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Noel's Flying High
7:00am Saturday 18th August 2012 in Music
Noel Gallagher has exceeded all expectations since releasing his debut solo album last year. As he releases new single, Everybody's On The Run, and prepares for his second UK stadium tour, he tells Andy Welch why life just keeps getting better.
Noel Gallagher is sitting in an Edinburgh hotel, sipping tea, still in jubilant spirits after playing his 100th gig as a solo artist the previous week at Valencia's Benicassim festival, and preparing to play the city's historical castle the following night.
"Yeah, the century. And the best one so far. It was an unbelievable night, something in the air I think," he says.
"It was one of the best gigs I've done in the last 20 years, let alone the last year. I was on just before the Stone Roses, so that's always nice as well."
When he first announced his solo project around a year ago, he seemed reticent about stepping out on his own. The name, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, was chosen because he couldn't bear to perform under just his own name. He hadn't even decided if his microphone would even be centre stage as he'd become so used to standing slightly in the shadows to the right.
"I'd got that role absolutely nailed," he said at the time, "standing there with my guitar, backing vocals, the odd song. I was absolutely brilliant at it."
If there were nerves back then, he can no longer remember.
"I suppose I always knew it was something I'd have to do," he begins.
"I knew I wasn't going to be in a band - once you've been in a band the size of Oasis what's the point? The album was one thing, where I asked myself, 'Am I comfortable singing 10 tracks in a row?' But that was easy really, because I love being in the studio. The only obstacle was that first gig."
The afternoon of his first show, his beloved Manchester City beat their rivals United 6-1, so any fears went out of the window.
"I haven't looked back since the first note of the first song. My only worry was whether people would accept it, but they have.
"Any confidence I have on stage comes from the songs I've written. As the song goes, I haven't got moves like Jagger. I've more got moves like Wyman. People at gigs either want to dance or sing, and I can make people do that. Plus they're not watching me anyway, they're staring at the heavens singing their hearts out, and that's magical. Lucky me."
Saying music fans have accepted his new work is something of an understatement. His eponymous debut has so far sold more than 600,000 copies, including more than 120,000 copies in its first week of release. To put that into context, the debut by his estranged brother Liam's band Beady Eye sold around that many in its first seven months of release.
Given that Oasis gigs were more like carol services for the inebriated, emulating football terrace chants, the live arena is still where Gallagher's music makes most sense.
Whether in smaller venues in the UK, arenas or at festivals all over the world this summer, things very quickly turn into a mass sing-along.
The Isle Of Wight festival in June was particularly memorable, with around 70,000 people united in their appreciation of Don't Look Back In Anger.
"We toured for so long in Oasis I got used to it but then every few years I think 'Wow, this lot are kids' and I realise that they weren't there on the last tour, they're just experiencing it for the first time. And that is truly amazing, that a fanbase keeps regenerating itself.
"I'm yet to play to a person my own age. I'm sure the oldies are at the back doing their knitting, but all I'm playing to is a load of teenagers going berserk at the front."
Initially Gallagher and his management expected a six-month tour to follow the album release. That was soon extended to nine, then 12, and now, by the time he finishes up in Houston, Texas on November 9, it'll be 14 months on the road.
"I think my manager wants me to get another six months out of this, but it's time to put it to bed in November I think. The tours have all run like clockwork, so there's no complaints on that score. It's all the same people that managed Oasis, so they know what they're doing. Experts sit around big tables with coffees and pastries and work all this stuff out. They then just tell me, and that's that."
Despite missing his wife and three children, the only regret Gallagher has about being on tour for so long is that he missed most of last season's football and Man City's first ever league title win.
"I watched City win the league in a wine bar in Santiago at 9am, and I'll never forgive myself for that," he says.
"The plan when I started this album campaign was to just blitz it, to get to a point where people are absolutely sick of the name Noel Gallagher. I'm even sick of it now. I was in the mirror having a shave this morning and I looked up and thought 'Oh not you again'.
"Next year is basically going to be me at home waiting for a call to do something. After I left Oasis, I wasn't thinking of music. One night I went to bed thinking and music couldn't have been further from my mind. The following morning I woke up and thought it was time to go in the studio."
As announced last year when he revealed NGHFB, there's a second solo album already recorded, a more psychedelic collaboration with producer Amorphous Androgynous. The as-yet-unnamed album was meant to have been released already but needs more work.
"Because I've been on the road, I've not been around to mix it, and the songs that have come through so far I'm not happy with, but we'll see.
"For now I'm just going to enjoy the rest of the tour, and look forward to sitting on my arse next year. Being a solo artist is fantastic."
Extra time - Noel Gallagher
:: Noel Thomas David Gallagher was born in Manchester on May 29, 1967.
:: He has three children; Anais, from his first marriage to Meg Matthews, and Donovan and Sonny with second wife Sara MacDonald. The pair married in June 2011 with Russell Brand as best man.
:: Gallagher has reportedly been offered £1 million by Simon Cowell to be a judge on X Factor. He declined.
:: The High Flying Birds came from a song, High Flying Bird, by Jefferson Airplane, while the idea of putting his name first was a nod to Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac.
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