Nathan Connolly, a Northern Irish musician, who is best known for being the lead guitarist and backing vocalist for alternative rock band Snow Patrol, chats with Kevin Cooper about coping with the lockdown, becoming a father, concentrating on a new Snow Patrol album and his first solo album, The Strange Order Of Things to be released in April 2023.

Nathan Connolly is a Northern Irish musician, who is best known as the lead guitarist and backing vocalist for alternative rock band Snow Patrol.

Prior to joining Snow Patrol he was a member of a band called File Under Easy Listening, who were managed by BBC Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray. Unfortunately, the band did not last long; the single Closure/Dryform was their first and only single.

Whilst working at HMV in Belfast he was introduced to the band, Snow Patrol, and he reluctantly agreed to join them. He became a permanent member of the band at the end of 2002 and his recruitment played a large role in shaping the band’s sound.

Connolly became the composer of the bands new material and Snow Patrol garnered a new record deal. They released their album, Final Straw in 2003, an album that proved to be the breakthrough for them. In 2013 he formed his own side project called Little Matador.

In late 2006 he announced that he was going to record a solo album. He will release that album called The Strange Order Of Things later this month.

Whilst busy promoting that album he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good Morning Nathan how are you?

Hi Kevin I’m doing good thanks for asking. How are you doing?

I’m doing very well thank you and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Its not a problem, thank you for taking an interest in what it is that I have been up to.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

What can I say; life at this moment in time is good. We have been busy, but I am just so excited to get this record out. It’s taken a while, so I am looking forward to a small break so that I can get stuck into the album release, and some rehearsals hopefully. Its nice to have a little time to lean into this album.

Just how did you manage to stay sane during lockdown?

Who said that I stayed sane (laughter). Snow Patrol had just finished playing a few shows during December and January, after being on tour for eighteen months, and I have to be totally honest with you and say that, at the start, the lockdown was a welcome break, other than the fact that there was quiet a lot of serious shit going on in the world. So, initially yes, the enforced relaxation was great, and I was very fortunate not to receive any bad news regarding members of my family; I didn’t have to go through anything as hard as that. I took the time to try and finish this record, and just kept writing lyrics, and to be fair I did manage to get a lot of music done. So, I kind of concentrated on that. Also, during that time my wife got pregnant so, as you can no doubt imagine, we had a massive shift in our lives with stuff like that which then kept us both focused, in a very positive way.

Congratulations on that, at least something good came of out lockdown for you and your wife.

Thanks Kevin, yes it did, and we were, and still are, so very happy.

Well, I suppose that we really should talk about the album hadn’t we (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) yes, I think that we had.

Well, I have to say that I have been playing it for the last couple of weeks and I love it. I think that it is a great piece of work.

That’s brilliant, thank you so much for saying so. For me, putting out a record as a solo artist really is an exciting time. Making the record really was a labour of love, and you are my second interview today and the reaction that people seem to be telling me, and what the record is receiving is really great. I don’t know if it is just a term, solo record, because for me it feels a little more; for me it certainly feels like a band record, but in reality, it is just me together with a few collaborators who I have worked with over the years (laughter). There is something maybe slightly more personal to take from it, and so far, that is all positive which makes everything a lot easier. So I really am glad that you enjoyed it.

I’m going to ask you the daft question now and ask you if you are happy with the album?

Absolutely, I’m actually happier more than I kind of hoped for as I went into it. I have talked about doing a solo album over the years. Even as far back as ten years ago I was saying, “perhaps I will make a solo record one day” (laughter). However, as things became more successful with Snow Patrol, there was less time, which was all brilliant, but I have to say that I think that these things happen when they happen. Maybe I was ready to make the album at this stage. You can talk about doing these things all you want and there is a safety in talking about them. However, trying to do it takes a hell of a lot more. So, in answer to your question, I am extraordinarily happy with the record. To have people like Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro play on the record really was a joy as well.

You have been active in the business for over twenty years, so I have to ask what was the catalyst behind you making the record now?

To be totally honest with you, I think that there were a few things; mainly and most importantly, I think that I was just ready. There were now, at this stage in my life, some things that I was now comfortable writing about, together with some things that I needed to write about. Next year I will have been a guitar player for Snow Patrol for twenty-two years, and I have been in bands for over twenty-seven years (laughter) when I joined my very first band as a guitar player, so obviously I have always leaned into that, that is my role, my position, to write songs or to add pieces to songs, from that point of view.

