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David Gray on the craft of writing and love songs

Over his 22-year career, Manchester-born singer/songwriter David Gray has been many things to many fans.

To the Irish, he’s the artist behind “White Ladder,” recorded in his apartment before becoming the top-selling album in Ireland’s history. To the lovelorn, he’s relatable, there to ease unrequited love over 10 albums of empathetic tracks. And to married couples across Buffalo and elsewhere, he’s the voice over bride-and-groom wedding staples like “This Year’s Love.”

Now touring off 2014’s multitextured “Mutineers” – rereleased in March to include his duet with LeAnn Rimes on the single, “Snow In Vegas” – Gray will visit Artpark on Saturday with co-headliner Amos Lee. Before last weekend’s date in Portland, Maine, he took some time to talk about his early career, new album and tour, and what it takes to craft a love song.

Question: Do you have to be in love to write a love song?

Answer: Well, you have to have been in love. You have to have felt these feelings; you have to have put it on the line. But you don’t have to be going through the torment of falling in love to write a song about falling in love. It just has to be within you.

Q: Your debut “A Century Ends” was released over 20 years ago. Does its content still seem consistent with your voice as an artist?

A: It’s a plucky, younger version of myself, but yes, I still feel a part of it. In fact, we plan to tour the music off my early records in a few years when we get to the 25th anniversary of my first shows in Ireland.

Q: What would you say has motivated your latest material?

A: I’m fascinated by music, and I’m fascinated by words. Every time I complete a project, I can see some light coming under the door and another world just beyond, if I can just get through to it. There’s potential to expand my ideas each time, to take some of the paths less taken and work in a different way. There are always little markers left on the road where the music is placed, and I’m trying to follow them, by moonlight, towards my next unknown destination. How’s that sound?

Q: You’ve noted in previous interviews that “Mutineers” was frustrating to make. How did you eventually see it through?

A: It took a leap of faith and, ultimately, trusting the other person (producer and Lamb architect, Andy Barlow). I briefed him about not letting me make the same records I’d made. The hardest thing was to find a way to make a new kind of music that still felt very much like me, but not constructed in the same way.

Q: How did this summer’s tour with Amos Lee come together?

A: I had such a great tour with Ray LaMontagne (in 2010), so I was looking for someone to partner with again for this tour. Amos has a lovely voice. I’m not familiar with all of his music, so I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Q: On that LaMontagne tour, you two regularly joined for an encore cover of the Beatles’ “Dig A Pony.” Any similar surprises planned with Lee?

A: Well, we’ll have to see. I don’t know whether Amos does “Dig A Pony” or if there’s something else we could do. But as a cover, that song’s a bit of fun.


Who: David Gray and Amos Lee

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Artpark

Tickets: $35-$59.50


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