Tunesmith David Gray had lots to talk about for the March issue of GP. Here are some quotes that didn't make it into the print mag.
How did you learn how to write songs? Is it something that can be taught in your opinion?
I already had a passionate interest in writing words, I was intoxicated by poems and so I was concocting my own teenage verse. Then when I was about 15, I picked up the guitar and began to learn a few chords and I immediately tried to put the two together. I didn’t think about it, I just tried it. I came up with my own little melodies. I was just captivated by it. Obviously I’ve learned a lot about the process since then and I’ve gotten a lot more scientific with it. As for your question can it be taught, you can teach anyone easily to write a song, but would it be any good? Do you have the music in your blood? That magic part can’t be taught, but aside from that it’s not a difficult process. It’s a fairly straightforward template that a song is based on, traditionally.
How long was it before you had a keeper song?
A year, maybe. I was about 17. There’s a song on my first album called "Lead Me Upstairs" which is a three-chord wonder, D, Em, G. I wrote that with a friend. We had a cassette player. I thought that song had something, it stood the test of time I suppose.
Do you have a standard method for writing songs? Is there such thing as a typical songwriting day for you?
There is. I turn up and try and do it. I can’t let mood get in the way. Some days it’s just not going to happen but generally I treat it as a 9-5 job. I’ll get to work in the studio and try. It’s generally quite fruitful. Some days are better than others and some days are magic. I must say though that a lot of the songs on my new record were written out of musical accidents that happened with the band and I keep a record of them. They didn’t come about from me writing on my own, but rather from a little jam. The band will start a groove, and I’ll react to that. If I’m really on top of my writing, I can often get on the lyrics really quickly and then we can record it the next day while it’s still fresh. I like to work that way.
What’s the best piece of songwriting advice you ever got?
A whisper is as loud as a scream. That’s not necessarily songwriting advice. It could be about how you talk to your children. But that’s something I’ve taken on more and more in the writing and recording process.