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WERS was the first stop for Badly Drawn Boy on their recent North American tour, the band’s first time back in the states in years. Promoting their seventh album, It’s What I’m Thinking, Pt. 1- Photographing Snowflakes, frontman Damon Gough admitted he would be a bit rusty before going into the performance for WERS. Among the tracks he played for the live performance were “Is There Nothing We Could Be,” off of an album he wrote for a made-for-TV movie in Britain called The Fattest Man on Earth, and “Something to Talk About,” off the About a Boy film soundtrack, which Gough wrote. He began stumbling through the latter before eventually just starting over, self-consciously saying, “Well, at least you know it’s live!” He managed not to play anything off of his most recent effort, stating that he would rather “play it safe” for the kick-off of his tour.
When he sat down to talk with WERS, Gough seemed excited to talk about where he was going musically, but also unmistakably self-critical. Photographing Snowflakes is only the first of what is tentatively to be a trilogy of albums, with tracks written both early in Gough’s career but unreleased, as well as never-before-seen cuts written in the last year. “I’m excited about where I can take the music on these next two albums…I might get a bit more abstract,” he said.
One major change that may have gotten Gough nervous is the recent change Badly Drawn Boy made from major label to self-production: “Being on your own, there’s fewer people to please…on a bigger label there’s that expectation and it puts pressure on you,” he told WERS. His personal label, One Last Fruit, will put out the entire trilogy, though again Gough admitted some apprehension: “[Photographing Snowflakes] is just another album. I just recorded it very quickly. I had about 30 songs [that I] recorded in 40 days,” he said. “I went with the first ten songs that were finished, lyrically. I called it the first installment of what tends to be a trilogy, but I may get bored. If nothing else, it made me finish the album quickly.”
He admitted that certain circumstances made him “almost phobic about the studio” and because of this, recording became difficult for awhile. This phobia may explain Gough’s insistence that the trilogy aspect was primarily a device to record more quickly, but if recording was difficult, how would this upcoming tour be? “Audiences [in the US] are great…in a way they’re more fanatical, because of the musical relationship between the US and the UK since the Stones and the Beatles,” he said. Gough explained that the tour would be more free-form, sometimes played with a full band, sometimes played solo, and maybe even sometimes played with members of the audience who felt like volunteering. While Gough seemed excited by the prospect of a radically different show every night, he admitted that it could be “a trainwreck.” Still, he insisted that he feels inclined to push his work further: “[Initially] I didn’t feel like I had any ideas left in me, or that my ideas were worth anything anymore…I try to stay positive about what it is I do, but I’m always disappointed in my results, my songs. I always think I can do much better.” But this project is important to him: “I want to be more prolific than I was allowed to be…I have some ideas that I’m hungry to get out.”
Indeed, it appears that Gough seems to be returning to his roots after his previous successes, a daunting experience for anyone, but which Gough seemed to feel very palpably. Still, the Badly Drawn Boy return will be a sort of rebirth for Gough, who is all too aware of the cyclical nature of his career: “When I first started out, I was excited to sell ten albums. [On a major label] I felt inadequate if I didn’t sell 300,000…I want to go back to how it was early on.”