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Hannigan has admitted one song on Passenger, 'Little Bird', was inspired by her break-up with Rice.
Hannigan met Rice during Fresher’s Week when they were both at Trinity College. The pair played their first gig at Whelan’s, throughout which she stood petrified, three feet from the mic, her head down and thumbs through the hooks of her skirt.So then I sorted of dusted myself off and then got my record together,” she said.That album, Sea Sew, earned her Choice Music Prize and Mercury Prize nominations and she followed it up with the chart topping Passenger.“For the ten years before Run I used to think, ‘If only we could have a hit, then everything would be okay.’ Then we did and I was like, ‘Why has nothing changed? That yo-yoing between the two means you’re never fully peaceful.” Where does it come from, that self-loathing he talks about? A teenager, when the hormones kicked in and I started feeling things, in the way teenagers do. Lightbody already had a side project going with members of REM, the country-tinged supergroup Tired Pony. I had always been warned against that by my father and my friends. It was horrible to go a day without drinking.” The feelings he had suppressed for years surged up to overwhelm him and Lightbody admits that he lost the will to live. I was drinking because I was unable to write and I was probably unable to write because I was drinking, so this snake was eating its own tail and I fell into this cycle of self-loathing compounded by my own actions.” He thought about “not existing” – but had not got as far as working out how to actually end his life when a nasty infection gave him a jolt. And he did the CT scan again and it was clear.” The song Heal Me on the new album is dedicated to Gabrielle. They talk about not making any big life decision within the first two years of your recovery and I’m still within that framework. I think that’s probably a good benchmark, before making any significant changes in my life.” So come June, romantically, he will be open for business again? “So we went out and got drunk together and we had a really good laugh. ’ That’s how we became fast friends.” Did Lightbody get the tattoo? “After the gig they would go to the hotel room to write songs together and they would always ask me ‘Do you want to come? The new album features proper big Snow Patrol blockbusters like Life On Earth and Empress but there are also haunting ballads, including one called Soon. “He was diagnosed three years ago but he was showing signs long before that. Maybe there’s something of my childhood in there.” And he’s come full circle, because after all these years Lightbody is living in Northern Ireland again. When I finally bought a house there, in my thirties, I fell deeply in love with the place again. We punch well above our weight in sport, in music, culturally, all the art forms. I didn’t understand what was going on in Northern Ireland. He moved to Los Angeles to try to break into the movies. I went into movie studios for meetings, not realising that’s the perfect way to get nothing done in LA. “The whole record would never have happened without her. I wouldn’t be here.” Is this a romantic attachment? It’s funny, that night he was just starting to get into tattoos, he had a few but not the way he is now. ’ Sometimes I would go and most of the time I didn’t. I can’t wait to sing it live.” Will that be difficult? He’ll be there.” Lightbody’s eyes start to fill up as he recalls the last time he sang in front of his father – and 50,000 other people – in Dublin a few years ago. The feeling of sadness that I’m having right now is the feeling that I was having then, until he said that and then I just laughed and laughed.” Is he worried for himself? That’s where the line in the song comes in: ‘Soon you’ll not remember anything. We are a very small country that gives a lot out into the world and it’s something to be very proud of.
“You can’t stop anything, you have to keep moving and it’s all organised a long way in advance. Everybody was like, ‘I just want to see the finish line, I don’t care about anyone else.’ It became a toxic environment.” Yes, but they were superstars: himself, the guitarists Nathan Connolly and Johnny Mc Daid, the bass player Paul Wilson and the drummer Johnny Quinn were at the top of their game.