David Gray (musician)

David Gray (born 13 June 1968) is a British singer-songwriter. He released his first album in 1993 and received worldwide attention after the release of White Ladder six years later. It was the first of three UK chart-toppers in six years for Gray, of which the latter two also made the Top 17 in the United States. White Ladder became the fifth best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK.[3] It is ranked the tenth best-selling album of the 21st century in the United Kingdom.[4] Gray has been nominated for four Brit Awards – twice for Best British Male.[5]

David Gray
Gray performing in Redmond, Washington on 9 December 2010
Background information
Born (1968-06-13) 13 June 1968[1]
Sale, Cheshire, England
GenresRock, alternative rock, folk rock, folktronica
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano & keyboards, harmonica
Years active1992–present
LabelsHut, IHT, Polydor, MapleMusic Recordings (Canada), Kobalt[2]


Early life and career

Gray was born in Sale, Cheshire, and lived in Altrincham before moving in the mid 1970s to Solva, Pembrokeshire, where his parents ran a clothes shop.[6] He went on to attend Carmarthenshire College of Art and Liverpool School of Art.

Gray's first two albums, A Century Ends and Flesh, were issued in 1993 and 1994 respectively and led to Gray becoming popular in folk-rock circles, but both failed in terms of commercial sales.[7] In 1996 Gray released his third album, Sell, Sell, Sell. Despite critical acclaim, the album did not chart, but the song "Late Night Radio" received some airplay on alternative UK radio stations. On the 1997 Mary Black album Shine, Gray contributed five songs.

1998–2002: White Ladder and rise to fame

The re-release of Gray's fourth record album, White Ladder, in 2000 on ATO Records, brought him commercial success and critical attention.[8] While his first three albums featured acoustic folk songs and guitar-based alternative rock, White Ladder introduced his now-trademark folktronic sound. The album included his best-known songs: "This Year's Love", "Babylon", "Please Forgive Me" and "Sail Away". White Ladder was originally released on Gray's own label IHT Records in November 1998.[9] After its re-release, combined with the release and success of single "Babylon", it sold 100,000 copies in Ireland alone, making it number one for six weeks,[10] and according to a 2012 report was the biggest-selling album ever in that country.[11] In June 2000, "Babylon" hit No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart; it remains his biggest UK hit to date. In the United States, the album received a boost from jam-band leader Dave Matthews, who made it the first release by ATO Records, the record company he co-founded. "Babylon" was also the first of three US chart entries for Gray to date.

The album was No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, two years and five months after its original release,[12] spending a total of 151 weeks on the chart.[13] Aside from "Please Forgive Me", which charted at No. 72 on the UK Singles Chart, all other single releases charted within the Top 20:[13] the re-released "Please Forgive Me" charted at number 18, and "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" and "Sail Away" peaked at number 26.

The year 2001 also saw the release of a rarities compilation of Gray's early works, The EPs 1992-1994, as well as an album of newly-recorded previously unreleased songs, Lost Songs 95-98, both of which followed White Ladder into the Top 20 in the UK Albums Chart. Gray also provided vocals on the electronic-based band Orbital's 2001 single "Illuminate".

In November 2002, Gray released the follow-up to White Ladder, entitled A New Day at Midnight. The new release did not receive the same critical acclaim as its predecessor, but still went straight in at number 1, famously beating Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates's debut album What My Heart Wants to Say to the summit and selling nearly 150,000 copies in its first week of release. It went on to achieve platinum status within a year, eventually being certified four times platinum overall, and was the second-biggest selling album by a UK artist in 2002, behind Pop Idol winner Will Young's debut album From Now On. A New Day at Midnight produced two further UK Top 30 hits in "The Other Side" and "Be Mine" and a minor US hit with "Dead in the Water".

Later career

After a three-year hiatus which saw him wind down his recording and touring schedule due to exhaustion, Gray returned with his seventh album, Life in Slow Motion, in September 2005. Like its predecessor, it topped the UK Albums Chart in its first week of release. After the much-criticised A New Day at Midnight, Life in Slow Motion was hailed as a return to form by many critics. Lead single "The One I Love" was a Top 10 hit in the UK in October 2005 and spent three months in the UK chart. Following the relative commercial failure of follow-up singles "Hospital Food" and "Alibi", Gray again went into hiatus during 2006.

