"This one took a bit of making," Gray says. "It wasn't just a case of going back in the studio and putting some songs out. I was thinking of something different. I knew what I didn't want to do. It wasn't enough to go about moaning about middle-age sentiment over a few chords.
"I was looking for a new way of expressing myself, kind of an epiphany, a way of saying hallelujah in a new way. It couldn't just be the same old thing. So because I was setting new parameters and going off into the unknown, it took a while to discover what that was."
Given Gray's previous success, the decision to suddenly change carried its share of risk. "It wasn't easy," he concedes. "I told my producer, 'Don't let me make the same record I made before. Take me out of my comfort zone.' By definition, going outside your comfort zone is an uncomfortable place to be.
"I was heavily vexed at various points in the process, because I was pushed into places I'd never been before. But I think by reaching into the void, with all that uncertainty and risk and vulnerability, that I opened myself up to make the record stronger and more vital. You've got to take chances sometimes. You can't just piddle along. Sometimes you've got to up the ante."
After more than a decade of relishing the afterglow of international smash "Babylon" and best-selling album White Ladder, Gray seems genuinely delighted to be embarking on this new phase of his career. Even so, it's clear that that the bigger challenge will be competing for attention in a cyber-centric world, particularly while recasting his own sound in the process.
"When something is made and cast and decided upon as a steady identity, it's hard to break it and remake it. But when something is more nebulous, it allows more room to maneuver, to push me around a bit. I'm not used to being pushed around. I'm usually the pusher," Gray laughs.
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