About a year ago we had the idea of setting up a music centre in Belfast called "Oh Yeah!". We wanted a place with a recording studio, rehearsal rooms, a live venue, offices for music-related businesses and a café - a place that Belfast sorely needs to cement the flourishing music scene, in our new atmosphere of peace and prosperity . . . Having come up against various funding obstacles, I decided to get in touch with Peter Hain, a fan of the band and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to see if he could open some doors for us.
The others were smartly dressed, but I looked like a vagrant and was sure I'd be detained under the new Prevention of Making the Place Look Untidy Act. Our party of four arrived at Whitehall and was ushered in through the back door. The meeting went well. He and his staff had done their homework, and Peter quoted facts and figures from memory about tiny details.
We're encouraged. The pipe dream we had not a year ago could be up and running and nurturing the musical lives of young people in Northern Ireland this year.
Excited - but can't say why
Our producer, Garret "Jacknife" Lee, has a studio on the side of his house. It's where the demos for Eyes Open and the vocals on the record were recorded. When I have any time off in the area, I go down to his house to write and to relax with him and his lovely family.
On this occasion we had to do a little work on a few tracks for a film. I can't tell you what yet, but I will say this: it's something that would've made the eight-year-old me very happy indeed. And the 30-year-old is pretty excited, too.
Too many awards
You cannot fail to have fun in Dublin, where we went for the Meteor Irish Music Awards. Yes, the city has got more crowded and yes, there are stag/hen parties to dodge, but we've been playing there for more than a decade and have made many friends. There's always something secret, exhilarating or even tawdry going on, and we get to hear.
This year at the Meteors (Ireland's biggest music awards) there were performances from Kaiser Chiefs, Pussycat Dolls, Westlife (naturally) and the Feeling. We were up for four awards and walked away with all four. This was a bit embarrassing - mainly because 2006 was a great year for Irish music, with stunning records from David Kitt, Duke Special (2007 will be his year), the Frames, the Republic of Loose, the Immediate, Desert Hearts, Jape, Fionn Regan, Iain Archer, Kowalski and many more.
It would've been better to share the spoils. But, as predicted by Nostradamus 500 years ago, "on the third day of the second month of the 2,007th year Snow Patrol will get lashed in Dublin and dance crazy". Can't argue with fate.
Back on the bus
We're back on tour, in Germany. There's something disorientating about the first morning waking up on the tour bus. There is an acute sense of having been buried alive. When you do get your bearings and squirm your way out of your bunk, you're met with further obstacles. Me being six foot four and the bus ceiling being five foot ten is the first of these. After a night of bouncing around in a bunk along the highways and byways of western Europe, there's nothing like a good stretch. Inevitably, I knock myself out on the roof with this action, finally achieving the dreamless night's sleep I've been craving.
Using the bus's toilet is a further delight. It's not built with the taller gentleman in mind, and confounds male human biology. First, you are bent double (analyse the flaws in that one); second, the bus is likely to be doing 70 miles an hour down a potholed road (again, imagine).
Concussion and wild urination notwithstanding, we make it to the gig in one piece. Our drummer Jonny - sadly, temporarily injured - watches from the front of house. I can't fathom how odd it must be to watch your own band play a gig without you. The one blessing is that he'll tell us whether we're as good as we think we are live, or just a freaking shambolic dirge.
Jonny bursts into the dressing room post-gig with a face-splitting grin and yells: "We're fucking awesome!"
Gary Lightbody is vocalist and guitarist in Snow Patrol