After taking the hard road to success, Maureen Coleman finds Snow Patrol are determined to help nurture new talent in a notoriously harsh industry. Their fledgling A&R company promises to be a complete breath of Polar-fresh air
With worldwide success under their belt, Snow Patrol has begun a new venture to help songwriting talent.
If there’s one band that knows about the rocky road to commercial success it’s Snow Patrol.
While the band’s last three albums have sold millions worldwide and their massive fanbase now stretches from Belfast Boston, life wasn’t always so rosy in the Snow Patrol camp.
Poor record sales, contractural disagreements and a meagre income for its members almost resulted in a parting of ways. At one stage, frontman Gary Lightbody was forced to sell off his music collection to pay the rent.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Snow Patrol struggled for almost a decade before their album Final Straw — the band’s first offering on Polydor Records — gained mainstream success.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that the band feels it is well placed to help other up-and-coming groups and artists hoping for a slice of the commerical pie.
To this end three of its members, Lightbody, drummer Jonny Quinn and guitarist Nathan Connolly — who all come from Northern Ireland — have formed a new publishing venture.
Entitled Polar Music (Snow Patrol’s original name was Polar Bear), the venture is independent of their deal with Universal Music Publishing and will be administered by the London-based Kobalt Music.
Polar Music aims to nurture new songwriting talent without the pressure of a long-term contract.
The trio will look after A&R duties and will not restrict themselves to one particular genre. As well as using their connections within the music industry to help their new signings with a leg-up, the company will also provide some financial assistance.
Jonny Quinn explains: “Basically we intend to sign up new song-writing talent for a year, for a one-album deal. We don’t want to tie anyone into a five-album deal because we went through that ourselves.
“We’re calling it a development deal, there will be an advance, but it won’t be huge. We’ll also use our connections to make things happen.
“We don’t mind what genre of music it is, as long as it’s good, be it folk, dance, country or indie. We’ve no idea how many we’ll sign up at this stage, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Polar Music’s first signing is Londonderry-born singer/songwriter Johnny McDaid, formerly of Northern Ireland outfit Vega4.
The 32-year-old, who recently provided vocals for superstar German dance producer Paul Van Dyk at Planet Love in Co Antrim, has already written material with Lightbody.
Finding suitable co-writes for McDaid is a priority now. “We knew Johnny from his days in Vega4, they were under the same management as us” says Quinn.
“He’s currently working with Paul Van Dyk on a finale song for the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, which is going to be huge. We believe in him as a songwriter.”
Then there’s also the small matter of the band’s North American tour to deal with.
Lightbody, Connolly and Quinn — along with the other two members of Snow Patrol, Tom Simpson and Paul Wilson — are currently off supporting U2 in the States, before carrying on with their own headlining shows there.
The band is also releasing their new album Up To Now, featuring a collection of their best-loved songs. This will be preceded by a single on November 2, Just Say Yes.
“We’ll be in the States for six weeks but we’ve had a good rest in the run-up to this leg,” reveals Quinn.
“Then we’re back to the UK and Ireland for some more shows towards the end of the year.”
The band is breaking with tradition with its upcoming Reworked tour, which takes in three shows at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast in December.
Instead of rocking out the venue with the big well-known hitters, Snow Patrol will “rework” their songs — with strings, brass and a selection of friends.
Quinn explains: “We did the Jo Whiley Little Noise Sessions at Union Chapel where we got a load of musicians together to play an acoustic set.
“There were about 15 or 16 of us and a few of our friends who came to see us thought it was amazing. We decided then it would be a nice way to do some shows, so we’re going to play to a seated audience and our songs will be rearranged with strings and brass.
“In fact some of our fans may not even recognise the songs until they get to the chorus.”
A number of Snow Patrol’s good friends, including Iain Archer, Miriam Kaufmann and Johnny McDaid, will join them on stage as well as several members of Mercury Music Prize winners Elbow.
Jonny says: “It’s going to be great fun doing the Reworked shows and we’re really looking forward to the Waterfront Hall.
“We’ve a few other gigs coming up as well in Castlebar and Killarney, which we don’t normally get the chance to play.
“After the US tour it’ll be back home for rehearsals then straight into the Reworked tour.
“It’ll be the perfect way to end the year.”
Snow Patrol play the Waterfront Hall, in Belfast, on December 7, 8 and 9