It may have taken him 20 odd years, but finally Damon Albarn is starting to like the area where he grew up.

The Blur and Gorillaz frontman has always had a bit of a “difficult” relationship with the little patch of rural Essex – Ford Street, a hamlet near Colchester – where he lived from the age of 11 until his late teens when he left for London.

But it appears in recent years that has all changed.

He tells me: “For anyone making that kind of move from somewhere like Leytonstone to rural Essex, it’s going to be quite profound.

“There was quite a bit of conflict with the place when I left, but now I’m really settled and feel very warmly about it.”

While this change of heart has taken place gradually over a number of years it has well and truly been brought to the public’s attention with the release of his debut solo album, Everyday Robots.

Described as his most private and autobiographical work to date, before making the record Damon decided to re-visit his old childhood haunts starting with Leytonstone and then Colchester.

“After I visited Leytonstone,” he says, “the very next day a very good friend of mine, Remi, and I went to Colchester.

“We both brought our bicycles and cycled through the town. We went to the museum and around Culver Square, that’s changed a lot, and then down Eld Lane past the greengrocers.

“After that we went to Fiddlers Wood (near his old home in Ford Street) and all around there. That was a place I spent a lot of time – those solitary moments – and then up the nearby hill where there’s a great view of the surrounding area.

“Then we went down to Ford Street and into the Shoulder of Mutton pub. I remember the first time I went there I had a great gammon and chips.”

Rounding off the trip past Great Tey village hall, where he used to go to the youth club, Damon and his friend popped into a place “where you can have a cup of coffee, a bite to eat and then buy a leopard print sofa”.

He laughs: “We never had anything like that in my day. I nearly went back to Copford, past the old Windmill club, to the village where I used to have my piano lessons, but there wasn’t enough time.

“When I came back, I put all those places into the record. Ford Street in History of a Cheating Heart, the pentangle in Fiddlers Wood and the Stanway School bell in Hollow Ponds.”

The latter has already been described as the pivotal track on the album, charting Damon’s life from his very early days in Leytonstone, through to his teen years in Colchester and finally adult life living in London.

As you may expect from the first solo album from one of the world’s most famous musicians, a lot has already been written about Everyday Robots.

But while the national press has preferred to concentrate on the intensity of his songs, in particular, his comments on modern-day life and references to drug taking, we’re more interested in playing with the Colne Valley Youth Orchestra and his first live gig, which took place as part of a Stanway School assembly.

“Rather than getting into the Colne Valley Youth Orchestra,” Damon explains, “I think it would be better to say they allowed me to be in it. I was one of the third violins.

“I left when I was 16 and I knew it was time to go when the other violinists who were coming in were better than me and aged only eight.”

The orchestra is still led by Nigel Hildreth, Damon’s old music teacher at Stanway School, who asked him to be patron of the ensemble a few years back .

Damon says: “It wouldn’t be right to have this little chat without mentioning Nigel Hildreth. I think for Graham and I, he was extremely helpful to us both and when he asked me to be patron, I was honoured and proud to accept.”

Despite Damon saying in previous interviews how his move to Colchester left him isolated and feeling like an outsider, it was where his musical career took shape.

Stanway School was where he met Graham Coxon, who later with Damon would form the songwriting backbone of Blur.

“That was where I formed my first band with Graham,” he says. “It was called Real Lives and my first ever gig was with them during the 9am assembly.

“There was Havers, Paul Stevens and Graham and we all played in front of the whole school, who patiently watched this very amateur band inspired by the Jam and the Who.

“I think it went as well as could be expected.”

No doubt that audience would feel very different about a return gig, but while a Stanway School assembly might be unlikely, a trip back to the church where he used to play the organ in his spare time might not.

Damon says: “I would love to do a gig at Aldham Church.

“I think it would be perfect for this album. If everyone was up for it, I would love for it to happen. Do you know what, let’s make that happen.”

Everyday Robots was released on Parlophone Records on Monday.