Gary Lightbody: On My Culture Radar
Snow Patrol singer on why Dave Chappelle is a modern day hero and what makes Melvyn Bragg’s podcast stand out
Gary Lightbody (left) with his Snow Patrol bandmates: the group headlines Malahide Castle, Dublin on June 7th
Current favourite book
Right now, I’m reading Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, which is staggeringly good. I’ve cried so many times reading it and laughed a few times too.
Butler’s turn of phrase is extraordinary, he’s one of those people that can make you weep just with their use of language. It’s about four friends from a small town in Wisconsin who reunite, and it tells their childhood through current events. It’s easy to relate to: a small-town childhood, friends growing apart as adults, and the fact you’re always seeing them as that kid you knew.
I’m sure a lot of my childhood friends find it hard to think of me as an adult. We behave badly as kids because we’re testing boundaries, and we behave badly as adults because we’re drunk. There are parallels between the two.
Nathan [Connolly, Snow Patrol’s guitarist] and I co-own La Taqueria in Belfast along with the chef Andy Rea, but Mourne Seafood Bar in Belfast is the reason I got to know Andy in the first place. He’s the owner and chef there, and his food is so good. You can tell how much of an extraordinary guy he is by the way he cooks his food, so much love goes into it.
Dave Chappelle is head and shoulders above everybody else. Most comedians take a year to hone an hour, and then perform that hour in a special, but he did four hours in the space of 12 months. He’s just the sharpest, funniest, most relevant comedian. I hope he doesn’t go back to being low-key, like after that burst of pressure from Chapelle’s Show. He needs to give us his extraordinary view on everything because times are odd right now.
I went to see my friend Tara Summers in Ink on Broadway when I was in New York a few weeks ago. She was amazing, and it was a phenomenally well-written play about Murdoch starting News of the World, and therefore starting his media empire.
It was a moment in time that showed us the beginnings of the misinformation that’s so rife at the moment. Bertie Carvel, who played Rupert Murdoch, was extraordinary. He also played Jonathan Strange in a BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell a few years ago, so as soon as he came out on stage, I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s this guy’.
John Simpson designed the [2011 album] Fallen Empires cover for us, and while I don’t collect art – I don’t know enough about it – he’s the dominant force on the walls of my place. Everything of his has a connection to nature. There are wolves and lions, and I have a full-size 7ft charcoal drawing of a bear in my front room. Yet there’s something gentle, noble, and connected about his pieces. They’re easy works to fall in love with.
The album that’s dominated my life for the last two years is Go Farther in Lightness by Gang of Youths, an Australian band. As far as I’m concerned, in the last 20 years, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit was the high watermark of lyricism so it’s the greatest compliment I can give to say the lyrics are within touching distance of him. On this tour, we play two songs from the album before we go onstage every night. That lead singer is a sexy beast as well.
I listen to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time every week. Melvyn Bragg is to the English language what Sir David Attenborough is to wildlife. I listen to a lot of podcasts and most of them have two people who research a lot and tell you the story of their topic.
But Melvyn brings in experts who have studied that week’s topic their whole lives – whether it’s science, religion, history or politics – so you feel like you’re hearing something you can totally trust at a time when that’s not easy. I’m riveted every week.
I could answer this question with three words, but I haven’t watched the last season of that show yet, so I’m doing a very good job of avoiding all spoilers so far. Otherwise, the OA on Netflix is the best show on TV. It’s mind-bending, brave, visionary, and brilliantly written and executed.
It keeps you guessing so you never feel comfortable. It keeps cropping up things you can’t predict, and that’s the mark of greatness. We think we all know it all these days, but this proves you can’t. It makes me glad to be human.
Snow Patrol headlines Malahide Castle, Dublin on June 7th