Interview: Tom Simpson from Snow Patrol

posted July 7, 2006

by Corinne

Tom Simpson from Snow PatrolHow are you?

Thanks for asking, I'm very well

Care to introduce yourself?

My name is Tom [Simpson] and I play keys in the beat combo Snow Patrol.

How did you get involved in playing music?

I first became seriously interested in music in my mid teens when I had aspirations to become a scratch/mix DJ. Quite an unusual one if you consider where I was brought on the east coast of Scotland in the 80s. I met Gary about 10 years ago and we exchanged musical tastes and my interest in all music grew bigger. Someone put a synth in front of me and said, 'See how you get on with that' then flash-bang-wallop, what a picture.

The new album is called "Eyes Open." Does the title refer to anything in particular?

The thing with titles is they can mean everything and mean nothing at the same time. I'd like to think the title means looking at the world with 20/20 vision but maybe if you asked another member of the band he would have something different to add. I'd like to think that people will do the same thing.

You recently cancelled a couple of dates on your US tour because of singer Gary Lightbody having some voice problems. How is he doing? How will the tour be affected?

Whilst on tour in the US, Gary developed polyps on his vocal cords and lost the whole top range of his voice and in turn we had to reschedule the majority of the tour, which will recommence in September (some in August). Gary is doing well, he's in good shape and his voice is coming back slowly but surely.

Your last album, "Final Straw," was full of carefully crafted melodies and understated lyrics. To a certain extent, "Eyes Open" seems to keep with those ideas. What do you consider to be the difference between the two albums?

I think the main difference is, simply, confidence. On this record everyone pushed themselves musically and was more certain of their abilities and embraced their own understandings of music.

You have arranged quite a group of guests for "Eyes Open": Eugene Kelly, Ken Stringfellow, Martha Wainwright, among others. How did you get everyone involved?

Well Eugene lives round the corner from me and is always round my house stealing my booze so the he owed big time (a joke). Eugene and a few other members of the 'Reindeer Section' feature in the choir at various points in the LP, it just seemed fitting to have a Glasgow choir.

We met Ken at a couple of festivals when he was out playing with R.E.M (and we're all Posie fans) and asked him if he liked to get involved in some way. He agreed and he came to the studio for a day which was great, he's such an incredible player and you learn so much from being around him

As for Martha, we had been listening to her record for some time (as well as in the studio). We all love 'Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole' and think she has one of the most unusual voices around. Towards the end of recording, Gary had come up with a duet with her voice in mind (I think Garret, our producer, and he, had been talking about the possibility). After that, it was a case of calling the relative people and leaving it in the hand of the gods. Fortunately (it would be hard to imagine another voice it) she liked the song and by chance happened to be in Dublin at the time and agreed to it. It resulted in one of the highlights of the record.

Snow Patrol performed at last year's Live Aid concert. What did you take from the experience?

Looking back the whole experience is such a blur and was over in a instant. Nevertheless to be involved in an event such as Live 8 was such an honor for us and one that we all treasure. I have to say we felt a little out of our depths as Madonna's dancers pirouetted past us with and we were thrust out in front of literally millions. Nerve wracking? Oh yes. However, the most important thing was the statement of the day.

With the spread of music on the Internet these days, do you get the biggest support when you play shows at home, in Ireland, or elsewhere?

We're always going to have the biggest and most crazy shows in Ireland and Scotland as these are the places we live (3 parts Irish/2 parts Scottish). There is nothing quite like a home town show to remind you where your from and the Irish and Scots make the most noise by far. All the shows are unique in terms of crowd participation wherever we are but you've got to love the Celtic nations.

Name an underrated band you think deserves more attention.

I'm loving a new Glasgow band called 'Frightened Rabbit' at the moment, expect big things from them. Elbow are a stunning band that definitely deserve more, their LP from last year 'Leaders of the Free World' is something to behold.

What have you been listening to recently?

At the moment I'm listening to Frightened Rabbit, Elbow, Autolux, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Ladytron, Belle & Sebastian, The Egg, Justice, M83, Panico, MF Doom, Blackalicious, Sufjan Stevens, Minnie Ripperton, Sons & Daughters and other stuff that hasn't even been made yet.

If you could have written any song, what song do you wish you had written and why?

Anything by The Shins -- pure eloquence.

Thanks for your time!