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Noel Gallagher Documentary Goes Deep Inside the Songwriter's Artistic Process

'High Flying Birds: Somewhere In Between' chronicles making of the Oasis guitarist's new solo record

November 4, 2011 2:00 PM ET
noel gallagher
Noel Gallagher, Winner of a Q Icon, poses at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

"Noel Gallagher's one of the best  songwriters of his generation," says music producer Dave Sardy, who produced the last two Oasis records and Noel Gallagher's solo record "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds," due November 8th in the U.S. "I've worked with many artists including Johnny Cash, and Noel's on par with Johnny Cash. He's the real deal. He lives and breathes music. Even when Noel's just sitting down, playing his guitar to warm up, he is so talented and soulful, he has me and the engineers almost in tears."

Sardy was one of approximately 50 people who attended Soho House West Hollywood on Wednesday, where Filter presented a screening of High Flying Birds: Somewhere In Between, a compelling, revealing and entertaining documentary about the making of Gallagher's new record.

Despite being only 33 minutes long, the documentary packs in a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of the British rock star's artistic process, including studio time and detailed notewriting. The soundtrack is filled with songs from his new record, and Gallagher himself narrates the film.

High Flying Birds opens with Gallagher speaking about this new phase of his career. "It's very liberating. A Noel Gallagher audience? What is that? I don't know yet. We'll find out.”

The film's focus is on Gallagher's commitment to his art, his reverence for and deference to the tradition of songwriting, his perfectionistic nature and sense of humor.

Gallagher initially recorded the songs in England, but then sent them to Los Angeles producer Dave Sardy who had many suggestions and booked a flight to London to share his feedback with the nervous Gallagher. "I was thinking, well he's not coming over to tell me it's brilliant, that's for sure, 'cause he could do that on the phone. He's coming over to lay something on me." After Sardy's visit, Gallagher decided to hand Sardy the reins.

From there, Gallagher and his drummer Jeremy Stacy flew to Los Angeles to work at the legendary Sunset Sound recording studio and at Sardy's studio Hillside Manor.

In the film, Gallagher puts a lot of emphasis on the elusive songwriting process, calling his own method "Going fishing." "All I can do is sit with a guitar and wait and hope for something to happen. And that's what I do. I sit by the river and if I get a catch, great.” 

Despite having written an array of hits for Oasis, Gallagher admits that he can't read music and that he's not a great guitarist or vocalist. "I'm not great at anything.” he says. “I'm great at being me and doing what I do. I try to write great songs. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't. I like the discipline of that."

On his new record, Gallagher says his focus is upon themes of love, hope and going on a journey. Despite professing himself to be a cynic, he says, "You've got to be strong enough for love. It's very easy to be cool and cynical. It's very difficult to just let yourself go and be in love. You've got to be strong enough for that."

At the documentary's end, Gallagher reflects on what it was like being in Oasis and hitting certain milestones, and then discusses his future as a solo artist. "I'm going to set the benchmark. A year from now there will be a benchmark and it might be down by my ankles or it might be way above my head. It may exceed everyone's expectations or it may just be alright. It may just be another album. Don't know yet. But that's the great thing about it. Who knows?"

Related
Noel Gallagher Reveals Details of Two New Solo Albums
Noel Gallagher on Mumford & Sons, Radiohead and His Brother
Noel Gallagher: 'I'm Not Technically Proficient Enough to Attempt All Kinds of Music'

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