to Australia for Bluesfest 2019.
NEW ALBUM: English singer David Gray is returning to Australia for Bluesfest 2019. Derrick Santini

David Gray but not as you've heard him before

DAVID Gray is looking forward to soaking up the special energy of Bluesfest when he returns for the 30th annual festival.

The folk singer, best known for his hit 'folktronic' songs Babylon and Sail Away, is no stranger to the event and says it's one of his most highly-anticipated shows on his upcoming Gold in A Brass Age world tour.

"Each time I've done it, it's been really, really superb. Whatever happens there, I don't know how, it's like they focus the astral energy. It comes leaping out of the crowd," he says.

"The last gig we played on the Mutineers tour, it was like a massive love-in in a vapour-filled giant marquee.

"There's a special vibe there, like Australia with bells on. It's got some kind of pumped-up thing. I can't wait. It's the one show that as soon as we announced it (the tour) it's been in my mind. Now I'm imagining that night and what I'm going to do."

19/04/06 bw155213z16 Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival (April 13 - 17): David Gray Photo: Brett Wortman
David Gray playing Bluesfest in 2006. Brett Wortman / 155213z16

Gray's new album Gold in a Brass Age will be released in March - a month before he arrives in Australia for a short run of just five shows, starting in Perth and finishing in Byron Bay on the final day of Bluesfest.

Featuring his first new material in four years, it's his 11th studio album and follows on from the 2016 release of his Best of David Gray double CD.

"Each album is a development from the last. Sometimes you veer off on a tangent, sometimes you sense there's more to be had on the same path," he says.

"The door was opened on (my last album) Mutineers and now I've pushed through and I've found a world of possibilities."

Fans have already got their first taste of this new direction with the single The Sapling. Nature is a recurring theme on the album and London-based Gray describes it as his "drug".


"That's how I unwind; it always has been," he says. "That's how I rejuvenate myself and broaden my thoughts. We've got this place on the beach on the east coast (of England) where I go to recharge my batteries. It's always been an obsession and always will be - animals, plants, nature, the whole thing."

Gray spent three years working on the album with producer Ben DeVries and says it needs to be listened to "carefully". A good set of speakers or earphones will help listeners to pick up every minute detail.

"What I'm looking for is something that sounds like my music but something I've never heard before," he says.

"It was the most joyful process of making where as soon as we found a rhythm - Ben was a younger producer who was fairly new to the whole thing of working with another artist in a big way - we learned to trust each other. It was great fun. Ideally you want to be playing with sand like you did as a kid in a sandpit, forgetting about the world and disappearing into this thing. That's how the process was; as we got success on one track we'd push the boat out on others."

Fans can expect a very different David Gray show when he arrives on our shores in April.

"On Mutineers I tried to replicate the whole idea of the record, which had a massive amount of backing vocals I sung on it. I had seven or eight people on stage trying to recreate this sound without having to use a computer or tape. This time around I feel the complete opposite," he says.

"I feel it should be presented as it was made. I've got a computer and sampler on stage for sampling and looping sounds. I'm looping guitars, piano, my vocals... when it all kicks in together it's really amazing. If you're a punter you're basically seeing me in the studio.

"One of the lovely things about it is we can sample some of the older music such as White Ladder or A New Day at Midnight. For example, you'll get vocoder samples from Babylon or Please Forgive Me... it's a slight return as well as a veering away from. I think that's going to be really interesting."

The 30th annual Byron Bay Bluesfest runs from April 18-22.  David Gray plays on Monday, April 22.