In March 2007, Gray released the compilation album Shine: The Best of the Early Years. On 7 July 2007, Gray performed with Damien Rice at the UK leg of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium in London. Gray released a compilation CD of live covers entitled A Thousand Miles Behind exclusively through his official website on 8 October that year on CD and digital download. On 13 November, Gray released the album Greatest Hits, which includes many of his best known songs as well as two new songs, including the lead single "You're the World to Me".

On 28 May 2009, Gray announced that a new album, entitled Draw the Line, would be released on 14 September in the UK and on 22 September in the United States. The album features guest appearances by Annie Lennox and Jolie Holland. The album's first single, "Fugitive", was released on 7 September 2009, coinciding with the start of an expansive world tour. On 19 September, Gray performed his self-proclaimed first pool-side concert at the Rooftop Pool at The Colonnade Hotel in Boston for the Mix 104.1 End of Summer Bash. Gray performed songs from the new album, including "Fugitive," "Draw the Line" and "Jackdaw."

In an interview for Hot Press, released on 3 December 2009, Gray revealed to Jackie Hayden that he was working on his next album, Foundling. Gray said that one of the tracks would be called "The Old Chair," which, according to Gray, "features just a drum kit and me on my Steinway piano. It's very quiet." Foundling was released in the UK on 16 August.[14] and in the United States on 17 August.[15] Foundling is a double album: the first CD consists of 11 new songs and the second consists of eight previously unreleased songs. A ninth previously unreleased song is included when Foundling is ordered through the iTunes store.

David Gray signed a global agreement with Kobalt Label Services for the release of his 10th studio album, Mutineers. His first in four years, it was recorded at The Church Studios in London and produced by Andy Barlow (Lamb). The release took place on 17 June 2014. It was announced that Gray would support the new release with a North American tour through April and May, followed by an eight-date UK tour in June and July that included a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London.[16]

2016: The Best of David Gray

Gray released the compilation The Best of David Gray, on CD, double CD and LP on 14 October 2016, featuring a selection of tracks from his back catalogue as well as two new recordings. The album, released in conjunction with IHT Records, has already been released as a dynamic playlist on Spotify that automatically changes shape every Monday. David Emery of Kobalt Label Services told MBW that the format would give Kobalt and Gray the opportunity to keep the artist's 850,000-plus monthly listeners on Spotify engaged. He said, "We didn't just want to make a static playlist – Kobalt has the technology to create something special that changes and adapts with David Gray as an artist. We have noticed that the tracks that are most popular for [David Gray] change over time on Spotify, and a lot of that is driven by playlists. This provides the chance to see an instant reaction to new tracks, just as much as older tracks."[17][18]

Kobalt said that the "Best of David Gray Weekly" playlist benefits from its "advanced proprietary software", which makes the most popular tracks from the artist more prominent as each week goes by. "This is ever-changing, and essentially controlled by how David Gray fans are listening to his music," he explained.[17][18] Gray commented: "What we have on our hands with 'The Best of David Gray Weekly' is an ever-evolving 'Best Of' that is different every week, every month, every year, every decade. The more you stream a track, any David Gray song, the higher in the playlist it appears."[17][18]

Musical style

According to The Argus in 2002: "There are those who dismiss Gray as making middle-of-the-road soft rock but such a judgement is unfair. Whether Gray is cool or uncool is, ultimately, a matter of taste. What is beyond doubt is that he is one of the most talented song-writers of his generation."[19]

Gray's early music was in a contemporary folk-rock, singer-songwriter mode; his primary instrument was acoustic guitar, with occasional piano. 1996's Sell, Sell, Sell featured some rock arrangements and electric instrumentation. Starting with the release of White Ladder, Gray began to make significant use of computer-generated music to accompany his voice and acoustic instrumentation. A New Day at Midnight continued this direction, although lyrically it was darker in tone than White Ladder and the instrumentation much more downbeat. In the liner notes, Gray dedicated the album to his father, who died in 2001. Despite the move to more complex music, Gray has used small-scale, often home-based, recording methods and equipment and espoused a do-it-yourself approach to music production. However, 2005's Life in Slow Motion was a collaboration with the record producer Marius de Vries.


