With big bands it’s the thing to take a break after releasing a record and doing a long tour – even if it’s just a couple of months.
But when Snow Patrol go into downtime, Gary Lightbody can’t sit still and the result of his recent holiday period is the latest album from Tired Pony.
The Ghost Of The Mountain is another sublime and sensitive long player from the gang featuring Lightbody and REM’s Peter Buck – and a selection of pals including Iain Archer, Richard Colburn, Garrett ‘Jacknife’ Lee, Scott McCaughey and Troy Stewart.
The Beat caught up with Gary just ahead of last night’s Tennents Vital gig where he was playing a Snow Patrol summer home gig – now a much-loved annual event by fans and the band alike.
Gary said: “I’m really excited just to play Belfast and just to be home – this is our third time playing Vital.”
Although he’s been hanging out in LA quite a bit, Gary says home will always be Northern Ireland and he still considers himself as living there and working in the States.
Time spent in LA is through necessity, not choice, he says.
Gary revealed: “I have been writing in LA with Jacknife Lee, doing the Tired Pony stuff and writing the Snow Patrol record. He is out there and he’s got family so I have to be near him and near the studio.
“I enjoy it out there, I have quite a few friends and I enjoy hanging out.”
It appears LA is good for Gary and we have to say The Beat imagines it to be all bumping into Colin Farrell and the like on Sunset Boulevard. After all none other than Minnie Driver does some vocals on the record alongside Bronagh Gallagher and Kim Topper.
But apparently we have the wrong idea – it’s just like Belfast, apparently.
He said: “It’s not glamorous at all – this is just another place to be and I’m not walking the red carpet every night sipping cocktails with a Hollywood starlet. That’s not my life – I have a local pub I play darts in, some good friends and it’s the same life I have in Ireland, it just happens to be in LA.
“It is a very relaxing type of life. When I go back to London it is too hectic for me which is great because it shows I am calming down as I was far too hectic anyway inside myself.
“If London is too hectic for me it means I have kind of taken my foot off the accelerator a little bit which can only be a good thing for me and at least it will add a couple more years to my life.
“All my stuff is in Belfast – I spend a lot of time there still. I am just working in America, the same as being on tour.”
But it’s sunnier surely?
“It’s sunnier here for the most part – the summer has been insane, it was 10 degrees hotter in Belfast than it was in LA.”
Gary says he’s mostly Snow Patrol focused but he does set aside a little time to write the Tired Pony albums because he enjoys it.
He said: “I could have 100 bands – I enjoy writing so much that when Snow Patrol have down time I would rather be off writing.
“I have written with a bunch of different people – pop singers, electronic acts, DJ types and things like that.
“Recently that has opened my eyes to a whole sort of different way of writing as well. And that’s great because you keep leaning. Snow Patrol are having our 20th anniversary next year and I am still learning every day.
“And everything I have learned when I write with other people I do bring back to Snow Patrol and hopefully it makes us better in some ways. So the life experience I get all comes back to them.
“For Tired Pony I set aside a portion of time and say: ‘ Right I am going to sit down and write some Tired Pony songs now’ and I get it done. And everything else in my life is for Snow Patrol.
“My life is for Snow Patrol and a portion of time, a week, ten days is for Tired Pony.”
And he can get the work done in double quick time probably because the Tired Pony songs are centred round two fictional characters so unlike Snow Patrol tracks don’t involve picking over the emotions of his own life.
And The Ghost Of The Mountain is the second in a series which began with The Place We Ran From, the much acclaimed debut album.
Gary said: “The thing about Tired Pony songs is they are about two characters I created and their lives.
“The couple in the Tired Pony songs are composite characters of lots of people who I’ve met in America and I have created these two lives, this man and woman who have fallen in love and have been through some serious hard times.
“It’s an American story that spans decades and it’s beautiful, dark, twisted, frightening. It’s an epic story as well. I don’t want to give too much away about their lives as when you listen to an album you want to take what you hear in the music, you don’t want to be told what it’s about. So I am nervous about giving too much away. It’s kind of like writing a book and that’s what I want to do is maybe make a movie about these two characters.”
“It’s a lot easier because I know the characters so well and the songs just seem to come out so I can write that very quickly. But Snow Patrol -ironically I guess – I take a lot more time with because it’s my own life and it’s harder to come out. I don’t know why that is. I guess I just want it to be perfect whereas with these guys imperfection is the vibe I’m going for.”
Asides from that Gary has his fingers in other pies as with Third Bar Artist Development and Polar Patrol – a publishing company – he and other Snow Patrol members are helping other bands get a leg up.
He said: “Third Bar is thriving and the driving force behind it Davy Matchett is working with loads of bands and we have an office in Oh Yeah so it’s still very much connected to the whole thing. “Polar Patrol is me Jonny and Nathan and Steve Farris who gave us our first publishing deal.”
And it is something that’s important to Gary.
He revealed: “It’s well documented that it took us ten years before we got a hit and if we could help bands avoid those pitfalls and speed up the process a little bit.
“You should have pitfalls it makes success all the sweeter and you should struggle as it creates a little bit of humility as well which is never a bad thing. But a ten years struggle – you wouldn’t wish that on anybody. It’s not exact science and sometimes my advice has probably been counterintuitive but I do try my best for people.”
Gary has also been executive producer on two films – Good Vibrations and Made In Belfast.
And it’s an area he would like to do more in, citing the big screen as his third love after friends and family, and music.
He said: “I have so many ideas I need to get my ass in gear and start doing some. You can talk and talk and talk about it but it’s all bulls**t unless you start doing something.”
And knowing Gary Lightbody it won’t be long until he does.
*Tired Pony – The Ghost Of The Mountain is out now and the band will make one European appearance at London’s Barbican on September 14.
Go to the Irish Mirror’s website to read the article there.