Hours before the show is set to begin, Terminal 5 already teems with life as crewmembers prepare to make Snow Patrol’s second sold out concert live up to the previous night. One such tech is Troy Stewart, a native Texan who has spent enough time on the road with the band for a slight Irish brogue to creep into his accent. Stewart took some time away from his duties to speak to me about The Windsor Player, a project that sees this session player and technician step into the shoes of frontman.
Though Stewart had been writing his own songs for years, he never felt compelled to release a solo record. “I’ve been playing in bands since I was about fourteen years old,” Stewart said. “I’ve never been interested in something like ‘The Troy Stewart Project.’ That’s not me.”
A UK tour had hardly drawn to a close before Snow Patrol’s singer Gary Lightbody assembled a new band to record a spontaneous album in Portland during the first couple of weeks of 2010. This supergroup, dubbed Tired Pony, saw Stewart working alongside frequent Snow Patrol collaborators Iain Archer, Richard Colburn (of Belle & Sebastian), and producer Garret “Jacknife” Lee, as well as R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey. With little time in the studio, the band pushed itself to create as free and collaborative an album as possible.
“By the end of that, we were tracking three, four songs a day,” Stewart recalled of the experience. “It was really Tired Pony that gave me the confidence to pursue my own music.” Energized by the experience, he began to set down the bare bones of what would become The Windsor Player. The first track he demoed, “Big Texas Sky,” featured his Tired Pony bandmate Colburn. McCaughey, no stranger to collaborations, was eager to join Stewart’s new band, and Buck contributed his signature mandolin playing for a few tracks.
“I was surprised by how quickly it came together. We recorded it over a few months, but it came in short bursts.” While Stewart stuck to vocals, guitars, and piano, the rest of the band was quickly rounded out with friends and contacts from around the world. The resulting self-titled album is a genre dodger, fusing gentle Americana with country loneliness and pop rock sensibility. It’s an emotional journey, pockmarked with loss but never abandoning hope or progress. The songs aren’t defined by repetitive hooks, and many defy the standard verse/chorus structure altogether. The Windsor Player is clearly a labor of love and an album that had been percolating for some time.
“Of course there is some Snow Patrol influence there, as well as a bit of Elbow,” Stewart said, describing the album’s sound. “But there’s also some Johnny Cash, ELO, Elton John’s early stuff.”
Even after mining years of writing for the band’s debut, Stewart is ready to explore new material with his band. “We’re looking to record another album this summer,” he told me. “I absolutely want to do some live shows too around Portland and Seattle. Jote Osahn, who’s part of Elbow’s string section, said she’d love to fly over for it.”
In the meantime, Stewart joins Snow Patrol live to play acoustic guitar on “Set the Fire to the Third Bar.” As he takes the stage, he blends in seamlessly with the band without fading into the background. His entire demeanor shows that he is more interested in making music than showing off. “I do hope people check out the album,” he said of The Windsor Player. “I’d encourage them to have an open mind, and just enjoy the music. It’s honest music, and I hope that resonates with people.”
For more information on The Windsor Player, please visit www.thewindsorplayer.com.