When Badly Drawn Boy’s album The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast won the Mercury music prize in 2000 the singer was hailed as a star of the future.
He went on to compose a critically acclaimed film soundtrack, About A Boy, and released subsequent albums on the XL Recordings and EMI labels.
But the 41-year-old, real name Damon Gough, now admits that until recently he was ready to quit the music business.
‘‘I had a couple of years when I couldn’t go into the recording studio because I became almost phobic about it,’’ he reveals. ‘‘I didn’t want to do music anymore.’’
There were a number of factors behind his disillusionment, including a lack of commercial success, he says.
‘‘The last record I did for XL was hugely overlooked. It’s a brilliant album called One Plus One Is One but it didn’t get a look in because the record company wasn’t interested in promoting it.
‘‘The record after that, Born In The UK, was my first with EMI. I had this notion that things were going to get better so I made as big a sounding record as I could, thinking it was going to be my big breakthrough, but that didn’t work out either.
‘‘I got a little bit depressed about it all, thinking what do I have to do because, looking back at it, Born In The UK’s a brilliant record.
‘‘I’m sick of people telling me how good Bewilderbeast is because everything I’ve done since is at least as good as that, if not better.
‘‘Everything I’ve done, I’ve put so much care into it and I’m actually better now than I was on my first album in terms of craftsmanship and knowing what I’m doing.
‘‘Loads of things combined to make me think ‘why am I bothering?’.
‘‘The X Factor, reality TV, everything got to me. I’m quite a sensitive person, sensitive to the world around me. The songs I write are close to what I’m thinking at the time, it’s all personal stuff.
‘‘It’s hard to bare your soul in the climate that we’re living in and if you’re not getting the credit you think you deserve...’’
It was the Fattest Man In Britain that got Damon back in a musical mood.
He agreed to pen the soundtrack to the Caroline Aherne film and he agrees it was the best thing that could have happened.
‘‘It got me back in the studio and I vowed to let myself feel that way again.’’
In fact, it opened the floodgates to a wave of creativity, with so many new songs that a trilogy of Badly Drawn Boy albums is planned.
‘‘I went straight into making the first album. I had about 30 songs on the go in January and when it got to May I’d finished ten songs so I thought I’d just go with them and worry about the others later.
‘‘It was a way of making the album quicker to finish and a way of making me look forward to the next one and not stop recording.’’
It’s What I’m Thinking Part 1: Photographing Snowflakes was released on October 4 on Damon’s own label and is being promoted with a UK tour that includes a show at Birmingham Town Hall on October 18.
‘‘I’ll be playing most, if not all, of the new album,’’ says Damon of the forthcoming gig. ‘‘It’s quite short so I’ll rattle through it.
"Then I tend to do what people want. If they request something I’ll try and do it. I’m going to be rehearsing quite a lot of the back catalogue, 30 or 40 songs, that I can draw from.
"It seems that Bewilderbeast and About A Boy are the albums people remember, then after that they think I’ve disappeared. I’m hoping this new album reinstates my position.’’
Times have changed since Damon’s debut, especially when it comes to buying records. He’s not a wholehearted supporter of buyers cherry picking individual tracks from the internet.
‘‘As a purist I’m against it, I actually asked my manager if this album could not be made available on iTunes so people have to go and buy it.
‘‘But in a way you’d be shooting yourself in the foot, you have to look at the fact that with people buying online you’re at least getting customers that you wouldn’t otherwise have. People are finding the music in a different way. If you took your music off the internet you’d be losing some people along the way so you might as well just go along with it.
‘‘It’s a shame because I’d rather people listened to a whole record.
‘‘When I make an album I put a lot of time and care into it being a thing you listen to as a whole but you have to accept these days that people have a shorter attention span and there’s a lot more music out there for them to choose from.’’
If he had to choose one track from the new album that he’d like everyone to hear it’s I Saw You Walk Away which he claims is the best song he’s ever written.
‘‘Throughout your career there are songs that just stand out,’’ he says. ‘‘I don’t think my singles represent me, there are album tracks that represent me better. On this album the stand out song is I Saw You Walk Away because it sums up where I am as a songwriter, where it’s all led me to.
"Thankfully, it’s been agreed that it’s going to be a single. Almost every single I’ve released has not been my choice, it’s been down to radio pluggers and management all agreeing which song has a chance of being played on the radio.
"That’s usually the criteria for choosing a single and I rarely agree with the choice, I just have to go along with it.
‘‘For once, with I Saw You Walk Away, everyone’s agreed and I’m delighted because it’s the one I want people to hear.’’
* Badly Drawn Boy, October 18, Town Hall, Birmingham. More information and tickets, at the Town Hall website.