  • David Gray – vocals, guitars, piano & keyboards, harmonica
  • Rob Malone – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Keith Prior – drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Tim Bradshaw – keyboards, guitars, lap steel
  • John Smith – guitars, backing vocals (occasional touring member)
  • Caroline Dale – cello, piano, backing vocals (occasional touring member)
  • David Kitt – guitars, keyboards, backing vocals (occasional touring member)
  • Niamh Farrell – backing vocals, percussion (occasional touring member)

Former longterm band members:

  • Craig "Clune" McClune – drums, percussion, bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
  • David Nolte – guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Neill MacColl – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, backing vocals



Gray has been touring since 1993. Prior to his breakthrough album White Ladder in 1998, Gray had been the supporting act for the likes of Kirsty MacColl, Dave Matthews Band and Radiohead, He has had multiple tour dates in many different places such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.[21]

Awards and Nominations

Ivor Novello Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2001 "Please Forgive Me" Best Contemporary Song Nominated
"Babylon" Best Song Musically & Lyrically Won
2002 "Sail Away" Nominated
2003 "The Other Side" Won

Meteor Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2001 White Ladder Best International Album Won
Himself Best International Songwriter Won
2003 Best International Male Nominated
2006 Nominated

Q Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2000 "Babylon" Best Single Won
2003 Himself Innovation in Sound Nominated

Personal life

Gray married his wife Olivia in Los Angeles, California in 1993,[22] and together they have two daughters:[23] Ivy and Florence.[24] He lives in London, having moved to Hampstead in 2009.[25] Gray is also the brother-in-law of Phil Hartnoll of Orbital.[26]

In 2011, a portrait of Gray was painted by English artist Joe Simpson. The painting was exhibited around the UK, including at a solo exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall.[27]

Gray is a Manchester United supporter[25] and an atheist.[28]

Venus in Furs

The fictional band Venus in Furs was formed in 1998 for the film Velvet Goldmine. (The band is named after the Velvet Underground song "Venus in Furs" whose title and lyrics in turn reference a novel of that name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.) Gray's drummer, Craig "Clune" McClune, provided drums in the band, which also included Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, Andy Mackay of Roxy Music and Bernard Butler of Suede.


  1. "Today in history". The New York Times. Associated Press. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  2. Pakinkis, Tom. "David Gray signs new album to Kobalt Label Services". Musicweek.
  3. "James Blunt records the biggest selling album of decade". Press Office. BBC. 29 December 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  4. "Radio 2 reveals the best-selling albums of the 21st Century". BBC. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  5. David Gray BRITS Profile Archived 16 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine. BRIT Awards Ltd. Retrieved 29 January 2013
  6. Charlotte Philby (5 September 2009). "My Secret Life: David Gray, musician, 41". The Independent.
  7. Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 399. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  8. "Biography". Official Community of David Gray. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2008.
  9. "NME Album Reviews White Ladder". NME. UK. 14 July 2000. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  10. Perrone, Pierre (16 April 2000). "The infinite shades of Gray". The Independent. London. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  11. "Top 20: The best-selling albums in Irish history". The Daily Edge. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  12. "Gray Climbs 'Ladder' To No. 1 In The U.K." Billboard.com.
  13. "David Gray". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  14. "Discography – DavidGray.com". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  15. "Discography – DavidGray.com". Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  16. Brandle, Lars. "David Gray Inks Deal to Release 'Mutineers' Album, Debuts New Song". Billboard. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  17. Ingham, Tim (18 August 2016). "Kobalt rethinks the 'greatest hits' album with dynamic David Gray 'Best Of'". Music Business Worldwide. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  18. Copsey, Rob (18 August 2016). "David Gray has re-imagined his new Best Of album for the streaming age". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  19. "David Gray, Brighton Centre, November 19". The Argus. 20 November 2002. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  20. "David Gray announces new album and tour dates - Complete Music Update".
  21. "Tour". Official Community of David Gray. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  22. Fine, Jason (2 May 2001). "A Brighter Shade of Gray". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  23. McCann, Fiona (8 August 2009). "A line under the ladder". The Irish Times. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  24. Meagher, John (7 June 2014). "David Gray: My daughters aren't my biggest fans". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  25. Philby, Charlotte. "My Secret Life: David Gray, musician, 41" (4 September 2017). The Independent. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  26. Wiederhorn, Jon (11 June 2001). "Tool Homage, David Gray Show Up On Orbital LP". MTV.com. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  27. "Musician Portraits - Joe Simpson's paintings of rock stars - NME". NME. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  28. "[...]I don't believe in God but ultimately I think death will have no dominion." Neil McCormick interviewing Gray, 'A new shade of Gray', The Daily Telegraph, 6 August 2005, Art, p. 4.
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