Gary Lightbody

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Gary Lightbody
Lightbody at Rock im Park 2018
Lightbody at Rock im Park 2018
Background information
Birth nameGareth John Lightbody[1]
Born (1976-06-15) 15 June 1976 (age 47)
Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • guitarist
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1994–present

Gareth John Lightbody[1] 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[edit]

Gareth John Lightbody was born in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, to Lynne (née Wray) and Jack Lightbody.[2] Jack Lightbody has been an independent business owner and has roots in Rosemount, Derry.[3] 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.[4][5]

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.[6][7]


Snow Patrol[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[8][9] 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.[10]

In the early days, Lightbody used to drink very heavily, and in his words, was "irrational, erratic, neurotic".[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] He has a baritone vocal range.[14][15]


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.[16][17][18]

Lightbody later co-wrote "What Are You Waiting For" on the album Strangest Things, with Anu Pillai for Freeform Five.[16][19] "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.[20] 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.

Other projects[edit]

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[21] 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[22]

In 2011, he wrote as an essayist for The Huffington Post.

Other musical projects[edit]

Lightbody performing live at Vega in Copenhagen in 2006

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.[23] 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.[24]
  • 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.[25]
  • 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.[26]
Lightbody in 2008, Bloomsbury Theatre in London
  • 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!.[27][28]
  • 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.[29]
  • 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.



Growing up, Lightbody listened to artists like Super Furry Animals, Quincy Jones, Kool & the Gang, and Michael Jackson. He subsequently got into hard rock bands AC/DC and KISS as a teen, and then alternative acts like Sebadoh, Mudhoney, Pixies and Pavement.[34]

As a boy, he dreamed of becoming "the biggest rock star on the planet" like Bono, but he was never "cool".[13]


Lightbody started writing songs at the age of 15, in a little room under the kitchen of the family's house. He had few guitar lessons where he learnt the basics of the instrument but did not continue them, as he felt that one should not know any instrument "inside-out". He preferred to invent rather than use a formula. Today, he is not too fond of his earliest songs and thinks they "sucked".[citation needed] His songwriting style is mostly simple and basic, and he acknowledges that, saying he "[never] advanced past rudimentary". He feels the best way to write an honest song is to be simple, and that trying to complicate matters distorts the intended message. He believes the band has always tried to keep things as "simple and pure" as possible and has written from the heart. One of Lightbody's major inspirations to begin writing was notable Irish poet Seamus Heaney; which is alluded to on the B-side track on Snow Patrol's "The Planets Bend Between Us" single, named 'Reading Heaney To Me'. It also refers extensively to Heaney's poems throughout the lyrics.

Lightbody's lyrics typically deal with the topic of love. Although he considers himself a political person and has tried writing songs with such themes, he eventually abandoned his efforts as he found all of them awkward.[35] Lightbody has said that all of the songs from the first two albums; Songs for Polarbears and When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up were written from personal experience.[36] His lyrics often criticise himself or are self-deprecatory. He has cited "Chocolate" as an example, which he wrote after cheating on his girlfriend. He also considers writing a sort of "therapy" for himself.[35]

Lightbody's songwriting has earned him much praise. In October 2009, he revealed that a certain "public figure", whom he wanted to remain nameless, told him that the band had written songs that were standards in today's world, and that Snow Patrol songs had become a part of the public consciousness. He compared their work to that of artists like Frank Sinatra and The Beatles. Lightbody realises this and cites performances of their songs on reality TV shows as an example.[13]

Views on music industry[edit]

Lightbody has held the view that Snow Patrol may have had an easier time succeeding in the music industry than a band forming at the present time and attempting to become successful, given the changed state of the music industry, specifically how music is obtained by consumers. He questions the public's motive to buy the songs which they have already listened to, and blames Myspace for it.[citation needed]

Of Snow Patrol, Lightbody has said that all albums they managed to sell in the early days were from touring, as there were no unauthorized copies of their music available then. He believes if the current state of the industry continues, it would become impossible for bands starting out to become full-time.[37] Despite this, he observes that the band might not have survived if they had been successful early in their career, as they would have subsequently taken that success for granted.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Lightbody is a supporter of Manchester United and has been known to support both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland national football teams.[39][40] This is supported by the song "Lifening", in which he sings the lyrics "Ireland in the World Cup, either North or South".[41]

