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Snow Patrol

January 2012

GARY Lightbody. Frontman and chief songwriter with Snow Patrol. A band which has produced chart-topping records, sold ten million albums and written songs with more airplay than most could dream of. And yet Lightbody doesn’t see himself as much of a ladies’ man, despite all that.

If you believe what you read.
In advance of a chat with the 35-year-old, I found this quote attributed to him on Twitter:
“I have the gift to make women mad. Not like Tom Jones does, but rather so that they go to the kitchen and pick up a knife.”
What did he mean?
“What was this quote?” says Lightbody, clearly confused.
I repeat it.
“Not like Tom James?”
Tom Jones.
“Oh Tom Jones. I won’t have said that. But I’m sure there is plenty of stuff I’ve never said... which is why I don’t go looking on the internet.”
He’s not one for Twitter. Probably a good job as I sent a tweet for questions to ask him and had a cascade of anti-Snow Patrol messages: “Happy Shopper Coldplay” and the like.
It wasn’t all bad. One woman said that if she had three wishes, one would be to meet Lightbody.
“Wow, what a waste of a wish,” he deadpans.
He’s in London and it’s been an easy day so far; a run in the park, lunch with a friend... but it’s a well-earned rest day after a spell in the US. The band has been promoting latest album, Fallen Empires, with a series of network TV appearances. It included The Ellen Show, where fellow guests were Meryl Streep and Ricky Gervais.
“I didn’t get to hang out with Meryl Streep but I met Ricky Gervais for the first time and he was lovely,” he says.
“I’m a big fan of his. Meryl Streep we were just all too intimidated to speak to. I can’t walk up to someone like that and go ‘oooh, hellooo’. I’m too much of a fan.”
Starstruck pop stars? You must meet plenty of famous folk?
“If I’m sitting at a table with them at an awards thing or something like that I’ll talk to them but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go and bother someone.”
Lightbody is from Bangor in Northern Ireland but formed Snow Patrol while at university in Dundee.
It is 15 years since their first EP release but nine since one of their records had any impact.
Final Straw, their first album for Polydor, which produced the major hit single Run, went on to sell three million copies.
The follow-up in 2006, Eyes Open, sold double that – the best selling UK album of that year. That and the single, Chasing Cars, propelled Snow Patrol to international fame.
They are now on album number six, their first since the best of compilation, Up To Now, two years ago.
The album shows them breaking new ground, echoing LCD Soundsystem, U2 and Arcade Fire.
“We wanted this record to be different,” says Lightbody.
“Musically different and lyrically I wanted to broaden my horizons. I’ve written about relationships now for... forever. To then want to talk about family and the world and my journey and the people that I’ve met along the way... it took a while to get me in the right mood.
“It’s still centred on relationships but it’s very different to what I’ve done before.”
He adds: “And it was a challenge, which is what we wanted. We’ve been 17 years together and it’s easy to enter a period of treading water. And you’ve no one else to blame for that but yourself.
“So attacking things in different ways is a really good way of jarring yourself loose.
“And going to Malibu helped,” he laughs.
“We set up in a house there rather than a studio. I think the record company thought it was going to bankrupt the company but it didn’t cost much more than any other record.”
He adds: “It gave us more time because we went in to that environment. We took the longest we’ve ever taken over a record.
“We had complete freedom to do anything. To scrap the song completely or take it in a different way, going from country/folk to dance music. If there is any kind of graph that charted this album, it wouldn’t make any sense to scientists.”
Being in California also meant they could call on a few guests, including Troy Van Leuwen from Queens Of The Stone Age and LA Inner City Mass Gospel Choir.
“People would just call in. We’d get them to sing, to play guitar. A few friends came in and formed a choir for a few of the tracks. It was much more relaxed than ever before.”
And more fun?
“After I got over the writer’s block I had a ball.”
Writer’s block?
“Before we started recording I was writing for a bit... well, I wasn’t writing. I was rocking back and forward like a patient at Arkham.
“But once we were all in the studio we were absolutely rocking it. It was a really pleasurable experience. Lots of great ideas were being thrown around. It’s definitely the best way to make records.”
So that’s how you’ll do the next one?
“I don’t think any of us would be particularly averse to doing exactly the same thing again but it isn’t the place you are, it’s the place that you are in your head.”
So you may well have the urge to record it in a garden shed in Nottingham?
“Absolutely, Nottingham next.”
He adds: “I think the last time we played there was Rock City and I remember that being awesome. I’m really looking forward to getting back and doing a bigger show.”
Actually, their last visit here was to the Arena three years ago.
You see, you can’t believe everything you read...

Snow Patrol play the Capital FM Arena on Wednesday February 1 from 7.30pm. Extra tickets recently went on sale priced at £22.50 and £32.50. For availability visit the box office, call 08444 124624 or go online at

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