Women in Music 2016

Exclusive: Irish Rockers Kodaline Perform Songs From New Album 'Coming Up for Air' Live in London

Dave Ma
Kodaline

A second album, Coming Up for Air, means many things to Irish rockers Kodaline -- and especially for the quartet's live show.

"The last time we were in the States we really didn't have enough songs to play for more than an hour and a half," bassist Jason Boland tells Billboard. "When we'd get to the end of our sets, it was pretty much all we had. Now we can pick and choose, and on the last tour (in Europe) it's been a lot of fun trying stuff out, bringing new songs in. It gives it new life for us, and for the crowds." And Boland says there have been interesting reactions since the album came out overseas in February and April 14 in the U.S.

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"It's been kind of strange -- and it was the last time, too," he notes. "On the first record people sang along to bits and album tracks we didn't really expect. And this time people have really latched on to a couple of songs and kind of chose the singles before we even had a chance to -- like 'Honest,' which is quite a departure for us, sonically, and a song called 'Play The Game' has been going down a storm live. People have been singing along to every word." Billboard is exclusively premiering video of the band performing new songs "The One" and "Love Will Set You Free" recently at the Hospital Club in London. Watch below.

Boland says Kodaline came into Coming Up for Air, the follow-up to 2013's In a Perfect World, which debuted at No. 1 and went double platinum in Ireland and reached No. 3 in the U.K. -- with "about 40 or 50 song ideas and demos." "It was a very natural process for us," he says. "It wasn't the second album syndrome. No one was expecting a record from us, so it was very fun and exciting."

The group also got some unexpected time to write and record after Boland broke his arm during a motorcycle ride last August and went through "a very long, drawn-out recovery" that lasted about four months until the group returned to the stage Jan. 1 in Dublin. "I definitely didn't do it on purpose," Boland says, "but it came as a blessing in disguise. We'd been working pretty hard on the road, so it let us get our heads back together and get stronger and more together for this year."

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The key event was hitting the studio with producer Jacknife Lee, who helped Kodaline sift through the material and wound up co-writing four of the tracks on Coming Up for Air. "It was really just to see if we could get a relationship going with him, something we might like to do in the future," Boland says. "At the end of the first four days we spent with him we had two tracks done, 'Honest' and 'The One,' which both seemed quite different to anything we did with anyone on the first record. Once we did that it really kicked us into gear. It felt like we could do better, lift our game in the studio a bit. So after the first Jacknife session we went back in the studio with Steve Harris and did about eight songs straight in about a week. We really triggered something that made us want to get everything out and recorded as quickly as possible." The group is also getting an infusion of behind-the-scenes Hollywood star power: actress Courteney Cox is directing the video for "Love Will Set You Free."

With Coming Up for Air out -- another No. 1 debut in Ireland and No. 113 on the Billboard 200 -- Kodaline plans to be on the road for along stretch. The group is touring North America through May 19, then starts a European festival run on June 28 in Switzerland. Boland says the group "never stops writing" -- and, in fact, there's a tune around that it collaborated on with One Direction's Harry Styles. "Harry came to a couple of shows towards the end of our last American tour," Boland recalls, "and we decided to go into the studio together, just one of those things where musicians hang out in the studio -- the only place your manager and paparazzi can't go. For Harry it was really to get away from the paparazzi and be a normal person. So we just hung out and listened to a lot of music. We did write a song; I'm not sure what's going to happen to it, but it was a nice experience."