Badly Drawn Boy to perform new music on Irish tour

Badly Drawn Boy may never escape from his Bewilderbeast album, but he’ll also be playing new music on his Irish tour, writes Ed Power.

Badly Drawn Boy to perform new music on Irish tour

Badly Drawn Boy may never escape from his Bewilderbeast album, but he’ll also be playing new music on his Irish tour, writes Ed Power.

Damon Gough, aka Mercury-winning troubadour Badly Drawn Boy, recently read a Bruce Springsteen quote that cheered him no end.

“Springsteen said, ‘When I’m on stage I love being on stage and when I’m not on stage I don’t like being on stage’. Coming from him that’s a big statement. Everyone sees him as a guy who loves being on stage. But when you’re not on stage — you never want to go there.

“It’s a bit like life in general. I was at a funeral yesterday and I bumped into a lot of people I hadn’t seen in 10 years. The thought of doing something is usually much worse than the reality.”

Gough, whose Irish tour includes a Live at St Luke’s Cork date on Friday, may not be as famous as Springsteen. Yet his wistful confessional songs have earned him a loyal following — and he will forever occupy a special place in British pop by dint of the 2000 Mercury Music Prize win for his debut album, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast.

There have been more unpredictable moments too — including some notorious mid-performance outbursts. Perhaps the most infamous occurred at the Los Angeles Troubadour in 2010. After struggling with sound issues, Gough exchanged frank words with an audience member and then temporarily left in a huff.

“This is a f**king disaster,” he proclaimed on returning. “I just want the world to swallow me up... Why tour America when nobody’s buying the record?”

Now aged 49, he has mellowed hugely and taken time away from recording new music. The catalyst for his exile from the studio, he explains, was the breakdown of his long-term relationship with the mother of his two oldest children.

He has since married a new partner, with whom he has a baby boy, and sees the Irish tour as an opportunity to open a fresh chapter.

“In the best sense it feels like a new beginning,” says the Bolton-raised artist.

In Ireland I’m probably going to debut new songs for the first time in six years. It’s exciting for me to be able to do that as I’ve been regrouping from a big break-up

The Hour of the Bewilderbeast catapulted the scruffily debonair Gough onto the front pages. He was compared to iconic songwriters such as Nick Drake while the NME labelled him the “British Beck”. He was bookie’s favourite to claim that year’s Mercury, ahead of Coldplay, and his Manchester music pals Doves and duly seized the prestigious gong.

As with many Mercury winners, Gough found its success difficult to replicate and for many years actively resented the LP. With age, however, he has learned to count his blessings – which is why he gave his support to a new documentary, About A Badly Drawn Boy: The Story of the Hour of the Bewilderbeast, by record company executive turned film-maker Craig McNeil.

“I probably never stepped out of its shadow,” says Gough of that LP. “If you make a record that is successful on your first attempt then obviously you are delighted by that. You don’t expect it to win the Mercury. I felt I made a lot of good records after that.

“And yet 20 years later, Bewilderbeast is the one that gets talked about, For a while it does get on your nerves. Of course, you mature and I have to accept I did something extraordinary with that first record.”

He will perform favourites from that album on the Irish tour. But, as he says, there will also be a treat for fans in the form of his first original material in nearly six years.

“I’m getting somewhere,” he says of the new album he is working on. “If I knuckled down I could get it done in two weeks.

“The problem is that finding two concentrated weeks is difficult. It gets harder without question. Making a record is always tough. With time I find it tougher. But I’m here and I’m doing it.”

Badly Drawn Boy plays Liberty Hall Dublin, Wednesday, Waterford Theatre Royal Thursday, St Luke’s Cork, Friday, Lime Tree Theatre Limerick Saturday.

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