I tried writing lyrics once before with the Little Matador which was my very first side project but once again that was pretty much me in a band. So, I really wanted to see just what I was capable of and not just create, I wanted to see just what was coming out of my musical personality. Initially, I was literally going to try to do everything myself, but it turns out that I’m not a drummer, so I most definitely needed some help along the way (laughter). Having said that, it was always my intention to do that and for the most part I did. Being in a band for over two decades there comes a time when you are in that studio space on your own and I found myself trying to look for things for me to bounce off so eventually I kind of leaned into that (laughter).

As I have said earlier, it really is a solo record but sometimes you get lost in it whilst other people can bring something, as in this case, something absolutely magical to something that you might be struggling with, or something that I have lost sight of. Sometimes, it is far better to ask for help rather than banging your head against the wall. A prime example of that is Fires. I had ideas for the song, but I just didn’t think that they were very good (laughter). I kept going back to the song thinking ‘why’ (laughter).

It’s weird because sometimes there is always a song that you just seem to stumble on or get stuck at and when it came to the vocals on that song, I just didn’t believe what I was doing, I just didn’t connect with it, so I asked Simon for his input and hey presto, we finally had a song (laughter).

Now correct me if I am wrong but doesn’t the album title come from a book that you are currently reading entitled The Strange Order Of Things: Life, Feeling and the Making of Cultures by the author Antonio Damasio?

(Hysterical laughter) just who the hell have you been speaking to?

I could never reveal my sources (laughter).

Well, whoever they are, they have given you the correct information (laughter). The title of the album is the title of a book that I recently read. However, to be honest, some of the stuff on the album is stuff from the book, but it was also stuff that I was trying to write about, the stuff that I was focusing on, stuff like hurt, regret, changes, and fatherhood; all of these things and trying to make sense of it all. The Strange Order Of Things was the phrase that I kept going back to, trying to make sense of it all, and The Strange Order Of Things just said that so much more beautifully and encompassed all that I was thinking about rather than me trying to make sense of things.

Plus, it is most definitely a much better title for the album than what I was coming up with (laughter). I don’t know why but I kept on going back to that title; it just seemed to sum up collectively the songs, it seemed to encompass all of those things.

You know better than me that favourite tracks change almost every day, but at the moment I have got four go to tracks which are Ghost, Waves, Love Like Wildfire and This Life’s Light. I personally feel that those four tracks are fantastic.

Thank you so much. It is really interesting actually because so far, whilst I have only done a few interviews so far, you have given me four different tracks to the rest of the interviewers (laughter). I did an interview in Belfast just over a week ago now, and everyone was talking about Fires, but one of the interviewers’ favourite songs on the album was We, which is the song that I almost took off the record.


Yes, at the last minute I still wasn’t really sure about that particular track. We is the only song that isn’t directly from personal experience, as I was trying to think about snapshots and I was trying to think outwards rather than inwards. However, that journalist mentioned that track to me last week and today you have mentioned four totally different songs to everyone else and let me tell you, it is really interesting to hear. Believe me, it really is a good thing (laughter). So, thank you so much, that really is great to hear.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

Yes, I do, but as you have just said, these things change overnight (laughter). The good thing is that I have been living with the album for a while and I think it’s a lot longer than everyone else obviously, but Waves seems to come up a lot whenever I am speaking to people about the album. However, my personal favourite is Heart Of Stone. I have no idea why, so that’s a terrible answer, all of my other favourites will change as time goes by but Heart Of Stone will always be up there.

From writing to recording, how long did it take you to put the album together?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that it was five years. I started writing for the album roughly back in October 2017 but please don’t quote me (laughter). It started off with a few ideas, Ghost was one of the first songs that I wrote for the record, together with Night Songs. Both of those songs changed quite dramatically but I had the bones of the ideas for those songs. I literally started off with those two tracks. Then back in 2019 I never touched the album as I was out on tour with Snow Patrol so I kind of parked it.

So, for me, it was a kind of scattered process, but a really enjoyable one, for me to be able to tick, with hindsight, to be able to go away from it, come back with maybe clearer ideas, a clearer vision for the album rather than trying to throw it all together in a couple of months. I don’t want to sound too mystical about it, but I feel that every album has their kind of story, and part of the story is when and how and just how long it takes to be made. These are underlying, maybe not influences but the album was certainly affected by those things, and I think that this one was for the better.

