Interview with Tom Simpson of Snow Patrol
Snow Patrol is back with their fourth studio release, Eyes Open, which is the group’s first without co-founder Mark McLelland. Last year, the band declared longtime touring keyboardist, Tom Simpson, an official member of the group. Simpson talked to Bullz-Eye via email about the new album, guest vocalist Martha Wainwright, and what it’s like opening for U2.
Bullz-Eye: Creatively, Eyes Open is a good follow-up to Final Straw. What are some of the less obvious challenges of following up a hit album?
Tom Simpson: The real challenges for us were musical. We needed to become better players and not 'barely getting away with it'. Personally, I had to swallow some pride and send myself back to school to take on classical piano lessons and even Johnny (Quinn), one of the most solid drummers I've met, took some drum lessons. I think we were all focused on making a better record than Final Straw, and we couldn't let lack of abilty stand in the way.
BE: If Final Straw represents you spilling your guts, what does Eyes Open represent?
TS: Putting them back in again? No, it represents a move forward.
BE: Your new bassist, Paul Wilson, has been in the band for over a year now – how is writing and recording different with him (than it was with Mark McLelland)?
TS: I wouldn't feel comfortable comparing Paul and Mark, that's not fair. Paul is a great all-around musician and brings a lot to the band in terms of music and personality.
BE: What are some pros and cons to opening for U2?
TS: The whole U2 experience was amazing, if a little hazy. One side of the coin, you're overawed by the sheer scale of the production and the other side, intrigued and fascinated in seeing how it all comes together. Also to see how they (U2) handled themselves and how they coped and ultimately achieved filling vast stadiums with sound. The only downside is you have to remember that U2 fans are diehard and sometimes only there for the main course. Sometimes when there just any room for a starter, well, you know yourself.
BE: Please relate any memories you have of the writing and recording of the following songs: (Note: I listed four songs from the band’s catalog, which received the following blanket response)
TS: It's difficult to remember any particular song but easier to remember the process as a whole because some songs were taken to a point and left and then returned to later. My favorite part about the whole experience of recording was the constant activity in every room available. There was always something going on, Garret (Lee, our producer) always had us on our toes. It was a great moment in time for all of us.
BE: What led you to bring Martha Wainwright in for “Set the Fire to the Third Bar”?
TS:. We all love “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” (from Wainwright’s eponymous 2005 debut) and think she has one of the most unusual voices around. Towards the end of recording, Gary had written with a duet with her voice in mind (I think Garret, our producer and he, had been talking about the possibility). After that, it was a case of calling the relative people and leaving it in the hand of the Gods. Fortunately, she liked the song and by chance happened to be in Dublin at the time, and agreed to it. It resulted in one of the highlights of the record.
BE: That’s all I have. Any last words?
TS: (This question left blank)