Gareth John Lightbody OBE (born 15 June 1976) is a Northern Irish singer, songwriter, and musician. He is best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the alternative rock band Snow Patrol. He has also founded the musical supergroups The Reindeer Section and Tired Pony.
Early life and education
Gareth John Lightbody was born in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, to Lynne (née Wray) and Jack Lightbody. Jack Lightbody has been an independent business owner and has roots in Rosemount, Derry. Gary Lightbody has one sister, Sarah, and attended Rathmore Primary School, Rockport School and Campbell College, where he was first introduced to the writings of Seamus Heaney which inspired him to write his own poetry and songs.
In 1994, Lightbody left home for Scotland to study English literature at the University of Dundee, where he was a keen hockey player, often being dragged from his bed on a Saturday morning to play matches.
Lightbody formed a band with Mark McClelland and drummer Michael Morrison in 1994, called Shrug. Morrison left the band later, and the band were forced to change the name to Polarbear, as another band had claimed the name. In the band's first seven years of existence, they added drummer Jonny Quinn, released two albums (Songs for Polarbears, and When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up), and toured with bands such as Levellers, Ash and Travis. The band stayed in Glasgow during the recording of the first two albums. Lightbody used to hold a job at the Nice n Sleazy's Bar in Sauchiehall Street. Today, Lightbody owns a small place in Glasgow and says he will never leave the country behind, though he resides in Belfast. He feels an attachment to the place, as it gave him his first taste of success.
In the early days, Lightbody used to drink very heavily, and in his words, was "irrational, erratic, neurotic". He had become frustrated by Snow Patrol's lack of financial success and felt lost and aimless. He started cursing at the audience and demolishing the band's equipment. He found himself breaking guitars they could not afford. This phase ran for two years. He later gave up drinking and now does it "for fun" and credits his bandmates for the turnaround. The song "Disaster Button" (A Hundred Million Suns) deals with this topic. Though a musician, he cannot read music and has said that he "guesses" his way through chords. He has a baritone vocal range.
When at the University of Dundee, Lightbody met Nick DeCosemo, a fellow student, and the two became friends. DeCosemo also moved in Lightbody's Springfield apartment when he moved out of his parents' house. Nick had formed a club night called The Spaceship at the Tay Hotel. Along with Lightbody, friends Roy Kerr, Tom Simpson, and Anu Pillai also used to DJ there. They mixed up various styles of music as house, rock, and hip hop. They gained a loyal following and socialised together for about two years.
Lightbody later co-wrote "What Are You Waiting For" on the album Strangest Things, with Anu Pillai for Freeform Five. "What Are You Waiting For" was written before Snow Patrol released Final Straw, during a time when Lightbody was staying over at the band's place for a few days. Pillai had to literally drag a hungover Lightbody to the studio.
Lightbody has filled in for DJ Zane Lowe on his BBC radio show on one occasion during the 2007 takeovers. He was subsequently voted the best fill-in DJ amongst them by the listeners. He has compiled two DJ mix albums, one in The Trip series: The Trip: Created by Snow Patrol, and another with bandmate Tom Simpson, called Late Night Tales: Snow Patrol on the Late Night Tales series.
In addition to his work with Snow Patrol and DJing, Lightbody has contributed to other projects and works. He made a cameo appearance in the Game of Thrones episode, "Walk of Punishment", playing a Bolton soldier who begins singing, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair".
Lightbody writes as essayist articles or columns in variously music magazines and newspapers like Q magazine and previously wrote for The Irish Times music section as guest-editor. As an impassioned music fan and DJ, he recommends in his blogs or essays albums and artists of different and wide-ranging genres of music.
In May 2009, Lightbody commenced writing his music column, Gary Lightbody's Band of the Week, in the magazine Q The Music.com.
In 2011, he wrote as an essayist for The Huffington Post.
