Noel Gallagher is roughly halfway through making his third Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album and so far, he’s fairly satisfied with the material that’s been flourishing in recent studio sessions. As a songwriter, Gallagher is approaching the creation of this new album in a way he’s not done before – entering the process empty handed with no songs written in any form, instead writing with a producer in studio as they go along. Admittedly, it’s also frustrating the shit out of him.
“It’s slow going and I am a very, very impatient man.” Gallagher says. “If I have a thought, a minor whim, I have to act on it that instant and see it through it’s logical conclusion. With this record, there’s a lot of ideas still up in the fucking air floating around which is really, really beginning to annoy me. I’m going to fucking soldier on, I’m not going to fucking complain. I’m going to soldier on for the kids, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The new record, following on from 2015’s successful Chasing Yesterday, has seen Gallagher force himself to embrace the unknown and trust his songwriting abilities more, now that’s he flying blind through the making of the album in some ways. The plan is going well at this stage and even as he takes some time out his schedule to chat about his upcoming Australian tour, the excitement with which Noel speaks when referring to his recent sessions brings us back to this idea of, arguably, one of the most influential songwriters of the Britpop era still finding ways to challenge himself and learn more about hit writing style.
“The greatest strength this record has is also its greatest weakness.” he says of this particular creative approach he’s currently in the midst of. “We [he and his producer] made a promise to each other not to write any songs, just to come to the studio with nothing. We’d throw ideas out there and then we could bounce ideas and write – it’s something I’ve never done before. The part I don’t like about that is that you never really know what the fuck is going on from one day to the next. Usually, I’ll go to the studio with 30 songs, I’ll record them all and I know what it’s going to sound like. I pick the best and pick a flow to the album. I’m halfway through this record and I don’t have a fucking idea how it’s going to end up! Not the faintest idea. I don’t know what the next seven songs are going to be like because I haven’t written them yet.”
“It’s made me more confident in my own abilities, if I was ever lacking confidence!” he laughs. “Every time I’m halfway through an album, every time I’ve ever been halfway through an album, I know exactly what it’s going to sound like. With this, I have no fucking idea. That in itself is great though, because it’s really exciting to not know what you’re coming up with until you’re coming up with it. Those flashes of inspirations. Songs that, as they’re being written, are constantly changing and you’re constantly writing new bits and going, ‘Well if I do that bit there, then that bit’s got to change’. I’ve written seven songs, five of which have been recorded. I would say there’s still a tiny bit of work to do on those five but nothing major. I’d say I’m halfway there; I’ve got another seven songs to write and then I’m fucking done.”
The process has also made Gallagher more confident in the importance he always applied to the crafting of his songs, whether they have been on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds or Be Here Now. Even now, 20 years after the release of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Gallagher owns every bit of his work; each word, good or bad, they all make up the wider story that he won’t shy away from being associated with, career-wise.
“This whole thing has reaffirmed my belief in something that I always thought anyway: it’s the songs that matter.” he says. “If you’ve been lucky enough to happen upon batches upon batches of songs that people have taken into their lives, then the rest of it doesn’t matter. You can only overthink it and make it shit anyway, you know? You just have to get up and do your best. I’m not the greatest singer in the world and I’m not the greatest guitarist in the world. I’m not the greatest lyricist and I’m not the greatest songwriter, but I’m really fucking good at being me. Starting out on this journey, if indeed it is a journey, I thought, ‘Well that’ll have to do’. If people want to come and see me, well there’s nobody better at being me than me, surely! Who’s better than me?”
Since Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was embraced as a fully fledged project of Gallagher’s and not simply a knee-jerk reaction of a solo outing in the wake of Oasis‘ disbandment, his work has continued to gain more traction with a wider fan base around the globe. As this feature goes live, the band has already been named on this year’s Coachella line up, Lollapalooza Brazil, Chile and Argentina, not to mention locking down headline spots at Kendal Calling, the Victorious and Y Not festivals in the UK later on in the year. The singer and guitarist lets slip that while the upcoming Australian shows surrounding this year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest will differ from those UK fans will have witnessed recently, the essence of the High Flying Birds shows as they have been rolling out through 2015 until now remains as passionate as ever.
“I beg your pardon?” Gallagher mocks, talking about the eclectic nature of this year’s Bluesfest. “I’m one of the foremost prominent blues artists of all time, I fucking am! I fucking tell you what, Eric Clapton‘s got nowt on me. The gigs are going to be great though, what can I say? I’m very much looking forward to it, I know it’s going be great. They’re going to be slightly different from the UK gigs because I’ve jigged the set around a little bit. All I can say is, fucking prepare to be dazzled!”
