Belying his status as a narcoleptic slacker icon, Badly Drawn Boy proved himself a tireless pop songwriter, with arrangements that reflect a great deal of creativity. Born Damon Gough, he began recording after meeting the like-minded Andy Votel at a Manchester nightclub. The pair formed the Twisted Nerve label, and Gough debuted as Badly Drawn Boy with an EP and several singles. The recordings dovetailed nicely with the experimentalist pop fringe of artists like Scott 4 and the Beta Band, and the attendant media hype allowed him to guest alongside Thom Yorke, Richard Ashcroft, and Mike D on 1997's celebrity-filled UNKLE LP Psyence Fiction.
Gough's 1999 single "Once Around the Block" grazed the British charts, while XL Recordings signed the pop auteur and released his debut album, The Hour of Bewilderbeast, in 2000. Just before its American release, the album earned another round of critical praise with Britain's vaunted Mercury Prize for Best Album. December 2000 brought the birth of his daughter. Author Nick Hornby was won over by his music and asked the singer to score the film being made of his book About a Boy. After that project, he moved away from music for a few months to work on new material.