Dropping out of law school to follow his passion was definitely the best decision frontman Stephen Garrigan ever made
Words and Interview by Laura Studarus
It’s an unseasonably bright and cheery winter day—even by Los Angeles standards. But Kodaline frontman Stephen Garrigan is contemplating death. Or, to be precise, what he’d do with his final day of life.
“That’s a thinker,” he says, pausing to consider the enormity of the task. “I’d definitely do a skydive somewhere…I’d have to have a guitar and listen to music and with friends. Not too complicated.”
It’s a morbid decision that Garrigan and Kodaline bandmates Mark Prendergast, Vinny May Jr., and Jason Boland hopefully won’t have to make any time soon. Although if their career to date is any indication, one imagines that the Irish quartet could manage the end of their lives with equal grace.
Filled with longing piano ballads, epic mid-song swells, and mournful anthems about love and loss (these are men who know the value of a broken heart in songwriting), Kodaline’s debut full-length In a Perfect World leaves no emotional stone unturned. To hear Garrigan tell it, the music comes from a difficult time, which began to improve when he realized where his passions were leading him.
“I was studying law in college,” he recalls, setting the scene. “It was pretty soul destroying in my point of view. I went home and I’d be playing music all the time. Writing songs and stuff. I figured it’s risky to try and make it in the music world. Or make it a career. But it’s very important to do something that you love. This is what I wanted to do.”
Realizing that he was spending more time playing his guitar than investing in his future as a barrister, Garrigan quit school to focus on music—and hid it from parents for over a year. While he admits his mom and dad were initially concerned, they’re now proud of their son’s accomplishments.
“Luckily now, they see that we can make music a career,” he says with a hint of satisfaction. “My dad is probably the band’s biggest fan. All our parents are. Because we’ve been friends for so long, all our parents are friends. That helps. We’re like one big family.”
Although having reached the point in his home country where he’s recognized in the streets, Garrigan describes his time in Ireland these days as quite ordinary and emotionally fulfilling, full of friends and family. Even when out seeing the world on tour (he speaks with pride while describing an upcoming sold out string of UK dates), the band has also adopted a fairly common way to pass the time, at least on the surface. The scant hours between sound check and show time are usually spent cramming in as many touristy activities as they can—which the band later incorporates into their ongoing set of travel-themed songs. To date, they’ve finished six in the series.
“I learned a lot about random facts about different cities,” laughs Garrigan. “Coca-Cola was made in Atlanta. Saint Louis has got the tallest monument in America. I never knew Bob Dylan was originally from Minneapolis, which is really cool! Lots of random stuff. It would help in a table quiz, but nowhere else really.”
The travel songs are only one aspect in the unexpected life that Garrigan admits that only a few years ago he could never imagine having. He beams with pride when he discusses the months to come, filled with an upcoming sold-out string of U.K. dates and plans to perform in Australia and Asia.
“Everybody wants to have their own perfect world,” he says, evoking the band’s album title. “The best you can do is aspire to it. Music, and writing songs, and playing to crowds, if we could do that for the rest of our lives that would be pretty perfect.”