Unsurprisingly, the pressure that may surround a musician stepping out from under the cloak of a famous band in subsequently writing and releasing their own material has never been a factor when it’s come to any Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds material – this new album included. It would seem that this invigorated and fiery formula Noel has struck up on stage through recent tours has married perfectly with the new ethic he’s feeling out within the writing process. Forever not giving a fuck about what people think, Gallagher is still humble enough to comment on how quick he was to realise that other people’s opinions aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to producing music you, as an artist, are proud of.
“I don’t really get excited about projects when I’m on them,” he admits. “It’s just a thing you do. The end results are good, so that’s the main thing. I felt it [weight of expectation] once, after trying to follow up (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? In hindsight, I felt I struggled a bit with that. After that, it’s not really bothered me. If we take my solo thing in isolation, then not in the slightest. In this game or this particular field, you could make this job as difficult or as easy as you’d like.”
“You can overthink virtually everything,” he says. “What fucking shoes you’re wearing, how your hair looks, what cereal you’re fucking eating, whether you’re too fat, to whether the songs are any fucking good. You can drive yourself mad or you can just do what you fucking do and let the people decide. I’ve always made records, I’ve put them out and I don’t give a fuck what journalists say about it. I truly don’t give a fuck. If the people like it, let’s go on tour. If they don’t like it, let’s not go on tour. That’s it.”
Focusing on the success of Chasing Yesterday in particular and comparing it to the band’s eponymous 2011 debut, Gallagher comments on the momentum Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds generated and continued to grow with the release of last year’s album, adamant he didn’t expect the project to take off as quickly or in the form it has, especially following the break up of Oasis.
“What can I say?” he says. “I never expected it. When I left Oasis and I had that two years away, I didn’t do anything. I was sitting around and I wasn’t really thinking about doing anything; I’d left one of the biggest bands of all time and I was glad to be out of it, I was enjoying the rest. Once I decided that I was going to make a record, when I finished that record, I knew that record was great. I knew that first record, that sitting beside any of the Oasis albums I’d ever made, could stand the test of time.”
“On the day that it was released, it was just a case of taking it from there, you know? This record [Chasing Yesterday] followed that one and the one I’m making now follows that. I don’t think of myself as a solo artist or an ex-member of Oasis – I’ve just grown into this now and it’s only going to get better from here on in. I think I’m making up for lost time; I wasted a lot of fucking time pissing about over the last ten years! I’m making up for lost time and I’m enjoying it and the people are enjoying it, that’s the main thing.”
Releasing music in a climate that possibly relies more on imagery than it has done in previous years, Gallagher has managed to remain outside the circle of the spotlight chasing, the sometimes humorous and oftentimes aggravating, lamenting the need to emerging bands to be constantly selling themselves perhaps more than their music.
“Young bands reflect my opinion of young people in general,” Gallagher deadpans. “They’re cocksuckers. Apart from the young people who come to my gigs, who are amazing, everybody outside of that is a bellend. Particularly the boys. They are particularly…bellend-ish. Yes, that’s the word I was looking for.”
But for all the quips and ‘classic’ Gallagher lines the Oasis legend doles out, Noel’s no-bullshit tone becomes even more sincere when he comments on the effect a solid live show has on him, as much as they evidently have on audiences around the globe. Forget about the imagery, forget about the pretence – that one of a kind live energy a rock band can bring to a theatre, festival stage or club (no matter how established or dingy) is what keeps Gallagher doing what he does – aside from satisfying his own musical itch, of course.
“You know, you as a journalist…there’s a lot of words written and for me as an artist, I say a lot of words – really, they’re all irrelevant.” he says. “People listen to the records at home, that’s great, they’ve paid the money for it and they have an opinion of it, but what really matters is the night in the venue, in the crowd. When we’re all together and we’re all having same feeling. Isn’t it fucking special? If it feels like you should be somewhere else, then you should be somewhere else. If it feels like it’s the centre of the universe, then fucking God bless it, man. I just live for those nights, you know?”
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds hit Australia next month for a run of headline theatre dates as well as Bluesfest. Grab your tickets via Live Nation:
March 26th | Hordern Pavilion, SYDNEY
March 27th | BYRON BAY BLUESFEST
March 29th | Margaret Court Arena, MELBOURNE
March 30th | Entertainment Centre Theatre, ADELAIDE
April 1st | Crown Theatre, PERTH