Damon Gough has had it good since 2000, when the one-man band won England's prestigious Mercury Music Prize for his debut album as Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast, a ramshackle tapestry of homemade pop that sounded like Burt Bacharach as produced by Beck. His two follow-ups have won him an increasingly devoted audience, and the soundtrack he wrote and recorded for 2002's Hugh Grant vehicle About a Boy introduced him to Hollywood, as (potentially) lucrative a companion as a musician could hope to meet.
Yet when Gough began work on a new album last year with producer Stephen Street (a veteran of classic British pop records by Blur and the Smiths), he found that his good fortune had run out. "I'd just kind of lost focus and felt that it wasn't really going the way I intended it," Gough says of the Street sessions. "And I couldn't find an easy answer as to how to turn the songs into something I liked. The only thing I could do was walk away from it, which was the hardest thing I've ever done."
After your work with Stephen Street ended disappointingly, you wrote a whole new record, Born in the U.K., and began recording it with Nick Franglen of the English electropop act Lemon Jelly. Was it difficult to get motivated a second time? It wasn't, really. I can't explain why [the Street-produced material] didn't happen or why it didn't work out. The songs were sounding good but not great. I couldn't fathom what to do next. And I felt tarnished by the experience of trying to get it right, so the last thing I wanted to do was go back to those songs. So I just kind of kicked myself and decided to go into the recording studio near where I live and just force myself to record something brand-new every day.