It’s been three years since Noel Gallagher walked away from Oasis. But even though he left one of the biggest selling rock bands of all time, he’s doing just fine as a solo artist touring the world behind his highly acclaimed solo debut album as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
I spoke with Gallagher as he prepped for Wednesday night’s Seattle show at the WaMu Theater with co-headliners Snow Patrol about the end of Oasis and the songwriting freedom he’s found as a solo artist.
“How I used to approach it back then was we were a stadium rock band and Liam [his brother and Oasis singer] and the other guys were into a certain kind of thing, so you kind of tailor make your sound for the environment it’s going to be played in and we were playing in arenas and stadiums. And now I don’t have any approach because I don’t care about that anymore,” he said.
The songs on Gallagher’s solo album are tight pop gems that harken back to the best of Oasis while branching out at times with a brass section and 100-piece choir adding a depth and richness that goes far beyond the anthemic stadium rock of his previous band.
“I loved it the night I finished it, and I still, this is way over a year after it’s been out now, and I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he said. “You know I’m not sure I’ll ever put together a collection of songs like this again, which is why this tour’s gone on so long because it’s like you don’t get these moments very often, certainly I don’t as a writer anyway, and I wanted to take it as far as I could and play to as many people as I could.”
But Gallagher isn’t shying away from his past. His set continues featuring a number of the hit songs he wrote in Oasis like “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, “Supersonic”, and “Wonderwall.”
“It’s like saying to Paul McCartney ‘Are you ever going to stop doing Beatles songs?’ That’s all part of who I am,” he said. “If I was the singer in a band and I was going out doing all those songs and I hadn’t written any of them then maybe that’s a valid question. But I wrote all those songs by myself, so I get the right to perform them. And as long as people want to hear them I’ll do them.”
While Gallagher no longer plays for 100,000 people or more at a time in a huge stadium, he told me he’s enjoying the greater intimacy of playing in theaters and smaller venues instead.
“I haven’t really felt that change is significant anyway, you know what I mean? When I got into this I wasn’t expecting anything other than what I got, which is where I’m at. You can only be in a band that big once in your life. I’d be incredibly amazed if this happened like that again.”
It likely won’t. While the solo album reached number one on the British charts, its sales have been somewhat lackluster in the U.S. And even though he’d like to have more hits, he told me he doesn’t try to write them. His songwriting just comes naturally that way, a natural outgrowth of his upbringing on radio with the likes of the Beatles.
“I only ever think in terms of singles. I don’t think of interesting album tracks. I’m the anti-Radiohead. When I’m writing a song or when I get to a bit in a song when it gets to the chorus even if it only ends up as a B-side, I’m trying to write the chorus that’s going to be a hit. I’m not purposely thinking ‘Well that’s going to sound great on the radio.’ But that’s just in me. I try and write memorable things,” he said.
Gallagher told me the Seattle stop will likely be his last for the foreseeable future. He’s looking forward to getting of the road and spending more time at home with his wife and two sons after years of non-stop touring around the world.
“It’s time to go home and see my kids. One of my kids has barely seen me. He eyes me suspiciously across the room and thinks, who is that guy in the king’s corner?”
His family time isn’t likely to include any visits with his estranged brother Liam, the former Oasis frontman. Their long running and highly publicized feud continues. They haven’t spoken in years, and Gallagher reiterated no reconciliation is likely because he says, “I find it very difficult to forgive people.”
As for the future, Gallagher said he’s come to the end of a cycle that started with Oasis decades ago and doesn’t have any plans for what’s next. But he has no doubt he’ll always be making music.
“Will I ever stop writing? Never. So therefore I will never stop putting records out. But you see Paul McCartney and Neil Young, Bob Dylan, they’re still putting records out and they do it for them. They don’t do it for me and you. They do it because that’s what they do. And I hope to retain the enthusiasm to write songs, and eventually they will find their way out.”
You can hear my interview with Noel Gallagher on Seattle Sounds Saturday night at 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM and KIRORadio.com.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds perform Wednesday night with Snow Patrol at Seattle’s WaMu Theater.