Chorlton’s Badly Drawn Boy on coming through tough times

Badly Drawn Boy

Badly Drawn Boy - Credit: not Archant

He’s come through tough times, but Chorlton singer-songwriter Badly Drawn Boy has a new album and a new sense of optimism.

Banana Skin Shoes, the new album by Badly Drawn Boy

Banana Skin Shoes, the new album by Badly Drawn Boy - Credit: not Archant

With his first studio album in a decade due out at the end of May, Damon Gough – better known as Badly Drawn Boy – is feeling like a new man. It’s now five years since he stopped drinking, he has a new wife and a young son and is clearly excited about the future.

‘There have been points where I’ve wondered if it will ever happen and the longer that goes on, the more the pressure and the expectation build,’ he said. ‘But all I can do is what I think is best and I truly feel I have achieved something with this album and that I have set myself up well for following it up relatively quickly.’

The lockdown has upset the promotional schedule for the new album, Banana Skin Shoes, but he said: ‘I’ve never been busier, I’m absolutely snowed under.

‘At the start of the year I was busy with gigs and the promotional schedule for the new album and live streams on social media. Then the lockdown happened and I’ve continued doing stuff online and interviews and sessions for radio and television.

‘It is quite tough to be promoting at a time when people are struggling. I’m one of the lucky ones, I live somewhere nice and I’ve got people with me.’

Those people are wife Leanne and son Rueben who turned three in late May. His two children from a previous relationship are now in their late teens and live near the singer-songwriter in Chorlton.

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And although it’s been ten years since his last studio album, Damon – who won the Mercury Prize in 2000 – has never stopped writing songs, and provided the soundtrack for Robert De Niro’s flop 2012 film Being Flynn.

Damon finished working on the new album – his ninth – in November. It has an upbeat feel in-keeping with the positive changes in his life but it came from a time of upheaval for him, and for the wider world.

In 2012 his ex-partner asked him to leave their home and Damon said: ‘I was hard to live with and drinking played a big part. That’s where this album’s story began.

‘For three years after we broke up I carried on with the drinking but I gave up the booze in 2015 and Leanne was instrumental in that. It was a daunting task to think “can I make a record when I’m not drinking?”

‘I was thinking about making a record and then in 2016 the referendum happened and that was a turning point – the last three years have been a head scrambler with everything that has been going on politically.

‘I had just got sober and felt life was getting better, then the world started to turn. I was trying to reflect the break-up and coming through bad times and coming back stronger and the world was going crazy.

‘Coming off the booze gave me a new realisation of how to be disciplined – it’s hard to talk about without sounding preachy, and I don’t want to come across like that – but I reached a point where the booze was getting the better of me and was affecting my health.

‘Going in the studio sober was something I’ve never done. It was a part of the process – I’d be in the studio from 10pm to about 3am recording and drinking wine.

‘Initially I had concerns – you can feel the booze helps you creatively and that it helps ideas to flow, but that’s not the case. If anything, the process is easier now, I’m not as muddled as I used to be and I wake up without a hangover.

‘I don’t want to be a tortured artist – it’s hard to be creative but it should be enjoyable as well and I am still on a learning curve. It is a cliché, but tough times do teach you more than when life’s a breeze. There is a tragedy happening around us but hopefully the people who come through this will be able to enjoy what’s there to enjoy.

‘I am genuinely chuffed to have got to this point. I have a sense of achievement and pride and of deserving the love I am getting from the people around me.

‘When the first new single came out in January it was a really positive start to the year for me. I started to feel like a relevant current artist again. I’ll never shy away from playing the old songs and the minor hits I’ve had, but in getting this album together I feel like I’ve turned a corner.

‘My goal is to finish as many songs as I can before my time runs out and I feel like I’ve got lots left in me and some momentum now.’