David Gray Goes Country
David Gray performs at Billboard.com

Though he's "written and...stacked up a good load of songs," David Gray says his follow-up to 2010's "Foundling" is having "a difficult birth so far" due to his own high standards.

"The last couple of records I've made, and the touring... I feel like I've done some of the stuff I've always wanted to do and ticked a lot of boxes now," the British troubadour tells Billboard.com. "So rather than just repeat myself, I'm at a point where I'm asking, 'Why should this thing, the next thing, exist? What's it going to have that's different?' It's a reductive process, and that can be a little difficult, not just for me but for all musicians. You just get fed up with your own schtick, your own way, your style, the default setting. You have to look for something else."

Watch David Gray Cover Johnny Cash for Billboard.com

Gray adds that he's "in no great hurry to complete another great sort of section of work and go rushing back out there." But he also feels that "there's a few little glimmer of lights that are starting to appear down the dark tunnel. I get a sense something may be coming together." And the result, he says, may even be two albums rather than one.

"I've got some big songs that I'm really trying to tweak into some new shape, but I've also got the really quiet, really quite poetic songs that will pick up where 'Foundling' left off," Gray reveals. "It feels like almost two records trying to happen simultaneously." The latter, he says, includes "quite a few songs with birds as titles -- there's one called 'Gulls,' one called 'White Owl,' 'Birds of the High Arctic,' so there's a theme running through it. But it's early days yet; you can't make two albums at once, so I've got to set (the quiet songs) to one side and come back to them when I've concluded the heavy work."

Gray has gotten to road test a couple of the new songs during an eight-date North American tour that kicked off on June 28 in Rochester Hills, Mich. He's also playing his version of the Motown hit "Money (That's What I Want)" that he recorded for the Jim Beam Live Music Series and, fused with a bit of Toots & the Maytals' "Pressure Drop," which has become something of a viral hit.

"Both of those songs caught my eye because they're not quite so obvious," Gray explains. "I tried a few things but made it as basic as possible and started from there and then tied in ('Pressure Drop') and it seemed to work, like a happy sort of accident. I had to record it by a certain date, but I didn't now that; I got a call from my manager, who said it had to be done before tomorrow. So it was thrown together in a very hasty way, but sometimes that's a blessing. It has a spontaneous, fun quality to it that we might not have gotten if we had taken more time with it."

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