Kodaline: I know, particularly among lads, there is still this attitude to just soak things up and it will be grand. Still, you end up sitting on your issues and never speaking about them.
Alice Gee | 28/09/2022
When Kodaline stepped on stage in front of a sold-out crowd at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre in March, the Irish quartet felt a deep sense of renewal of their friendship, brotherhood, and musical community. After two years of pandemic-related isolation from each other, they also felt a tremendous sense of release and relief that the dedicated audience they had meticulously built since 2011 was still alive and ready for more.
That sense of release is one that runs throughout the band’s new stripped-down album Our Roots Run Deep. Compiled of 17 live tracks, the album is Kodaline’s debut on their new label Fantasy Records. It features a combination of their most well-loved songs and three brand new covers. HATC got to sit down with lead singer Steve Garrigan and delve into the creation of this new work and what they’ve planned for the future.
Our Roots Run Deep is a bit of a departure from Kodaline’s back catalogue. What led you down this road of trying something different and testing the water with a stripped-back sound?
Yeah, this new album is live and acoustic, which is a significant departure from playing as a full band. Still, usually, when we start writing songs, they are very stripped down. I typically write on a piano in a studio. The guys will sing some harmonies, so they usually start with just one or two instruments. Then we start adding the bigger production elements because that’s what we need for touring.
So we always had this idea in the back of our heads to do a tour where we do it all acoustic and stripped down. I suppose because of COVID we were itching to do something because we were home and separated for so long. So when we decided to start a new project, it was, at first, just going to be an acoustic tour. The idea was to record it, and capture the night as best we could, and then release it as an album came about later.
Once we had done a few earlier shows on the tour, we were blown away by the atmosphere and the crowd’s response, who sang along to every song. We wanted to capture that and have it reflected in the recordings. That’s why we made sure you could hear the crowd singing too. I hope that when people listen to it, they will feel like they’re at the gig too.
I’m a big fan of live albums, either live recorded or live streamed. There is a whole level of intimacy that you still get from listening to it. Wherever you are in the world, you still feel like you are there. I think that’s one of the best things you can do for fans: give them that intimacy if they weren’t there and also share the love with the ones who were by giving them their own space on the album. I hope they are excited to have their part of it, have their space in that memory and the intimacy with us. So far, the reception has been good, it’s something we are really proud of, and I’m excited to hear what people think of it.
The album features a collection of songs from across your previous three albums. What was the selection process like for the tracklist, and why those songs in particular?
Simply, they are just our favourites. They are some of our favourite songs that we’ve written in the past. The three covers are songs we have brought out now and again in the last couple of years, and we have really enjoyed playing them.
We first covered ‘Billie Jean’ years ago for BBC Radio 2. We were told we had to do a cover of a song, so I sat at the piano for like 5 minutes before we went on air. We tried to figure something out, singing along to different songs, and for whatever reason, I started singing ‘Billie Jean’. It’s an amazing song, incredibly written, and we got to do our version of it. We did it several times over the years at different gigs, and it just stuck in our setlists.
‘Dirty Old Town’ is kind of an unofficial Irish song. You could walk into any pub, watch any busker singing on the street and guarantee it will eventually start being sung. It’s so ingrained into the culture, and I love that. The last cover is Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring It On Home To Me,’ which, similarly to ‘Billie Jean,’ came about due to a radio thing. I was told to play a cover of one of my favourite songs. So I checked my iTunes - oh, that’s how you know I’m getting old - it’s called Music now, and that song was one of my most played. So we did a quick version of it on air. Again, it’s just stuck with us, and over the years, we have brought it out at different shows; we’ve even done it acapella with the crowd before.
You’ve had such massive success over the last nine years since the release of your first album, In A Perfect World, several successful albums, huge worldwide tours, and one of the most notable syncs on TV. Did you ever envisage it all when you started? Did you think you’d get to the point where your music would be heard everywhere?
