Portrait of an artist in the making

Badly Drawn Boy is challenging pop's establishment. He's that hard, is Damon.

THERE WAS one gig that really caught the attention of the swarming hordes of A&R men at September's In The City convention in Manchester. The man behind it - the mild-mannered 29-year-old Mancunian Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy - had already signed a record deal for a substantial sum of money, and was acclimatising to acclaim as one of the brightest hopes of a recession-hit British music industry. And yet this home-town showcase was, its perpetrator ruefully admits, "probably the worst gig anyone in the audience had ever seen".

"The thing about doing something that can potentially fail at any moment," Gough observes philosophically, "is that sometimes it will do." How could a 90-minute cabaret of half-finished original songs and karaoke Smiths and Simon & Garfunkel cover versions possibly go wrong? "I knew it was going to happen - I just hadn't put any effort into preparing it, and usually for my show to be as shoddy as it is takes quite a bit of preparation."

Damon Gough didn't get where he is today by being over-prepared. On leaving school in the late Eighties, he started work in a recording studio. "I was trying to learn engineering but I could never really get my foot in the door. You either bundle in like a bull in a china shop and take everything over, or you end up on the sidelines making the brews." Inspired by visions of a lifetime of tea-making, Gough picked up a guitar and beavered away writing (but not singing) for various bands for seven years while earning a crust working in his parents' printing business.

Finally realising that if he wanted anything to happen to his songs he was going to have to sing them himself, he released two EPs, helpfully entitled 1 and 2, on his own Twisted Nerve label. The thrill of getting his first 12-in single back from the pressing-plant still looms large - "I remember looking into the grooves and thinking, `that's me in there'," Gough recalls euphorically. "Then I took them into the shop and they started to sell and I was thinking `Who would buy them? What do they look like?'" Who did buy them and what did they look like? "Spotty geeks and beautiful girls," he replies.

The two EPs swiftly sold out their initial 500-copy print runs, and Badly Drawn Boy became the subject of an unlikely bidding war. Gough's "works in progress", from frenetic home-made Sixties caper movie recordings to wistful acoustic laments, with the odd flash of Third Man-type bazouki and a Sister Sledge cover version thrown in for good measure - finally secured him the backing of The Verve's intimidating management stable and a high-profile deal with X-L, the same label as The Prodigy.

EP3, his first release for X-L, shows a commendable determination not to yield to commercial pressures. Gough insists that his music is "more about capturing the essence of a moment than trying to get the perfect intro, middle eight and outro for radio", and he is not kidding. EP3 contains six tracks (twice as many as the maximum number now qualifying for the singles chart). Of these, three are instrumental interludes: one sounds like a CD sticking; one is even called "Interlude"; the third, "Kerplunk by Candlelight", is a twinkly electronic paean to MB Games romanticism.

Of the three "proper" songs, one meanders jauntily like the theme to some millennial Ealing comedy, while the other two firmly establish Badly Drawn Boy's credentials as a major new force in British pop music. The lovely, lilting two-step of "I Need a Sign" will do nothing to deter those trying to hang an unhelpful "British Beck" tag around Gough's neck; and "Meet Me on the Horizon" is a gorgeous neo-folk rhapsody, with the line: "We go there just to be there" - as near a thing to a perfect statement of the Badly Drawn Boy aesthetic as the world is ready for.

Next year's first long-playing record has, Gough insists, "got to be a classic". He cites the debut albums by Air and The Smiths as inspirational examples of "records that you put on and you've got to listen to all the way through... Hopefully, everything is going to open up and spiral outwards - so long as I manage not to lose the plot and start writing anthems". It looks as if the middle ground between Elliott Smith and Aphex Twin is Badly Drawn Boy's for the taking.

`EP3' is released on Monday

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice