“Back to basics” and “return to form” were some of the phrases floated by music critics worldwide when Manchester-based singer-songwriter Damon Gough, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy, released his fourth and latest LP last summer. Not only does One Plus One Is One open with the line, “Back to being who I was before,” but it was recorded by Andy Votel – who produced Gough’s breakthrough record, The Hour Of Bewilderbeast – in a simple U.K. studio with traditional instruments, whereas its predecessor, Have You Fed The Fish?, was a product of Tom Rothrock’s ProTools palace in California. However, despite appearances, Gough hasn’t adopted what he calls a “snobby” anti-technology, analogue-Nazi stance.
“You’ve got so many options with computers, which is a really good thing, but I realized I’d gotten lazy and relied on computers to help me arrange tunes,” says Gough. “This time, because we didn’t have all those options, it made me and the band really think about the songs before we put them down.”
As a result of intense teamwork, Gough developed a close relationship with his in-studio band and decided to take them all on the road, bolstering his famously epic shows with flute, cello, violin and bass, along with guitar, piano and drums.
“I did it primarily to showcase the new album at some big gigs we did in England before we came out here and it’s really amazing, probably the best band I’ve managed to achieve live. I’m really chuffed with it,” he says.
Everything sounded rosy, but financing a sextet’s trek to North America was a problematic proposition. Gough refused the band’s offer to tour without pay and was on the brink of funding their trip himself when a Sony Walkman sponsorship fell into their laps.
Now, with Sony reps setting up promotional tables at all Badly Drawn Boy shows across the continent and with a full (and fed) band on stage, everyone’s happy, including Gough, who hasn’t forgotten the “sell-out” accusations he faced when his music was used in a 2002 Gap ad.
“I felt fine about this because I’ve used and promoted Sony Walkman since I started making music,” he explains (in a conversation recorded on a Sony Walkman, coincidentally). “That’s how I write all my songs – I just sit there with a guitar and switch the Walkman on record. It’s my diary of ideas.”
With his current tour about to wrap, Gough’s thoughts have turned to the next album and to further exploring tradition with his new friends.
“I’m thinking about working with this band, learning the songs and going in and recording them as live takes, as people would have had to do in the past.”