He is a fan of the X-Men, particularly Wolverine, and owns a stack of comics. He bought several comics as a child and has some that he has never opened, hoping they would become rare collectibles someday; in a later interview, he light-heartedly mentioned that they could earn him a small pension. He considers himself a "comics freak".[42]

Despite having written several romantic songs, Lightbody has been reported as having had trouble talking to women.[43] Lightbody has been in many doomed relationships, and he blames their failure on only himself, considering himself "rubbish with women". He attributes the failure partly to him "never being in the same place for very long", and admits that at times he has been hopelessly in love.[13]

Lightbody quit drinking alcohol in 2016 before recording the album Wildness.[44]


Lightbody has been involved in numerous causes, mostly related to music and football. He is on the board of directors of the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Northern Ireland, a project set up to give young artists a place where they can share ideas and kick-start their music careers, as often is the trend of talent leaving the country from lack of appraisal. He supported young bands from Northern Ireland and involved them as support bands to shows of Snow Patrol's UK & Ireland Arena Tour of February–March 2009.

Lightbody is one of the supporting voices for the growing music-scene in Belfast in Northern Ireland and once stated in an interview to have grown up as an "Indie rock kid" inspired to become a musician through influences of artists and acts such as Kurt Cobain, Super Furry Animals, and Sebadoh.[45]

In July 2019, Lightbody set up the Lightbody Foundation to support charities across Northern Ireland and the rest of the world. In May 2020, he donated £50,000 to support musicians in Northern Ireland struggling in the aftermath of the coronavirus.[46] Two months later, the foundation donated around $90,000 to nine different charities in America.

Lightbody has worked with the aid organisation Save the Children in Uganda, an experience on which he has written in New Statesman.[47] He has also been involved in raising awareness of depression, a condition that he himself has struggled with.[48][49]



As featured artist[edit]

Title Year Album
"The Last Time"
(Taylor Swift featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol)
2012 Red
"The Last Time (Taylor's Version)"
(Taylor Swift featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol)
2021 Red (Taylor's Version)



In July 2012, Lightbody received an Honorary Doctorate in Letters from the University of Ulster at a ceremony in the Millennium Forum, Derry.[3] See also Snow Patrol Awards.

Lightbody was honoured in November 2018 at the Northern Ireland Music Prize with an award for outstanding contribution to music.

Lightbody was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to music and to charity in Northern Ireland.[50]

Lightbody was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Ards and North Down on 30 August 2022.[51][52][53]

Awards and accolades[edit]

Year Publication Entity Rank
2005 Scotland on Sunday The Eligibles[54][55][56] 4
2006 1
2007 Top 10
2006 Daily Record 100 Hottest Scots[57] 5
2007 9
2009 Social and Personal Sexiest Irishmen[58] 96
Q Artists of the Century[59][60] *
2019 PPL Most played song on UK Radio (Chasing Cars) *

Musical equipment[edit]



  • Diamond Decada Amp Head with Decada 4x12 Cab (uses two of the same)
  • Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Solo Heads with Rectifier 4x12 Cabs
  • Marshall JCM800 2203 with JCM 1960A 4x12 Cab
  • Marshall 3315 Transistor Amp (originally used by Nathan Connolly) with 1960TV 4x12 Cab
  • Vox AC30 Custom Classic


Lightbody's pedalboard
  • BOSS TU-2 Tuner
  • BOSS TR-2 Tremolo
  • BOSS CS-3 Compression Sustainer
  • Two BOSS SD-1 Super Overdrives
  • BOSS GE-7 Equalizer
  • BOSS RE-20 Space Echo
  • Boss DD6/7


  • Picks: Dunlop Tortex Standard Orange .60mm
  • Strings: Gauge .010
  • Pickup preference: Neck Position. Amplifier EQ set quite bright for jangly tone
  • Vocal mic: Shure Beta 58


