YOU could call David Gray a late starter. For years he was a busker, playing for loose change in pubs, honing his craft and writing the tunes that helped him sell 12 million albums around the world, not to mention the best selling album in Ireland ever with White Ladder.

His collection of up-tempo, euphoric ballads and powerful folktronica pop songs were the soundtrack to the early noughties and catapulted Gray, a seemingly unassuming singer-songwriter who had faced years of disappointment, to global stardom.

Gray is still grateful for the record’s eminence, and how it served as a springboard for the rest of his career, which has seen him continue in a similar path with another two number one and two top ten albums.

But he is not so enamoured by the inevitable side-effect of such a career high. Fame.

“It’s such a strange world and not one I aspire to,” he admits. “I did shrink into myself when it first happened to me, the fame aspect. But I have grown used to it.

“I’m at the level where it’s a controllable part of my life, most of the time. For a while it was like Being John Malkovich. I was inside my own head looking out of the portals of my own eyes at this bizarre world where everyone was your friend.

“You’re a walking pound sign mincing around, everyone is bringing commercial possibilities, every promoter, every agent, every journalist; you’re something that means something good for them."

Now David has a freshly minted new album under his arm. Gold In A Brass Age - his first album of new material in four years - alongside a 17-date tour of the UK which includes a visit to Bournemouth this month.

Gray describes the new album, his 11th overall and his first collection of new material in four years, as “quite subtle in how it unveils itself”.

He says it is “vocally softer and less grabbing at you” compared to the belter-style hits of his earlier career. The record is understated, intimate and rich, with poetic lyrics and a more explorative electronica sound.

What inspired him to create such a profoundly moving and artistic piece of work, I wonder?

“Life, death, sickness, illness, unpredictable things, the illusion of control that we have about our lives and the people around us and then stuff can just happen out the blue,” reveals Gray.

“There are a lot of things that happen that you just would never have imagined, and that feeds into your music. It regurgitates, it adds soul as we react to these very visceral experiences. It comes out in the music.”

He says that getting older had a large impact on his musical pilgrimage, as it were.

“My age group, we’re all getting into our late 40s, early 50s, and our parents are all getting older, and more bad things happen,” Gray says, a grin audibly forming on his lips as he adds: “It’s all part of the rollercoaster ride.”

His current sound is certainly something he is fond of and believes in wholeheartedly. But does he ever worry that his long-time fans, those who fell in love with him for the joy of rousing anthems like The One I Love and Please Forgive Me, will not be so taken by his new stuff?

“I don’t worry that I’m going to lose fans. I’m just trying to connect to the people who are interested to hear what I’m doing now. I can’t be imprisoned by the success of something that happened in the past. I’m moving into the future.”

Gray adds: “This album is more experimental, but there are a lot of things in common between the two records.

“There’s an accessibility in some of the lyrics, and the tunes.

“I’m trying to make the most heartfelt music I can make that engages my mind, my ear, excites me in every way and that’s what I’ve done. So all I can do is be proud of that and hope that people can connect with it too.”

n David Gray’s Gold In A Brass Age was out March 8. He will play Bournemouth Pavilion on Wednesday, March 27.