David Gray talks to Deborah Culhane about football, painting and success of his latest album, White Ladder

Live on stage at 1pm today, David Gray is excited and "all keyed up" about his performance in Slane. "It is a big deal," he says, "though I don't know quite what to expect from the crowd. It wasn't announced until last week that I was to be performing."

My first impression of Dvid Gray is his boyish nervousness. A graduate of Liverpool Art Coll, Gray fell into the music business with his first demo tape in 1991. Four albums on he speaks candidly on how his music has progressed.

"Well I think I've learnt a lot about singing." David admits "I over-sang a lot early on in my career. "I've pared it back and now it's far more controlled. I understand that understatement is a far more potent sort of device.

"If you've written a good song it should work for you. You shouldn't have to force it down people's throats."

There has been a shift in his style too. "There's more of an art to the way I do it now." No longer an open book the listener is free to discover the emotions for himself. "It's not as laid bare and soul searching. It's less in your face."

Slthough never autobiographical, Gray does use some actual incidents, "a convincing detail if you like" as "the final flicks of the brush" in his songwriting.

Born in west Manchester, reared in west Wales, he now lives in London. "I go on Waterloo Bridge now more than I walk on the beach...that's what comes through on the album."

Filled with night imagery, White Ladder has an urban fell that is not in A Century Ends 1993, Flesh 1994, and Sell, Sell, Sell 1996.

"The way we worked on White Ladder was ver very different. It was the best experience I've had working of any kind."

Dropped from EMI and "totally disenchanted with the whole idea of the corporate thing". He worked with Clune, his 'saviour", friend and musical soul mate 'on some beats that Clune brought round". "Although our ideas were good we weren't getting enough out of the computer." The Lestyn got involved. A computer programmer and engineer her allowed the whole thing explode and was "the finishing catalyst" to the whole thing. "We made all these crazy noises! The excitement is vibrant in David's face. We'd never heard anything like it," he says.

"You've got to be able to take criticism. It's a really painful thing." says Gray. "I don't like that....We got to get rid of that...and then you cut it out and it works and it strengthens the thing and you gain confidence in your opinions."

The companionship on stage is obvious, these three lads shared a lot, compromised their egos in search of the best music.

Now with sales of the album well over the 20,000 mark Gray is getting used of his increased fame and publicity.

"I hope people are not getting of us," he says. In a sense he is just getting used to people approaching him on the streets nowadays.

The songwriting continues with plans for a "completely different vibe" in his next album. "It will be more acoustic and vocals - a compilation of lost songs if you like."

Gray doesn't believe in God and his honesty about a belief struggle is bare. "I haven't got it worked out. It's just something I'm working on you know. There are forces at work. But I can't say that I could sum them up for you."

Gray taught himself how to play his father's guitar.

"Music is the thing for me," he says "Painting and football are my only regrets...I'm sad that I don't do them." What type of painting? "Landscapes...Give me the oils, the meaty stuff."

He speaks of football with a passion close to mania. "Oh yeah, I loved football. I was quick. Being muddy and jumping in the shower and kicking a daft piece of leather around on the pitch in the puring rain. Fantastic! Fantastic!"

After Slane there is his tour of England and some gigs in New York and Los Angeles. "We've sold a lot of records in L.A. It's a big place and we've pockets support there. Then Ireland again in late December."

He is humble when I ask him for advice for other young songwriters. "I dunno. Everyone to their own thing...Just trust yourself and challenge yourself on absolutely every front." Now independant there is a sort of similarity between Gray and Robbie Williams.

It comes back to that for Gray. Trust your instincts. You have to go it alone