Kodaline: How we survive life on the road

By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter

  • Published
Steve Garrigan of Kodaline
Image caption,
Among Kodaline's festival dates this summer, they played Glastonbury's Other Stage

Irish quartet Kodaline are among the hardest-working bands in rock, playing 106 shows in the last six months.

"We gig relentlessly," says frontman Steve Garrigan. "Even when we have days off we'll find a place to play."

The band are ostensibly promoting their second album, Coming Up For Air - but admit that touring keeps them afloat.

"We've never really had a big hit worldwide, but we have a big fanbase," Garrigan says. "At the moment, our live shows are what's driving us."

After racking up 222,137 miles on the road in 2015 alone, Garrigan shares the highlights and horror stories of their world tour.

Image source, Kodaline / Instagram
Image caption,
"The first time we were backstage at a festival, we were like little kids," says Garrigan

Always pack sun cream

I was out in Brisbane in a place called Lone Pine - which is actually a koala sanctuary. I got to hold a koala and feed the kangaroos, which was amazing, one of the things on my bucket list, but I didn't wear any sun cream.

Now, I have very pale and pasty Irish skin, so I ended up getting sun stroke. Before I went on stage that night, I could barely stand up. I was so dehydrated. My legs were shaking the whole time.

The only thing that got me through that gig was adrenalin but, even so, I dropped a few songs from the set, went straight to the hotel and spent the next day in darkness covered in after-sun and drinking buckets and buckets of water.

Don't expect the sound system to work

Our first time playing Glastonbury, two years ago, we were playing the John Peel tent and we were super-excited. The tent was packed, people were trying to get in and they couldn't make it. For us, it was a career-defining moment.

But when we play, we use these things called in-ear monitors, so we can hear everything we're playing. They were working perfectly and we were rocking out - but the crowd started chanting "off, off, off".

We were like, "Oh my God. That was our 30 seconds on stage at Glastonbury and we were terrible. I guess we'll go back to our day jobs and give up the dream."

But it turned out the PA system wasn't working and the crowd couldn't hear anything. They were actually chanting "up, up, up".

It worked out for the better in the end, because the crowd felt for us and they got back on our side.

Image source, Dave Ma
Image caption,
After playing Poland, Singapore and Australia, the band are currently on their second US tour of the year

Be careful what you wish for

We get a lot of presents from fans in Japan and America. Lots of cup cakes - I don't know why.

But I once said I'd like it if fans brought us socks. I've run out of socks before and when you're on a tour bus and you're wearing socks that are two or three days old, it can smell like a festival gone wrong.

So I put a tweet out and then fans started turning up and giving me socks. I haven't had to buy a pair of socks in ages. I've had them thrown at me on stage. Tom Jones gets knickers and I get socks.

Never stop writing

Any time we have off, we'll spend in the studio. We wrote and recorded our last album in eight weeks. This next one, we're going to take a little more time. We're experimenting a bit with different sounds but it's still my voice, we're the same musicians. It'll still sound like Kodaline.

We're very aware that bands come and go. Every album could be our last, but our dream is to have a career that could span the rest of our lives. But you can't tell the future.

Image source, Kodaline / Instagram
Image caption,
The band document life on the road on their Instagram account @Kodaline

Use festivals to prepare for bigger things

If you can do a good gig at a festival and hold a good crowd, I think it makes you better musicians and performers.

If we got to a stadium, that would be the dream. We got a taste of it, actually, when Ed Sheeran invited us on stage in Croke Park in Dublin. We played one of our songs, called All I Want, and the whole stadium sang every word back to us. It was 80,000 [people] and I almost fainted with the nerves.

Be wary of backstage catering

Festival food is hit and miss. If you get there after everybody's gone in and they're running out of food, you get the stuff that's been sitting out all day.

The best catering I've had so far was at a festival in Poland. It was a sit-down thing with waiters - all very fancy, and we're not very fancy people. I had a carbonara, which is pretty standard, but do you ever eat something and they do something tiny, like add an extra spice, and it makes the whole dish taste a million times better?

I don't know what it was, but it was the best carbonara I've ever had.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Garrigan says the band hope to release a third album next year

Keep birthdays low-key

At V Festival this year, it was my birthday so the lads brought a cake on stage - but they forgot to light the candles!

One of the crew just handed me the cake and I was like, "what am I supposed to do with this?" I had 20,000 people singing Happy Birthday to me, which was a bizarre experience. I was kind of embarrassed.

On your days off, make a music video with a Hollywood A-lister

We were over in LA and we got the opportunity to go into the studio with Johnny McDaid - who used to be in Snow Patrol. Somebody told us he was engaged to Courtney Cox, which we didn't really know about, but we went over to her house, stayed a few days and we ended up writing Love Will Set You Free.

Image source, RCA
Image caption,
The video shows the band rehearsing and relaxing

After that, we were hanging out and Courtney said she'd love to direct the video for it. We didn't really take her seriously but then she kept asking and we ended up shooting it in her house. We had some of our friends over from Dublin - girlfriends and fiancees - and I think she did a really good job capturing our personalities.

We are huge fans of Friends. We've all got the box sets at home, and we were quite nervous about meeting her at first. But she's very chilled out and very cool and she puts you at ease.

Luckily, we didn't call her Monica - but we were very, very aware of that.

Kodaline begin a 10-date UK tour in December, culminating with four nights at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire.

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