  1. ^ a b Lightbody, Gary (3 June 2018). "Fair question, weird answer: On my passport it's Gary Lightbody and on my birth certificate it's Gareth John Lightbody". Twitter. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Sunday Times Magazine: The Grim Reapers". Sunday Times Magazine. 18 March 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Fond memories of Derry as UU honours Lightbody". Derry Journal. 10 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Where are they now?". Rockport School. Archived from the original on 27 August 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
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  11. ^ Patterson, Sylvia (28 November 2011). "Gary Lightbody: I'm my own prison guard". Big Issue.
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  14. ^ "Gary Lightbody". 23 February 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
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  16. ^ a b "From small beginnings ..." Evening Telegraph. Archived from the original on 13 January 2005. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  17. ^ Sun, Sunday (17 October 2004). "Five out of four's a top score". Sunday Sun. Archived from the original on 31 March 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  18. ^ Barrie, Stuart (24 August 2007). "The DJ Q & A – Freeform Five". Daily Record. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  19. ^ "What are You Waiting For – Freeform Five". Macrovision. Allmusic. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
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  21. ^ Lightbody, Gary (4 August 2009). "Gary Lightbody's Band of the Week: week 12". Archived from the original on 12 August 2009.
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  29. ^ Californiachronicle Archived 26 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
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  32. ^ "So, did you spot Gary Lightbody in this week's Game of Thrones?". The Daily Edge. 16 April 2013.
  33. ^ "Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody to appear in Game of Thrones". NME. 24 July 2012.
  34. ^ Dworken, Arye (2004). "Snow Patrol". CMJ New Music Monthly. CMJ Network, Inc. (122): 11. ISSN 1074-6978. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
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  38. ^ "Lightbody glad first album failed". 4Music. 8 December 2009. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  39. ^ "Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody defends Republic of Ireland football support". The Independent. 14 June 2012.
  40. ^ "Lightbody defends football support". Belfast Telegraph. 14 June 2012.
  41. ^ "SNOW PATROL – LIFE-NING LYRICS". Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  42. ^ Shirley, Ian (2005). "X Marks the Spot". Can rock & roll save the world?: An illustrated history of music and comics. London, England: SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 168. ISBN 0-946719-80-2. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  43. ^ Brouwer, Julian (3 November 2008). "Gary: I've Snow idea how to talk to girls; shy star opens his heart with music". The Mirror.
  44. ^ Adejobi, Alicia (4 May 2020). "Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody recalls 'painful' therapy to deal with alcoholism and 'demons'". Metro.
  45. ^ "Snow Patrol declare 'Super Furry Animals are our generation's Beatles' | News". Nme.Com. 23 September 2008. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  46. ^ "Gary Lightbody donates £50k to help Northern Ireland musicians during coronavirus pandemic". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  47. ^ Lightbody, Gary (22 November 2007). "Africa's unsung heroes". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 1 June 2009.
  48. ^ "Support the Aware Defeat Depression Awareness Week". Down News. 16 April 2013.
  49. ^ Johnson, Neala (17 November 2011). "REM's Michael Stipe saves Gary Lightbody who had writer's block before Snow Patrol's new album Fallen Empire". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
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  53. ^ "Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody awarded freedom of home borough". BBC News Northern Ireland. 31 August 2022. Retrieved 2 September 2022.
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  55. ^ "The Eligibles 2006 – Top 50 men". Scotland on Sunday. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  56. ^ "Dr Who star tops list of eligible men". Metro. 19 November 2007. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  57. ^ Dingwall, John; Lyons, Beverley; Fulton, Rick; Sutherland, Laura; Coventry, Laura (20 December 2007). "The 100 Hottest Scots: The Men". Daily Record. Archived from the original on 30 June 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  58. ^ "Baz gets top billing as sexiest man in Ireland". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  59. ^ Baker, Rosie (26 November 2009). "Q special edition celebrates end of the decade". Marketing Week. Archived from the original on 6 December 2009. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
  60. ^ Yates, Matt (January 2010). "Artists of the Century – Gary Lightbody". Q (282): 82. ISSN 0955-4955. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
  61. ^ "Lowdens on YouTube". Lowden Guitars. 7 May 2020.

External links[edit]