Coldplay's Chris Martin says lockdown made him confront his ego

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

Published
image copyrightReuters
image captionColdplay premiered their new single via the International Space Station

Coldplay's Chris Martin says that the pandemic has forced him to reassess his relationship with fame.

"Last year was a quite an eye opener," he told BBC Radio 2. "I was like, 'Who am I without Wembley Stadium saying, 'you're awesome'?"

"I'm trying in my life right now to not attach too much to being a pop star. I'm trying not to get my self worth from external validation."

He was speaking as Coldplay unveiled their new single, Higher Power.

They premiered the 80s-inspired pop song on board the International Space Station overnight - teaming up with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who beamed the music back to Earth by satellite.

In a video chat, Chris Martin told the 43-year-old aerospace engineer: "Right now we aren't able to play for anybody on Earth, so we thought we'd just play for you. It's like our one-man concert."

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The singer later told Zoe Ball the song had similarly intergalactic origins: "We've been trying to imagine what music might sound like on other planets, and try to imagine being those other acts, so we're not thinking of ourselves as being the band Coldplay from England," he explained.

He came up with the title first, but struggled to find the melody and lyrics to go with it.

"Then one day I was staying in this place and the sink was very resonant," he said. "And so I started hitting the sink [to make] this beat... and then I went to the piano keyboard, and the song just landed in one go."

"So thank you to that sink," the singer added. "That's great plumbing."

Higher Power is the band's first ever collaboration with Swedish hitmaking powerhouse Max Martin, who has previously topped the charts with artists like Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande and The Weeknd.

"We know that he's far more successful than we are, so it's quite humbling," Chris Martin told Zoe Ball.

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The producer forced the band to "raise our game" in the studio, he admitted.

"I had to audition songs for him. [We] got really back to basics."

"It's been interesting to let someone right into the fabric of the songs [and] to suggest things that no one else has ever been allowed to suggest."

Recording bubbles

Higher Power marks the first time the Swedish producer has teamed up with Coldplay, but the band hinted more music was on the way.

"We'd be a bunch of lazy so-and-sos if this was the only thing we'd done for the last 18 months," said Chris Martin.

He said the band had had to jump through several hoops to record together during the pandemic.

"We had to find countries where we were able to get in with permission, and then be in a recording bubble - and we did that three or four times.

"We tried to stay within the rules and get together when possible - but only when we won't be thrown in prison."

image copyrightPA Media
image captionColdplay released the video for hologram-heavy Higher Power on Friday

Glastonbury plans

The singer added that the pandemic and the lockdown had forced him to look at his relationship with fame.

"Last year was a quite an eye opener," he said. "I was like, 'Who am I without Wembley Stadium, saying you're awesome?'

"I'm trying in my life right now to not attach too much to being a pop star. I'm trying not to get my self worth from external validation."

However, the band will be playing live again soon. They're due to open the Brit Awards next week, playing on a barge in the middle of the Thames. Then, on 22 May, they'll take to the stage at Glastonbury, as part of a livestream that's taking the place of this year's festival.

The band have previously headlined the event three times - and Martin told Radio 2 he had a tradition of visiting the site, which is a working farm, before they played to envisage what their set will look like.

"I like to go down in the winter and climb up the Pyramid and sit there and think about what we're going to do," he said.

image captionColdplay's Chris Martin at the 2016 Glastonbury festival

"I just look at the cows and the grass and think, 'Okay, I'll imagine you're people'.

"But this year we have to just treat them as cows and grass and play to them. And I'm into that.

"You know, every member of the audience is special, whether they're human or bovine. We're going to give a great show - and nobody's going to be there!"

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