"There is so much light and love in this album..." - hmv.com talks to Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody
The last few years have been quiet ones for Snow Patrol - whose most recent album Fallen Empires arrived in 2011 – and, by all accounts, difficult ones for the band's frontman and chief songwriter Gary Lightbody, who has gone on record in recent weeks to talk about his battles with depression, alcoholism and writer's block.
However, in March this year Lightbody and his band emerged from self-imposed exile to unveil their first new music in seven years and announce the impending arrival of their seventh album, Wildness, which arrives in stores today.
Ahead of the album's release, we caught up with Gary to ask him a few questions about why this album took so long to make, battling and beating his demons, and why even though the lyrical themes are heavier than ever, this is an album filled with hope...
So it's been quite a while since the last Snow Patrol album – normally at this point we'd ask what you've been up to for the last few years, but you've spoken quite a bit recently about battling with writer's block – when did the creative spark start to come back?
“Yes, it did take a while didn’t? I’ve been writing a lot over the last seven years. In fact at one point i remember looking at my voice notes on my phone where I store my song ideas and there was 600 songs on there. So there were plenty of songs, I just wasn’t happy with the lyrics and it took me a long time to get them right.”
We read that you'd basically scrapped an album's worth of material and started again for this new record, is that right?
“No, I was always writing and the album was always evolving. Songs rise and fall along the way for sure but nothing is ever scrapped really, it’s just left by the wayside as better songs come along. It wasn’t a matter of completing an album, not being happy with it and then starting again. It was more that the record just kept getting better over time. And when it got to a place where I was happy with all the songs we recorded them.”
So how did you want the new record to move on from everything you've done up until now?
“I wanted to look at everything differently this time. The way we wrote and recorded and the way we sounded and what I wanted to say had to be different than before. Musically, less was more. We didn’t rely on filling in the spaces sonically this time, rather we let the space be part of sound. We used to have 10 guitars doing the same thing. Now it’s just one and it ironically gets bigger sounding rather than smaller. Lyrically I wanted to deep, deeper than ever, talk abut things I’d never spoken about.”
Are there any particular lyrical themes running through the songs on the new record?
“The themes are perhaps heavier than I ever went before - depression, my dad’s dementia, my alcoholism - however the overwhelming feeling on the record is hope. I’m sober now for two years. I feel stronger and happier than I have in my life. My dad has good days as well as bad. There is so much light and love in this album too and I think it shines on the darker edges.”
When (and why) did you settle on the title, Wildness?
“The world is pretty wild out there these days but wildness can also mean a connection to nature, each other, ourselves. Leaving the phones in the house every now and again and going outside.”
This is your fifth album with Jacknife Lee – what is about him that makes him a good fit for you as a producer?
“Firstly he’s a genius. He pushes us hard too. He never settles for ‘that’ll do’. There is always a searching and striving for excellence and adventure. Plus we have a lot of fun. Also we are family (Johnny and myself are his kids' godfathers) so he feels like a 6th member of the band.”
This is also your first record since Tom Simpson left the band, has that changed much in terms of how the band operates?
“Tom’s absence is felt a lot. He is the funniest guy any of us knows so he’s great to have on tour and around in general. Also he comes from the dance world, he taught me how to DJ back in the day and we went around the world together DJjng dance and soul music for 15 years when we weren’t touring with Snow Patrol, so he brought us all a fresh perspective on things and I’m very grateful to him for introducing me to that world, a world I still love. He’ll join us from time to time for high jinks. We are still great friends and he’ll always be part of the family.”
What are your touring plans looking like for the new album?
“Extensive. We will go to as many places that will have us as usual, can’t wait to get back out there. We’ve done some one off shows already and are on tour in Ireland right now.”
With so much material to choose from now, can we expect a bit of a career retrospective set at this point?
“The first gigs have been full of great moments from through the years but the most exciting thing is that the new songs - and we’re already playing a lot of them - are going down as well as the old ones. that bodes very well indeed.”
Wildness is available in hmv stores now, you can also find it here in our online store...