13 June 1968, Sale, England but raised in the Welsh fishing village of Solva. Gray first aspired to being a rock performer after watching 2-Tone bands on television. He formed a punkish outfit at school, cranking out rock classics at double speed, then began writing songs when he was 17. Polydor Records A&R man Rob Holden heard a demo while recuperating from a motorcycle crash and was sufficiently convinced to quit his job and become Grays manager. Pegged as a crop-headed Welsh troubadour with a chip on both shoulders, Grays early material was in fact as sensitive as it was angry, and the manic energy communicated with his acoustic guitar thrash set him apart from the folkies. He enjoyed an initial breakthrough in Ireland with Shine, taken from 1993s debut A Century Ends. A number of tours as support to singer-songwriters (Maria McKee, Kirsty MacColl, Shawn Colvin) brought him early exposure in America, and a one-off support with Joan Baez led to her praising the best lyrics since the young Bob Dylan.
Although acknowledging a debt to Dylan, whose music had influenced him from the age of 13, Gray tempered his spirit of folksy protest with a 90s street-level sensibility. This attitude brought comparisons with Mark Eitzel of American Music Club, but also appeared destined to consign Gray to the same perennial cult status as Eitzel. The singers 1998 collection White Ladder was recorded in his bedroom on a four-track, and several of the tracks featured heavily in the film This Years Love. The album became a bestseller in Ireland and, backed by the might of EastWest Records, belatedly broke into the UK Top 10 the following year on the back of the Top 5 single, Babylon. The records success prompted a resurgence in the singer-songwriter format, with the UKs New Musical Express dubbing the trend the new acoustic movement. The album finally topped the UK charts in August 2001, almost three years after its initial release.
Grays eagerly awaited new studio album A New Day At Midnight was finally released in November 2002, and duly swept to the top of the UK charts. The album rarely departed from the successful formula established by its predecessor, although the lack of memorable melodies ultimately marked it down as a less compelling release, a fact borne out by long-term sales figures. Gray clearly put a lot of effort into 2005s Life In Slow Motion, an album that reclaimed his credibility after the overplayed Babylon had threatened to become his albatross.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.