Badly Drawn Boy
The Magic Loungeabout Festival
DAMON Gough is recalling one or two close encounters from his most memorable gigs.
“There was one in Boston where this girl got on stage and just sat on my monitors, you know, where you listen to the music,” he laughs. “And she was just being quite provocative – we had to get her removed.
“But I also just played a show in Italy, and there was this young lad right in the middle, at the front, jumping up and down in the crowd. He kept asking for songs and, when I played them, he went mental.
“Anyway, next thing you know I turned around and he was there, next to me on stage. There was no security, nobody had stopped him. You shouldn’t really have that happen, but he was only a kid, so I just gave him a big hug and the crowd all cheered.”
Getting up close and personal with fans is something Badly Drawn Boy has had to get used to since he started forging his unique form of alternative music in the late 1990s.
Damon developed a fanatic following around the world after scooping the 2000 Mercury Music Prize with, arguably, his defining album, The Hour of Bewilderbeast.
His profile was raised even further with the soundtrack to the 2002 movie adaptation of Nick Hornby’s, About a Boy.
But his live performances are equally renowned. Which is why his appearance at this month’s Magic Loungeabout Festival is so anticipated.
“Festivals are great. They’re just a different type of adrenaline and pressure to your own gig,” he says. “They’re just that bit more relaxed.
“And there’s always a chance that someone could pop by and see you out of intrigue. You get that when U2 play somewhere like Glastonbury – they might not be massive fans but everyone will go see them just to see what they’re like.”
Coming to Yorkshire will be something of a short journey of remembrance since his formal music education started, albeit falteringly, in Leeds 20 years ago.
“I went to Leeds College of Music when I was 21,” says Damon, now 41. “I really went to meet other musicians and form a band and I ended up really liking it in Leeds.
“But I left after a year because I just knew that I didn’t want to become a classical pianist. I just wanted to know how to write a song, and nobody could really teach me that.
“After I left, I just followed my own path. I’m actually still grateful for what I learned from the college, but they couldn’t teach me how to write songs.”
Song writing has taken Damon a long way from his fleeting days as a student in Leeds. After almost 15 years in the business he still enjoys a loyal crowd at gigs and festivals.
He says: “I think through luck I tend to attract a nice bunch of people really. All the people who supported me in America said: ‘your audiences are so nice’.
“I think that’s somehow because of the type of music I make. I suppose I don’t take myself too seriously, but I do take my music seriously. I have got a reputation for being a bit of a wildcard on stage.”
Damon will be doing quite a few gigs around the UK in coming months, something he relishes as so many of the dates are on his doorstep in his native Lancashire.
It’s a contrast to the years he’s spent travelling the world promoting and performing his seven albums and countless single releases.
It hasn’t always been easy. Last year Badly Drawn Boy allegedly had an on-stage meltdown during a bad gig in LA. He freely admits to being an emotional man and getting homesick when he’s abroad.
“It sometimes gets to the point where you don’t wanna do it, because it really is wearing your heart on your sleeve and its gonna be criticised in a good way or a bad way,” he says.
“Without music I would have probably just ended up going under. In a way it’s a bit of a burden to put on the music, but I think the ultimate answer is you either do it or you don’t.
“When I get bands asking me advice on how to get success, young bands especially, it’s just what you do is what you do, that’s a success in itself. You either have to do it or you don’t, and for me, I have to do it, it’s the only thing I’ve got really.
“Obviously I’ve got a life outside of it – I’ve got my family, but in terms of something that keeps me together, music is that.”
Curiously, Damon’s musical inspirations aren’t quite what you’d expect them to be.
“When I was 14, I heard Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road and it kind of changed my life,” he insists. “Nobody else liked Bruce Springsteen because all they’d heard was Born in the USA and they hated it, Actually, I think Born in the USA is a great song too.
“But, it was his early material I was really into. But there’s a good chance If I didn’t hear that song I might not have ended up with the career I’ve had.
“Music is still my main obsession. My daughter’s 10 years old and has started playing the piano now, she’s just took her grade one last week. Her playing has got better and better. It’s just really weird to watch someone else learning.”
With a career and family to be proud of, Damon is now looking to the future.
“On the next album I’ve got loads of people I wanna work with – and people who have asked to work with me.” he says.
“I wanna work with as many people as I can, which is kinda what I did on the first album, by accident.
“I started working with five or six producers, which I think made the album quite eclectic. The sound of each song was quite different to the next one, which is kinda what makes me tick.
“Next up I’m going into the studio to put down some ideas for this Robert De Niro film I’m doing. It’s the same director who did About a Boy.”
One parting question: who on the current music scene does he rate?
“James Blake, I think he’s brilliant,” he says. “His stuff’s more or less one line of lyrics repeated. I don’t know if that’s considered dubstep. Is it? I don’t really understand all that now – maybe I’m too old for it.”
The Magic Loungeabout, July 29 to 31, Broughton Hall, Skipton, www.themagicloungeabout.net