In the run-up to the release of Coldplay’s seventh album, ‘A Head Full Of Dreams’, Chris Martin has done interviews with The Wall Street Journaland Rolling Stone. In each he reveals some intriguing information about the ‘hippie’ record and the unusual processes behind it, which include fasting and taking inspiration from Martin’s synaesthesia. Here are 15 key details.
1. GHOST STORIES WAS A DELIBERATELY ‘SMALLER’ ALBUM
“It frees you up to do whatever you want next,” says Martin. “Just look at Bruce Springsteen’s career.” The band didn’t tour ‘Ghost Stories’, remaining in the studio instead. “I was being sent so many songs from the universe that I said, ‘I’ve got to just keep recording.’”
2. A HEAD FULL OF DREAMS WILL CONTAIN A SPOKEN WORD SECTION
That’s in the form of ‘The Guest House’, a poem by 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, which is about “inviting in” dark thoughts. Martin says it helped him get through his notorious ‘uncoupling’ from Gwyneth Paltrow, when he was feeling “depressed and overwhelmed.” He says of the poem, “It kind of changed my life. It says that everything that happens to you is OK.” It’s about accepting the negative along with the positive, he continues. “It’s about every feeling that you have being a gift. Self-doubt and depression as well as all the joyful feelings are all useful if you can harness them.”
3. THERE’S A REASON COLDPLAY DO WORDLESS CHORUSES
“It’s because I don’t want anything to get in the way of the mood of the music,” says Martin. “The feeling is there without having to describe what it is. And we do that quite a lot. People say it’s a bit repetitive to say ‘oh oh oh oh oh oh,’ but you can’t translate the melody into words.”
4. ‘A HEAD FULL OF DREAMS’ IS ‘QUITE A HIPPIE ALBUM’
The song including ‘The Guest House’ itself is about “love and acceptance and embracing what happens to you,” says Martin, before adding, “It’s quite a hippie album. All of our records were a journey to get to this one.”
5. IT’S A MIX OF DRAKE AND OASIS
…kind of. “We wanted to marry all the music that we love, from Drake to Oasis,” says Martin. “There was a feeling that we don’t have anything to lose. We’re very comfortable now with the fact that we’re not for everybody.”
6. NEW PRODUCERS STARGATE WERE UNCOMPROMISING
The band all agreed they wanted to work with Rihanna producers Stargate, a Norwegian duo. “They wanted to hear demos because they don’t want to work with anything they don’t like. Which is really old school and bold. So I had to audition for them. They came over and I played a song for them on piano.” Martin says, “We felt unsigned again.”
The four band members also had to agree unanimously about which songs they could record, which meant many were shed. “For every song that made it, eight or nine didn’t,” Martin says.
7. THERE ARE PLENTY OF GUESTS, FROM NOEL GALLAGHER TO GWYNETH PALTROW
Noel Gallagher plays guitar on ‘Up & Up’. Beyoncé guests on two tracks, including ‘Hymn for the Weekend.’ Her daughter Blue Ivy is on backing vocals. And in a publicly conciliatory move, Martin’s ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow provides backing vocals for ‘Everglow.’ “We just did it in the studio one day,” Martin says. “It was just a friendly kind of thing.”
Sign up for the newsletter
Martin’s children with Paltrow, Apple and Moses, form part of the ‘choir’ that appears on several tracks, while Martin’s new girlfriend Annabelle Wallis also sings on one song. “Everyone who got asked to sing on our album has an important part in our lives,” says Martin. “What I’m trying to learn in my life is the value of every human. Inclusiveness is the key thing, and it all comes from that ‘Guest House’ poem.”
8. THE ‘CHOIR’ IN THE ALBUM IS INSPIRED BY GREEK TRAGEDY
“The ‘choir’ started with my two kids coming in after school and recording,” says Martin. “We recorded Blue Ivy Carter in New York when her mom Beyoncé was in the studio. It comes from learning about Greek tragedy, where the chorus chimes in at times. To me, when we use that sound, it’s to affirm what I’m saying. ‘We agree with you, Chris. Keep singing.’”
9. THEIR BEYONCÉ COLLABORATION WAS INSPIRED BY FLO RIDA AND BEING ‘FUCKING COOL’
“I was listening to Flo Rida or something,” says Martin, “and I thought, it’s such a shame that Coldplay could never have one of those late-night club songs, like ‘Turn Down for What.’ What would we call it if we had one? I thought I’d like to have a song called ‘Drinks on Me’ where you sit on the side of a club and buy everyone drinks because you’re so fucking cool.
“I was chuckling about that, when this melody came – “drinks on me, drinks on me” – then the rest of the song came out. I presented it to the rest of the band and they said, “We love this song, but there’s no way you can sing ‘drinks on me.’” So that changed into “drink from me” and the idea of having an angelic person in your life. Then that turned into asking Beyoncé to sing on it.”
10. CHRIS MARTIN HAS SYNAESTHESIA, A NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION HE SHARES WITH LORDE AND PHARRELL THAT MIXES UP YOUR SENSES
“I don’t think that’s unusual for songwriters,” he says. “When I think of other people’s songs or albums, often a color comes to mind. The last album we made was supposed to be more silver and blue—two tones, quiet nighttime. With this one we’re trying to do our whole spectrum. The colors we’re missing within the band we tried to bring in with guests and other producers.” That’s why the new album artwork is bursting with colour.
11. THEY DON’T WANT THEIR NEW MUSIC TO SOUND RIGIDLY PERFECT
Martin explains that a few years ago, computer tech had evolved enough to help musicians erase any mistakes from their music during production. “We had this computer system that can make us sound in tune and in time,” he says, “so we made everything sound perfect. We all made records that we would now want to re-record with a few more mistakes. Once we realised the computer wasn’t a headmaster, and just another instrument to be played with, it became freeing.”
12. CHRIS MARTIN FASTS FOR UP TO 30 HOURS ONCE A WEEK TO GET ‘LUCID ABOUT IDEAS’
“Once a week I don’t eat for 24 or 30 hours. Your brain becomes very lucid about ideas. It also made me so grateful for food and for life, basically, and that’s why a lot more joy is coming through our music, I think. You write a song on a Tuesday morning just after you’ve had some cornflakes and the world is perfect.”
13. THERE’S A BIT OF RAPPING ON THE NEW ALBUM
Martin raps through a vocoder on hidden track ‘X Marks the Spot’. Martin says, “Most of the instruments on that song didn’t exist when we made our first album. People who want us to be a rock band might be disappointed, but I don’t think we really are a rock band.”
14. COLDPLAY ARE ‘DEFINITELY NOT SPLITTING UP’
This album has been rumoured to be the band’s last, but Martin says “we’re definitely not splitting up” – just that the band aren’t currently planning a record to follow this one. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. If one day we make another record, then that’s wonderful.”
15. HATERS GONNA HATE
“If you can give someone the pleasure of not liking you, maybe that’s as valid as the pleasure of liking you,” says Martin. “Some people want to assert themselves by showing the things they don’t like. It’s a form of positioning yourself. We all do that. I get it. But I’m more focused on the people who do like what we do, and there’s a few of them. I like hanging out with those people.
“If you ever liked Coldplay, then we’re going to really deliver on our promise over the next year or so. It’s not guarded music. It’s about very open things and that might not resonate with some people. But I don’t want to obscure our music behind coolness or cynicism just to avoid criticisms. Because for some people it really connects, and I need it, too.”