When Gray began recording and releasing albums, he did not always have the success and notoriety he enjoys today. His first couple albums became relatively popular in the folk-music world, but they failed to be commercial hits. It was the 1998 release of "White Ladder" that changed everything.
The album sold 6 million copies worldwide, and remains the top-selling album ever in Ireland. Gray remembers turning on the radio after another whirlwind trip soon after the sudden success of the album's release. The number one single from that album, "Babylon," came on and blasted through the speakers. "There was something magic going on," Gray remembers. "It was all starting to go my way."
One of Gray's most dedicated and supportive fans throughout his life and career was his father. So his death in 2001 profoundly shook Gray, leaving him quite wounded. Not only did the event change how Gray wrote and performed his own work, it changed the way he listened to music. "Your perspective changes on things you hear things in music," Gray explains. "The ghosts in the music come slightly more present to you when you are that opened up and sort of sensitive to it."
His father was a big Frank Sinatra fan, and so one specific song that changed for Gray was Sinatra's "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," which was recorded with legendary Brazilian composer and songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim. "He sounds much more human and less of a showman, you can hear a vulnerability to him," Gray notices. "Sinatra the man exposes himself in the singing. His voice sort of cracks a little bit, it's not so perfect."
After using his flat as a recording studio for past albums, "Draw the Line" was recorded in a studio that used to belong to Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. When Annie Lennox came to record the duet "Full Steam" for the new album, she noticed something familiar when she arrived at the studio she knew from years past. "She couldn't believe I hadn't changed the carpet," he says. "She gave me a hard time about that." He laughed it off and said, "C'mon Annie let's get the singing going for Christ's sake, enough about the carpet."