David Gray (born 13 June 1968) is an English indie rock singer-songwriter. Gray released his first studio 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, the latter two of which also made the Top 17 in the US. White Ladder became the fifth best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK. Gray has been nominated for four Brit Awards – twice for Best British Male.
Gray was born in Sale and grew up in Altrincham before moving with his family to Solva, Pembrokeshire. He went on to attend the Carmarthenshire College of Art. He later attended the 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
In 1996 Gray released his third album, Sell, Sell, Sell. With his first two albums having been entirely composed of acoustic folk music, this album utilized his now-trademark blend of folk, alternative rock and electronics for the first time. 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.
White Ladder (1998–2002)
The re-release of Gray’s fourth record album, White Ladder, in 2000 on ATO Records, brought him commercial success and critical attention. 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. 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, and it remains the biggest-selling album in Ireland. In August 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.
Gray performing an acoustic set on 17 August 2003
The album was No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, two years and five months after its original release, spending a total of 151 weeks on the chart. Aside from “Please Forgive Me,” which charted at No. 72 on the UK Singles Chart, all other single releases charted within the Top 20: the re-released “Please Forgive Me” charted at #18, and “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” and “Sail Away” peaked at #26.
The year 2001 also saw the release of two compilation albums of Gray’s early works and unreleased material, The EPs 1992-1994 and Lost Songs 95-98, both of which followed White Ladder into the Top 20 in the UK Albums Chart.
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 One, 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 reach 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 spawned two further UK Top 30 hits in “The Other Side” and “Be Mine” and a minor US hit with “Dead in the Water”.
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 technique which differentiates him from many of his peers. 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. Gray also provided vocals on the electronic-based band Orbital’s 2001 single “Illuminate.” 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 is a collaboration with the record producer, Marius de Vries.
A Century Ends (April 1993)
Flesh (September 1994)
Sell, Sell, Sell (August 1996)
White Ladder (November 1998)
Lost Songs 95-98 (February 2001)
A New Day at Midnight (October 2002)
Life in Slow Motion (September 2005)
Draw the Line (September 2009)
Foundling (August 2010)
Mutineers (June 2014)