- 02 Jul 20
Although written long before lockdown, Kodaline’s new One Day At A Time album has struck a very contemporary chord. Singer Steve Garrigan talks to Lucy O’Toole about the band’s brush with Covid-19 and getting back to pop basics.
Between viruses, quarantines, global protest movements and empty music venues, these are strange days in which to launch a record. That’s true even for the likes of Kodaline whose last three albums all hit No.1 on the Irish charts.
“At one point we weren’t going to release it,” lead singer Steve Garrigan says of One Day At A Time. “But we ended up deciding against that because we have a lot of fans who we knew would appreciate it if we released an album right now. They mean the world to us. A lot of people are just in their houses, with time on their hands. There’s a lot of people streaming now, too. So it’s a weird time, but I’m really excited.”
Like countless other acts around the world, Kodaline have been heavily impacted by Covid-19 restrictions bringing the live music industry to a grinding halt with their Asian, American, European and UK tour dates postponed for the foreseeable future. The band also had their own brush with the virus back in March, when lead guitarist Mark Prendergast tested positive.
“It was strange, because he can be a bit of a hypochondriac at times,” Steve laughingly admits. “He was saying, ‘I don’t feel well, I’m going to check if it’s this’. It was the early days of the virus, so the likelihood of him having it was slim – and we had all been in the same places. Our initial response had been, ‘Oh, you’re just overreacting’, which is a very Irish reaction: ‘Ah, you’ll be grand!’ And then it turned out to be positive! We all self-isolated then, even though we didn’t have symptoms. It was bizarre, the whole thing.”
Despite obvious challenges, Kodaline have embraced the spirit of the times to find creative, socially-distanced alternatives to the typical album roll-out. The emotional music video for ‘Saving Grace’, for instance, was made up of footage sent in from fans around the world, confined to their homes during lockdown.
“We had thousands of people sending in videos, and then we dwindled it down to the 500 that made it into the final one,” Steve explains. “I’d seen some of the videos individually, but when I saw the edit it just knocked me sideways. It’s a really good snapshot of what is going on right now – not just in Ireland, but around the world. It’s very strange, but it’s a very powerful video. This whole lockdown will be one for the history books.”
Although One Day At A Time was written long before our current reality, the emotionally-driven project has taken on a whole new relevance during the pandemic. Among the highlights are ‘Spend It With You’, which tells the strangely topical tale of a couple who vow to stay together as the apocalypse approaches.
“It wasn’t intended that way – but you know!” Steve laughs. “Even ‘Saving Grace’ lends itself to the current situation. It seems we’ve always written about stuff like that. ‘High Hopes’ from our first album has a similar theme – being there for each other and staying positive. That just comes out naturally with us.”
The record also finds Kodaiine making a conscious decision to return to their roots.
“We took a totally different approach on this album,” he nods. “We produced it ourselves, and did it all in Dublin, in our little studio, which was really cool. We kind of went back to the way we started.”
It’s certainly a shift in approach from 2018’s Politics Of Living, which saw them team up with big-name pop producers and writers, like Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid (Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles), Wayne Hector (One Direction, Westlife) and Jonny Coffer (Beyoncé).
“For the first two albums, we worked with one producer, Steve Harris, for the most part,” he reflects. “He was amazing and that was our comfort zone. But after the success of the first and second albums, we had an opportunity to work with loads of incredible producers and writers, which we wouldn’t have had beforehand. So we figured, ‘Why not?’ We learned a lot. But it was something we had never done before, and that was kind of uncomfortable – and maybe not entirely staying true to ourselves.
“We thought the natural thing to do this time was to go back to just the four of us in a room,” he continues. “Music is always going to be ridiculed – especially when you’re in the public eye. We have a lot of people who don’t like us, and that’s fine. But as songwriters, the most important thing you can do is just be true to yourself and write what you believe in. For the most part, we’ve done that.”
Before lockdown, Kodaline planned to celebrate the release with an eight-night May residency in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, which is now set to take place in September.
“It will be amazing,” Steve enthuses. “We played some of our best shows in that venue. It’s so iconic, and we knew we wanted to do something really cool and different for the launch of this album. We’ve done Marlay Park, Malahide Castle and two St Anne’s Park shows, and the support has always been amazing – but instead of doing another big outdoor show we said, ‘Let’s bring it down to the Olympia’. We have a lot planned for those shows.”
In the meantime, Steve is keeping himself occupied at home in Swords, Co. Dublin where he says he’s “trying to stay positive, and not let the lockdown consume me.”
“The positive thing about this whole lockdown is all the streams from around the world, and the way bands are still trying to do shows for people,” he reflects. “All these random acts of kindness are great. I got a message from a radio station in the UK, and they said they wanted to do a surprise wedding for two NHS workers – and they asked me to sing at it. I went onto a Zoom call, and they were having a full-on wedding. The celebrant married them, and then it was fast-forward to the best man’s speech. It was bizarre, but it was cool – and they really enjoyed it. ‘The One’ was going to be their first dance, so it was great to be able to do that.
“So I’ve been trying to keep busy but I can’t wait to give my dad a hug, to be honest,” Steve continues. “I want to see my family. And, when the pub is open, it’ll be absolutely incredible to get a pint with my mates.”
• One Day At A Time is out now. Kodaline play the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on September 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 & 17.