GARY Lightbody could be forgiven for taking success for granted.

After all, over the past 25 years, his band Snow Patrol have sold more than 17 million albums and well over a billion global track streams. Five of their LPs have gone platinum and they have pocketed an Ivor Novello award and Grammy and Mercury Music Prize nominations. Oh, and their hit Chasing Cars has been declared the most played song on UK radio so far this century.

But this gentle and softly-spoken musician is resolutely down to earth. He talks about the years of struggle to get noticed, dedication to his craft and delight that fans still appreciate his music.

“You do it for the sake of the music and the thing you love,” says the 43 year-old native of County Down, Northern Ireland, who this Saturday brings his band to the New Theatre Oxford.

“My ego was big in the early days, but when you think things are not going to happen, your ego gets worn away. It’s not about fans and there was no glory involved, just the question of whether you want to make music or not.”

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The show is part of the band’s Reworked tour, which sees them celebrating their quarter century by playing reimagined versions of tracks from their catalogue, as well as new songs from their fresh Reworked album.

“We did it before live and it worked really well, so this time round we are reworking more stuff live.

“Everything is different to how it was on the original albums.”

For a band used to playing huge arenas, the New Theatre is a relatively intimate venue, but he says, the size of venue suits the reworked material.

“When we did this last time we did it as a theatre show too, and put on longer shows than we normally do,” he says.

“Arenas are great, and we’ll do that next time, but getting to play places we’ve not played in a while – like Oxford – is amazing.

“These shows are more intimate; it’s nice to play different sized venues.

“We played Oxford a lot in the first 15 years but not so much since.”

The album follows the release, last year, of Wildness, their first studio album in seven years. It reached No 2 in the UK album charts and went gold in the process.

They have certainly come a long way since their 1998 debut, Songs for Polarbears, though Gary insists they are still the same band who toiled away in dingy pub back rooms in their early days.


Gary Lightbody.

“Artistically our root mindset is as a three-piece obsessed with American indie-rock,” he says. “We learned how to write a tune and it all happened very naturally. We just evolved a little at a time.”

So does this tour represent a return to their roots? “No this is very different; this is more refined,” he says.

“Back then it was very ramshackle. We weren’t even playing to full rooms then. We did gigs in the early days to one person – and the average would be 20 to 40 people for many, many years.

“It seemed to happen so quickly from 2004 onwards, but we spent years of being a very small band before that. As we got bigger and bigger, though, we never stopped touring. There was no time to think ‘this is interesting’... we were always moving.

“Now we have got a chance, 25 years in, to look back without being too self-indulgent.

“All these versions have something new to give; we are not doing lazy acoustic versions – though we have done that many times!”

He adds: “They are all very different to the originals. Doing it this way changes the meaning of the songs a little bit – you just have to see whether they work.”

He said the idea for the Reworked versions came while touring. He says: “I had the idea of doing it and putting a few EPs out but [bandmate] Johnny McDaid said ‘let’s do something more ambitious’.

Songs from the first Reworked EP include versions of Crack The Shutters, Chocolate, and Open Your Eyes, and new song, Time Won’t Go Slowly.

“We did it on the road... we managed to find an extra day between Sunday and Monday! We just cut back on the rock & roll!” he laughs.

So are they usually raucous on tour? Gary dismisses the suggestion, but chuckles: “In the early days there were plenty of rock & roll moments,”

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So how have they managed to keep on going? “I’m not sure,” he admits.

“Some part is just bloody mindedness and endurance.

“Many times on any given day during the first 10 years, the right thing to do would’ve been to stop.

“Our parents and friends would’ve said that anyway. But obviously your parents always want you to get a proper job when you’re not getting any money. They still do!”

“But it all comes down to having a supportive relationship in the band. We love each other and touring together and making music together. Though any band that has been around as long as we have, will have had bumps in the road.”

The new versions and tour are a neat way of celebrating a band at the peak of their creative abilities as well as marking the milestone of 25 years together.

“It’s more of a history of the band,” says Gary. “It’s like doing a ‘Best Of’ but giving the fans something new.”