You mention that you have lived with the album longer than most. Once it was finished can you walk away and leave it or are you a meddler?

(Hysterical laughter) well, what can I say, I’m getting pretty good at leaving it (laughter). To be honest with you I kind of think that it is usually about a year after the album is released that I have started to go, ‘oh yes, maybe we should have done that there’ but there does come a time when you can leave it alone, certainly with Snow Patrol records. I have done that because they are just what they are and you have to leave them alone. I have to say that leaving a record alone can be tricky sometimes. There are definitely songs or parts of songs where you will say,”yeah that could have been better” or “yes, we really should have done that there” but that is the thing about playing things live, you maybe get to change the songs a little, or you will try something different until you realise that it doesn’t work and you will go back to what you have got (laughter).

I have to say that I love the album artwork.

Thank you very much. The album artwork was done by an artist, who also happens to be a tattoo artist, whose name is Laura AE Taylor. Laura was born in Birmingham, raised in London, and now resides in California USA. She has actually tattooed me quite a few times now; I just love her art and the album artwork just felt right. Again, being a solo record and a part of those things, and more importantly, a part of my life, it just felt right to have Laura do the artwork.

You have a release date of Friday 21st April, and the album has been finished for a while. Are you now beginning to get nervous as to how the album will be received?

Yes, of course, there is always an element of that. With any record that we have released I suppose that there is comfort in numbers when you are in a band. Of course, opinions are both objective and subjective but there is something about the solo thing which I feel certainly has a little bit more pressure. I suppose that pressure comes with making the record, but yes there is a little more eeeeek emojis I suppose (laughter). I think that it is excitement, but with excitement there is also a bit of nerves. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not under the illusion that everyone is going to like the record, I’m just glad that some might. And speaking to people like yourself, it would appear that it is already connecting to people, and that, for me, means that the record is doing its job.

Will you tour the album?

I will, yes. I am actually just trying to figure that out at the minute. We are looking at touring the album sometime this summer. I would imagine that to start with there will be a handful of shows, if more come along great, but I have to say that we are also concentrating on a new Snow Patrol record this year as well, but I definitely want to play it live. With Snow Patrol we have already had a few rehearsals and we are going back to rehearse some more in the next month to try to figure out just how to do it (laughter). It was very much an album that was made in the studio. A lot of it was written in there, so it wasn’t as though it was rehearsed; we went in and played. But that’s fun as well, trying to make it work live, that’s part of the fun (laughter).

Are you already thinking about the follow-up album?

Yes, I kind of am. At the moment I don’t know whether that will be something different or maybe this album has opened me the doors to allow me, some time off from Snow Patrol, to make solo records, which I have to say would really be great. That is something that I really would like to do, as I mentioned to you before about Little Matador, I would love to make another album but that is all down to time. I guess that a solo record is far easier to do because it is all down to yourself and not trying to put a band together. I am always looking for the next project, but I think that the older that I am getting; I will enjoy the experience of this album being released, rather than missing that, which I have certainly done in the past. In the past it has been a case of, ‘that’s it, the album is out, lets tour it whilst thinking about the new album’ (laughter). You have to make sure that you make time to enjoy it too.

Testing your memory, what was the first record that you bought?

The very first record that I bought was Appetite For Destruction by Guns N’ Roses, back in 1987.

Who did you first see performing live?

That was Therapy, the Northern Irish band. I really loved their album Troublegum so they were the first band that I saw performing live.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That would probably have been something by Ludovico Einaudi or something along those lines. He did a series of recordings called Seven Days Walking. There are seven records, all variations of stuff and I find some of the stuff on there pretty emotive I have to say.

I couldn’t speak to you without mentioning Snow Patrol. Is all good on the Snow Patrol front?

Yes, all is good. As I mentioned we are focusing on a new album; we have started, so we are just trying to make sure that it’s right before we rush it out there. I have to say that I am excited by the songs for sure, and I have absolutely no idea when it will be out at this stage (laughter). We are hoping that it will certainly be sometime next year. That would be great.

On that point Nathan, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been a pleasure.

Thanks Kevin, you take care and speak again soon.