Other musical projects
As a songwriter/bandleader, Lightbody has written songs and lyrics for a wide variety of artists and genres. In 2000, he formed the Scottish supergroup The Reindeer Section, comprising 47 musicians from 20 different bands, including members of bands like Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Idlewild, Teenage Fanclub, Arab Strap and other musicians. The group released Y'All Get Scared Now, Ya Hear! in 2001 and Son of Evil Reindeer in 2002.
In addition to work on Snow Patrol and side project material, Lightbody lent his voice to the band Mogwai (one track on Rock Action).
In 2001, he contributed to British breakbeat/electronica musician Cut La Roc's song "Fallen".
In 2005, Lightbody was included in another musical collective, The Cake Sale, formed by Brian Crosby to raise funds and awareness for Ireland's Make Trade Fair campaign. He partnered with Lisa Hannigan to perform "Some Surprise", a song written by Bell X1's Paul Noonan. The song reached No. 5 on Irish charts as a radio–single release.
He contributed vocals to The Freelance Hellraisers Waiting for Clearance debut album in 2006 and for UK producer Kidda's debut album Going Up.
Lightbody was credited as songwriter for the track "Just Say Yes" for Nicole Scherzinger's debut solo album Her Name Is Nicole but due to the album being shelved the single was re-recorded by Pussycat Dolls and remains unreleased by Scherzinger. In 2009 Gary Lightbody announced in an interview that Snow Patrol would be releasing "Just Say Yes" as the first single from their Up to Now compilation record.
In 2007, he lent his voice to British house musician and DJ Cut La Roc's track "Mishka" on his album Larger Than Life which is yet to be released.
In 2009, Lightbody announced that he had begun work on two solo side projects, a country group Tired Pony and an avant-garde group with Snow Patrol producer Jacknife Lee: Listen... Tanks!.
August/September 2009: Lightbody joined with bandmates Johnny Quinn and Nathan Connolly to form Polar Music, a publishing music company "run by artists for artists" in co-operation with Universal Music Group and which will be administered by Kobalt Music in London. Polar Music's debut signing is artist Johnny McDaid from Northern Ireland who is writing with German electronica/trance DJ Paul van Dyk for an album due in 2010.
In January, Lightbody recorded in Portland, Oregon the debut album of his side project Tired Pony, with title The Place We Ran From. The album's release was announced for 12 July 2010. This new supergroup he founded includes Jacknife Lee as producer and musicians like R.E.M.'s guitarist/co-founder Peter Buck, Editors singer Tom Smith, singer and songwriter Iain Archer, Belle & Sebastian's drummer Richard Colburn, The Young Fresh Fellows and The Minus 5 singer Scott McCaughey, She & Him singer Zooey Deschanel, Snow Patrol's touring member guitarist Troy Stewart and guitarist M. Ward.
Lightbody and producer Jacknife Lee contributed to the original score for the Irish film My Brothers, which appeared in the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.
Lightbody lent his songwriting and vocal talents to "Mishka", a collaboration with Cut La Roc, released on La Roc's 2010 album, Larger Than Life.
Collaboration with former Kinks singer Ray Davies on Davies' album See My Friends as song "Tired of Waiting for You".
Featured on the track "The Last Time" on Taylor Swift's 2012 album Red.
Performs with Ed Sheeran at the iTunes Festival singing a duet of "Chasing Cars".
Along with Johnny McDaid, performs at the Derry City of Culture Sons and Daughters concert, plays a three-song acoustic set singing "Run", "Just Say Yes" (the festival's anthem) and "Chasing Cars".
Appears in a cameo in the Game of Thrones episode "Walk of Punishment"
Appeared on The X Factor UK Season 10 in a duet with Taylor Swift. They sang "The Last Time" to promote it as a UK single on 3 November 2013.
Together with Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol he composed several songs and the music for the film A Patch of Fog
Together with Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol he composed the music played during the credit of the film Gifted.
Featured on the track "The Last Time (Taylor's Version)" on Taylor Swift's 2021 second re-recorded album Red (Taylor's Version).