“How can I be drowning in the fires?” asks the single, ‘Fires’, from, Snow Patrol guitarist, Nathan Connolly’s debut album. The oxymoronic lyrics point to an emotional turmoil that is at the centre of the primary themes of The Strange Order of Things – heartache, regret and the emotional cost of not letting go. Set to be released on April 21st, the album is a decade in the making.
“I’d been talking about it for 10 years. It was a conversation had on tour buses and in pubs. It’s easy to talk about your ideas,” says Connolly, in a phone call with BathTime. “I guess the idea or urge got stronger over time, but the reason to make it now was that I was ready. There were things I wanted to write about, things I wanted to say, and I wanted to lead the way with how it sounded.”
Having gone from band member to solo artist, Connolly remains humble about his role in the album’s creation. He quickly remarks on the collaborative aspects of recording – Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro and Ailbhe Reddy lend their voices to some of the songs, while frequent collaborators, Dave and Herb Magee, Gavin Fox (all three of Little Matador) and Stephen Leacock (General Fiasco) are featured on guitar and drums. “I missed bouncing ideas off of each other… I suppose, after 20 years in a band, [collaborating] is part of my DNA.”
Nevertheless, Connolly rises to the challenge of making a solo album. Lyrics and music are both written by Connolly, despite lyrical composition being a muscle he rarely uses, “The music comes easily so I enjoyed the challenge of getting out what I wanted to say as well.” He also discusses the greater responsibility he felt on this album, “Every band has its own dynamics – in Snow Patrol, almost all songs start with Gary [Lightbody], but this starts with me.”
In this sense, Connolly feels it was better that the album took so long to make, “I made the record over enough time that I had perspective on it.” Much of the album was written during the first lockdown, as Snow Patrol were forced into a hiatus. This, of course, affects the album. “Nothing on there is about lockdown, but it allowed me the space and time to reflect and look at the emotional cost that not letting go takes. There was time to lean into that and the reality of mortality.”
With the end of lockdowns, musicians have been able to tour again. Though there are currently no plans to perform in Bath, Connolly looks forward to doing so. “I love Bath. It’s a great city. I’ve played Komedia before with Snow Patrol. I would love to perform in the city again.” When he does, Connolly looks forward to playing ‘Heart of Stone’, “It’s a particular favourite. ‘Waves’ and ‘Night Songs’ would also be interesting, as they’re a little different.”
Speaking on the album, he says he is interested in seeing how audiences react holistically. “When I’ve shared it with friends, everyone has a different favourite song. It’s interesting seeing what people connect to.” Despite this, it is ‘Fires’ that Connolly would pick to be covered by an X-Factor Winner should the show ever return – this would be the second of his songs to be covered, with Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’ becoming Leona Lewis’s winning single. It is an interesting choice, given the similarities between the songs. Both ‘Run’ and ‘Fires’ centre on the precarious line between protecting ourselves and protecting those we refuse to let go. They both cover what it means to love something to the point where it is unclear exactly how far you would go to keep it safe.
These themes are also alluded to by the album’s name. The Strange Order of Things appears as only a single lyric in the music itself, but Connolly felt it was the only choice for his debut record. “It encompasses everything I was writing about. As soon as I wrote it, I knew it was the right title. I was trying to make sense of the recent history of my life and this title spoke to me on that.”
The Strange Order of Things will be released on April 21st and is available to pre-order now.