William Gray was a founding member of The Smokestacks, who, despite national tours, BBC live sessions, radio airplay, two single releases and major label interest, disbanded in 2008 having never officially released an album.
A prolific songwriter, Gray was keen to release an album and decided to go down the independent route. May 2009 saw his first solo outing ‘None of the Above’. Reaction was extremely positive with reviewers drawing favourable comparisons with respected and renowned songwriters like Elliott Smith, Bon Iver, Badly Drawn Boy and Damon Albarn.
In addition to earning a BBC Radio interview and live session, ‘None Of The Above’ was also voted one of Vibrations Magazine’s top albums of 2010. A trick Gray would repeat with his second album ‘Vertical Wealth’, which garnered increasing attention throughout 2011 and again with 2012’s ‘Casual Observer’.
After his move to Hangzhou, China, Gray’s album ‘Wensan Rd’ was released at the end of 2013 capturing the attention of main players on the local music scene and high praise from That’s China magazine. The following year saw Gray becoming a regular solo performer in and around his new hometown.
In 2015 Gray joined the roster of artists at Medic Independent Records, with the Hangzhou label organising well-received solo shows in different provinces of China. The release of EP ‘Tish’ brought acclaim in both the UK and China, with more BBC airplay and over 14,000 plays on popular Chinese music site Xiami. The year culminated in a Hangzhou show playing alongside internationally lauded acoustic guitar virtuoso Jon Gomm in December.
2016 is proving another busy year with the release of new album ‘Flounce’ back in March and EP ‘Seine’ scheduled for an October 1st release.
Of ‘Seine’, William says “Prior to the preceding album, a project had been put to one side in favour of doing something more upbeat. Later this material was revisited, to discern what was salvageable. The word ‘dragnet’ was already the title of an album by The Fall, so ‘Seine’ was chosen, which is a type of large fishing net. This represents well the general concept, the urge to cast a net over a wide area to see what can be retrieved. In terms of the recordings, these were the five tracks deemed good enough for release, be it with additional work.
Instrumentally and lyrically the melancholy feel of this EP represents a break from the two previous releases, in that it’s underpinned by acoustic guitar and a more traditional approach to writing. For the overall sound, the urge to remain somewhat lo-fi, with tinges of electronica and psychedelia is perhaps all that remains with regards to ‘Flounce’ and ‘Tish’.”
“It’s clear that this is the eclectic and idiosyncratic ramblings of an effortlessly talented songwriter.”
Rob Paul Chapman, Vibrations Magazine
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