By Shannon Carlin
Three and a half years ago, Kodaline had a change of heart. The Irish band decided they would never again write a song that was just for fun. They needed to send a message with their music; they needed to keep things honest. Shortly after this revelation they wrote “High Hopes,” a track off their recent debut In a Perfect World that singer Steve Garrigan says has a very simple, important takeaway.
“When the song was written, we didn’t really have any direction,” Garrigan, who writes most of the songs, told Radio.com. “We were doing our own thing and I was sitting at the piano and going through a tough time and wrote that song about just trying my best to think positive. As cliché as it is, music is therapy. It’s like venting. You’re getting it off your chest and it feels good.”
Since then, Garrigan and the rest of the band, which includes guitarist Mark Prendergast, bassist Jason Boland and drummer Vinny May, only write songs that are influenced directly by their own lives, from the folky “Love Like This,” which focuses on a dead-end relationship to “Way Back Then,” which is a nostalgic ditty Prendergast wrote over lunch with a childhood friend.
“The song’s about growing up together, looking back at our childhoods and the freedom we didn’t know we had,” he explained. “You get a little older and you know so much more. It’s best to remember those days in a positive happy way.”
Prendergast, along with Garrigan and May, grew up in Swords, Dublin, a small, but growing city that is cut in half by a large valley. Prendergast and Garrigan–who have known each other since they were eight years old–lived on one side of the valley, while May lived on the other. “We could wave at Vinny from our house,” Prendergast explained.
Boland, who joined the band later, is also from Dublin, but grew up 20 minutes from the rest of the guys. Though that seems reasonably close, the bassist jokes that as far as his bandmates are concerned he lives in a different country. “Ireland is so small, you step 10 steps outside my house and the accent changes,” he said. “And you’re in a whole different territory.”
The guys started out playing small club gigs around Dublin that they had to drag their friends to, but now their neighbors are more than happy to check out the band whenever they’re in town. Some locals have even made a habit of stopping them to give them a pat on the back. “It’s cool, when you’re walking down the street, people kind of come up to you and say, ‘Congratulations. You’re doing good things for the town,'” Prendergrast said.
But it’s not just Ireland who has a thing for the band.
“I think it’s the honesty behind it,” Garrigan said of why their music connects with so many people. “The lyrics are blatant, there’s no second guessing what it’s about. When you hear the lyrics, they’re brutally honest.”
They’ve also earned fans with their video for “All I Want,” which tells the tale of a monster looking for love and the bond he has with his dog.
The message for that one is also very simple: Don’t judge a book by its cover. “Everyone is beautiful in their own way,” Garrigan said. “And as cliché as that is, it’s true.”
The video did so well–it currently has nearly 10 million views –that they decided to film a part two. “We just felt like people wanted to know what happened to this guy, if he got the girl,” Garrigan said. “And we wanted to know what happened to him as well.”
The song itself was written by Garrigan about his first real break-up. “I didn’t know how to deal with it,” he said. “Every lyric is everything I was going through in my room. I was basically writing down what I was going through.” The lyrics do have a confessional feel with Garrigan asking, “If you loved me, why’d you leave me?” A question we’ve all wished we could ask an ex.
It’s usually the last song Kodaline play in their set and the one that the crowd seems to get the most into. Prendergrast said at a recent festival stop in Ireland he looked out into the crowd and saw one girl on a guy’s shoulders just bawling her eyes out, while his friend, standing only a few feet away was pumping her first in the air, singing along to every word.
“It’s a really great feeling to write a song that’s so personal and have people relate to it,” Prendergrast said. “It’s quite strange as well at the same time.”
Garrigan writes about real people from his past, but has luckily not had to face any of those people he writes his songs about. Though he does say if he did see them he would probably just run away. That being said, he’s happy to see that his songs are getting a strong positive reaction.
“People have come up and said how much this song means to them,” he explained. “Whether it be a happy thing or a sad thing, they relate to it in whatever way. What more could we ask for?”