Gray says the bare-bones performances – just him, a guitar, a piano, and some looping effects to enhance his often-atmospheric soundscapes – seem the best way to encompass aspects of his 25-year career: "I'm bringing it right back to the beginning, when it was just me in an open space with a few instruments. I'll have to engage the audience in a different way. It will be very intense."
Gray says he'll happily include songs from his still-beloved breakthrough effort, 2000's home-recorded White Ladder, which remains among the top-selling albums of all time in Ireland and one of the United Kingdom's biggest hits of the last two decades. In the U.S., it earned Gray a 2002 Grammy nomination for best new artist (Alicia Keys won).
"It was a very unguarded, openhearted record, and I think people were excited to discover a new sound," he said. "There's a natural effervescence that still comes through."
Now at work on a new album produced by Ben De Vries – son of Marius, who helmed Gray's seventh album, 2005's Life in Slow Motion – Gray says the as-yet-untitled effort is "the most uplifting thing I've ever done."
"There's a real lightness to it, which is interesting because it's been a kind of heavy year, but I think it's simply the joy of making music," he said. "There's a real sense of momentum and tempo." So much so that Gray says he practically had to be "pulled kicking and screaming with my headphones on" to get on the road again.
"But I'm excited about that, too," he said. "Realizing that you're not going to go on doing this indefinitely makes it mean more. Each show is another opportunity to connect."