No, I didn’t. I mean, I just love music. I love writing songs. It was only ever my dream to be able to write songs that people can connect with. I suppose that’s what any musician or songwriter dreams of in a way, and as long as you’re doing that, you hope for the best and see what happens. I never thought we’d be synced on a show as huge as Gogglebox - there must be a producer who loves us - and to be connected since the beginning, nearly ten years, that’s huge.
I have to pinch myself because our music pops up in the most random places, on TV shows, and in adverts, which has been done for the past few years. Coming up, I never really know what to expect or what’s around the corner. We just feel fortunate that our songs have been picked up like that, it’s amazing.
In the past, you’ve been extremely vocal about your experiences with your mental health issues, depression, and anxiety. Is being as open as you are about your struggles a benefit? Obviously, it is never easy, but have you found it brought you almost peace of mind?
It has done, yeah. My experience growing up is so different from what kids go through now. Anxiety and depression, and mental illness, in general, were never really spoken about, it was a completely shunned topic. So when I had my first panic attack at 19, I was ashamed of it. I never talked about it because I was afraid that my friends would see and treat me differently.
It took a while to learn that the best thing to do was to speak openly about it to your friends, family, a therapist or whoever you need to help yourself. Once I started talking about my issues, I found that many people around me also struggled with similar issues. I have friends with anxiety, OCD, and panic disorders, its incredibly common. But it is really refreshing to see that people have started to become more outspoken. I think that has, in turn, made people more compassionate as well, which is so important and so great to see change.
I go to therapy all the time. Actually, I haven’t been in a while, but I know I will be back at some stage. You know, I view it as if I’ve gone to the gym just for my mind. I have certain things that I look out for as a signal that I need to check in again, maybe. If I notice I’m starting to feel a lot more on edge or feel smaller waves of anxiety, I know what to do to help myself.
But the process is different for everybody, I know I’m still on that journey myself, only now I can talk more comfortably about any kind of anxiety or depression that I feel, which is good because even a couple of years ago, I wasn’t able to do that.
You released your first book, High Hopes, back in October of last year, where you talked about these struggles and vulnerabilities, how did that project start, and why did you decide to do it? Was it a daunting experience going through a lot of the past?
I started the book when I went back to therapy last year. It was just for me to be very open to myself. I suppose it was therapeutic, but it was also incredibly difficult at the same time. But I am better for it in the end, so yeah, it’s a nice milestone, in a way. It’s not something I ever thought I would do, but I was sitting at home. I thought, ‘well, I have nothing to lose,’ At the very least, people might resonate with it, and it may encourage others to speak up and go and seek help.
I know in Ireland, particularly among lads, there is still this attitude to just soak things up and it will be grand. Still, you end up sitting on your issues and never speaking about them. I have friends I have known for years who I never knew were struggling, but they read the book and told me it encouraged them to get help and thanked me for it. So although it was difficult for me to do, I’m glad I did it. It helped me for the better, and my main drive for it is that it starts to help other people too.
We know talking about these things can’t be easy. Some of our readers may not be at that stage yet, so we like to ask all our guests if they have found any helpful tips or coping mechanisms that help them in the darker times that they may be able to try out safely at home first.
My go-to is the gym and my diet. If I notice myself starting to not feel great, I’ll look at what I’m consuming and try to get it as clean as I can. I’m not obsessive or anything, but I’ll try to avoid alcohol and pizzas - you know, stuff like that. I’ll try and swap them out for healthier stuff and then incorporate the gym and meditation. I find it really helpful to reset myself when I’m feeling particularly anxious. Still, I’ll admit when I first started meditation, I couldn’t keep it up because I just wanted it to work instantly, but doing things in small doses consistently is the best way to get started. Wim Hof breathing, too, I got into that recently enough. I think it is known to be very useful for anxiety. In particular, it helps me in a similar way to meditation.
But honestly, talking to friends and therapy really is the most important and helpful thing for me - oh, and music, I do have a love/hate relationship with it, but at the end of the day, I always find myself sitting at a piano, zoning out and forgetting about it all.
The album Our Roots Run Deep is available to own, download and stream from October 14th at kodaline.com, including some exclusive limited edition coloured vinyl. High Hopes is also available to purchase now, both physically and digitally.
Words: Jade Poulters