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Byline: Alan Poole

MANY successful careers have been built on a sudden twist of fate, but what are the odds against an unknown American singer-songwriter cracking the UK market by transforming a 20-year-old cover version into the Christmas No 1?

Step forward Gary Jules, whose sombre interpretation of Tears For Fears's Mad World eclipsed home-bred media darlings The Darkness and the usual crop of novelty and/or nativity fare to claim the milestone that, even in our drastically downsized singles market, still represents a highly-coveted achievement.

Striking while the festive iron is still nicely warm, Monday sees the release of Jules's album, the intriguingly entitled Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets, as well as the soundtrack to Donnie Darko - composed by long- time friend Michael Andrews, boasting two versions of Roland Orzabal's downbeat ditty and previously only available on import.

Jules has also confirmed details of a UK tour, calling in at Birmingham's Academy on Sunday February 22, as he tries to make up for lost time seven years on from his initial breakthrough.

Signed up by A&M in December 1996, he overcame several frustrating delays to release debut album Greetings From the Side in August 1998. "And two weeks later," he ruefully recalls, "the record company disappeared!

"There was nothing I could do - it happened so fast that I didn't have copies of the album so I couldn't even go on the road and sell it. But I was still signed, so I couldn't go and make a new record elsewhere.

"I was sold along with thousands of other people and, being near the bottom of the ladder, it took a year to review my contact and for me to finally get dropped."

Gary filled his time constructively, returning to college to complete his English degree, and in 2001 he returned to his native San Diego to work with Michael Andrews and record the songs that would evolve into Trading Snakeoil.

Released in America two years ago, it received fresh impetus when Andrews decided that Mad World would make the ideal climax to his score for Donnie Darko, a cult film in the States and a surprise commercial hit in the UK.

And although it's ironic that it took somebody else's material to finally make his name, his own songs, including follow-up single DTLA and the sublime Princess of Hollywood Way, should ensure that he doesn't join the ranks of seasonal one-hit wonders.

"It started happening for me at the second attempt, much more organically and dynamically," he says.

"There was no established market for what I was doing then. David Gray hadn't done White Ladder, there was no Damien Rice model to plug me into - nobody knew how to sell a singer-songwriter in America.

"I figured it wasn't that big a mystery - write songs that mean something to you, sing them for whoever will listen and hope that they mean something to them, too."


UNEXPECTED FAME: Gary Jules, who hit the Christmas No 1 spot with a version of Tears For Fears's Mad World, releases an album and lines up concerts at Birmingham Academy for February and (below right) Gary with fellow musician Michael Andrews
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 16, 2004
Previous Article:GO: THE LIMIT: Home-grown talent mixes with US style for a perfect triple bill.

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