"I've become great friends with my demons" - Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody on the most personal album of his life
"Until I got sober, I wasn't really able to figure out what it was that I wanted to write about..."
Rare the record that doesn't take an artist or band on a personal journey throughout the process of making it, but that can be a hoary old cliché in and of itself.
In the case of Gary Lightbody and Wildness, the long-awaited seventh studio album from Snow Patrol, conviction, humanity and a genuine feeling of individual triumph shines through.
It's been seven years since we last heard from Lightbody and his cohorts in album form, with Fallen Empires doing a fair job of ticking the band's emotive, anthemic and occasionally experimental boxes.
Still, there existed the sense that frontman and band had maybe hit something of a creative wall.
Jump forward to the end of 2013, a tour-closing gig in Belfast, and, for the most part, Snow Patrol going off the grid for quite some time.
Fans have been patient, and in Wildness they will be rewarded with arguably the bravest body of work that Snow Patrol have conjured up and committed to.
It is not an album of trend-chasing, quick-fix radio singles, rather a collection of patient and intimate songs. More than that, Wildness marks the moment where Lightbody confronted personal demons, and conquered them.
"I perhaps laid myself bare in a way that I hadn't before in any Snow Patrol record," he says.
"I've always been honest on Snow Patrol records, but I've never quite been this honest, this sort of open. I think it's probably harder for me to release these songs into the world than for anybody else, because as they come out, I find that another layer of protective skin gets peeled off with it."
That shedding of armour has an added poignancy for Lightbody. Having successfully faced down his addiction problems two years ago, he found new inspiration.
"Until I got sober, I wasn't really able to figure out what it was that I wanted to write about," he notes. "I didn't know that at the time. I was still trying to write. I was writing every day, writing for other people, for movie soundtracks and TV shows and the Tired Pony record.
"But with Snow Patrol, I always wanted to give all of myself, not more of myself, all of myself. I couldn't figure out how to do that, and it was driving me around the bend. Then I got sober, and about six months after that I went, 'Oh, hang on a minute! What's this clarity thing that I've never experienced before?'
"In that new phase of my life, which has continued from then, I've been able to access parts of my heart, memory, soul, whatever, that I wasn't able to access before. There was a lot of times when I was thinking; 'Yeah, I'm singing this now, but nobody is ever going to hear this.' I just happened to get braver and braver with each passing day and I realised that this is just the way this album needs to be."
With that bravery came a fresh perspective on past, present and future.
"I'm kind of grateful, in a way... no, I am completely grateful to my demons," Lightbody admits.
"I've become great friends with them. I think that's the only thing that you can really do, because they've been a big part of my life. I've had self-hatred since I was a teenager, and I no longer have that, I'm free of it.
"It took a long time to get free of it, to seriously work on myself. I meditate every day, I've changed my lifestyle - I don't drink, my diet is different, just generally healthier. It just takes a lot of work but I now feel like it is a new phase of my life."
He takes a moment to reflect on his old and new self.
"Anything's possible," he offers. "And it might not have come across because I really love playing gigs. Whatever I felt like in my life, I'd always find playing onstage so much fun, and now I feel like I'm going to go on tour and actually have a life on tour, where I go out in the daytime!
"Rather than just spend the whole time in my hotel room with the curtains closed. That's not my life anymore, my life is so much freer and more full of light."
We never really stop and think about the frontman, though, do we?
"Yeah, why would you though, really?" he laughs.
"It's not an essential ingredient, to think about what anybody is going through on stage. When you go to a gig, you're thinking about what you're feeling, and so you should be.
Clip via Snow Patrol
"I would rather nobody thought about what I was going through on stage. Most of the time, I'm just having a ball. Sometimes, playing a song for the first time... playing 'Life on Earth' for the first time, that song took five years to write from start to finish.
"I wrote the chorus in 2013 and I finished the song last year, so playing it live for the first time was an extraordinarily emotional moment for me, and at the end of the song, I just allowed myself time to let it all sink in. It was a beautiful moment for me, and I'm glad that the people at the gig let me take a minute."
Wildness is out this Friday 25 May on Universal Music Ireland