As his band makes plans to return to New Zealand at the end of the year, Chris Martin talks to Lydia Jenkin about life on planet Coldplay.

Some things you might not know about Chris Martin: he loves walking a lot; after Coldplay concerts he likes to ride an exercise bike and listen to


by AC/DC to try and work through the extra adrenalin; he's good mates with actor Simon Pegg, and once arrived at Pegg's house with his undies pulled up to his chest, just for a laugh; he played in teenage cover bands called the Rockin' Honkies (who played Motown hits) and Bunga (grunge); and he knows more jokes about Coldplay than you do.

Martin is also just as positive, sincere, and occasionally corny as you might expect - his answers are full of words like grateful and togetherness, and he's clearly enthused with Coldplay's current state, which seems to be as excited and refreshed as they've been in some years.

But the thing that makes all that positivity charming rather than annoying is that Martin seems to have a remarkable amount of self-awareness.


He managed to parody himself perfectly in the Red Nose Day Game of Thrones musical video, he doesn't mind being "the white guy who can't dance" sandwiched between Beyonce and Bruno Mars, and he's let go of worrying about whether everyone likes Coldplay or not.

Not that he needs to worry, for it seems the number of global Coldplay fans continues to grow.

Off the back of their seventh album, A Head Full of Dreams, they've launched a lengthy world tour, which has already seen them play to more than half a million people in South America in 10 sold-out shows, and soon has them heading across Europe and the United States before they come to New Zealand at the end of the year.

Chris Martin of Coldplay performs at the American Music Awards. Photo / AP
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs at the American Music Awards. Photo / AP

A quick browse of Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and various news sites confirms that crowds have gone crazy for the new show.

Coldplay may have set the bar high with their Mylo Xyloto tour in 2012, which dazzled with its huge visual presentation, lasers, confetti cannons, giant bouncing balloons, synchronised glowing armbands for all audience members, and fireworks, but Martin assures they have more tricks in their bag.

"Oh you don't have to worry about that. We've taken lots of stuff from the last tour that we thought worked well, like the armbands, which we love, and we've added more stuff that's hopefully even better.

"Also recently, and I don't really know how to explain it, but there's more openness between us and the audience, and so maybe that's being reflected back a bit in the live shows. We're in a really positive place at the moment."

Indeed they are - A Head Full Of Dreams makes Martin sound like a guy who's managed to find joy in life again, a marked contrast to the man who was working through the throes of his divorce on their much darker, more subdued previous album, Ghost Stories.

"That's definitely true for all of us. I think our response to all of the craziness and negativity that's around right now is to come out really positive, and so we're telling our listeners that but we're also telling ourselves that. There's only really two ways to react to the state of the world - you can give up, or you can keep going, and this record definitely is the sound of us trying to look on the bright side of thing and stay optimistic, and feel the power of togetherness."

Martin also cites the power of others' music in helping to keep him in a good headspace, and finds singing along can help to transform his mood.

"I don't know how it works for everyone else, but I find that music can really help me along. Whether it's listening to Imagine by John Lennon to kind of hear about a utopian vision, or Bob Marley, makes me feel a certain kind of hope."

The new albums by Radiohead and James Blake are also currently on his playlist, and he's been enjoying (in a bittersweet way) delving into David Bowie's songbook, recently delivering a particularly impressive solo version of Life on Mars on Howard Stern's radio show.

"I love to learn songs like that, where I just can't quite work out how someone did it, you know what I mean, because no matter how many songs you've written, you always feel like you haven't quite got there yet. And Brian Eno actually told me once, whenever you're in a bit of a pickle, in a rut, learn someone else's song to give you a fresh perspective on music again. And so I always try to do that."

As well as learning someone else's songs, the act of collaboration has also been key for Coldplay of late. A Head Full Of Dreams features an array of collaborators including Stargate, Noel Gallagher, Tove Lo and, of course, Beyonce.

"I think with this one, we had in our heads a very colourful image, and it just felt like a lot of people were needed to make that kaleidoscopic thing. And I think the main thing that we decided this time was to not have any fear, of anything, and to embrace all the different kinds of things that we love, and the different styles that we love."

And he had this to say of working with Beyonce: "I think it's very akin to how it would feel to play rugby with Jonah Lomu. I think, even if you're great at rugby, you have to acknowledge that he's even greater, so that's how it is with Beyonce. It's a privilege."

Obviously she enjoyed the experience enough to perform with Coldplay at this year's Superbowl half-time concert, along with Bruno Mars, which made for a spectacular 12 minutes of live entertainment.

"Yeah, I feel very grateful that we were able to do it. We decided to make it a celebration of togetherness rather than the promotion of one band, and I think once we'd decided that, it became really fun, because we could invite whoever we felt like, and so in a way it felt a bit more like a party than a concert."

You have to hand it Coldplay - there aren't too many stadium-filling acts out there who would put aside their own agenda and ego in order to invite other acts to share the spotlight at the Superbowl half-time in order to create a better, more inclusive show.

But that kind of caring, sharing, motivational outlook genuinely seems to be Martin's automatic modus operandi.

"I think it's just how I'm choosing to look at the world at the moment, because the other option to me is not viable, you know, to just give up and grumble," he laughs.

"Everywhere I go I see cause for optimism as much as anything else, and so I choose to focus on that. I don't want to be part of the chorus of disapproval, I'd rather look at it the other way."

Who: Chris Martin of Coldplay
Where and when: Mt Smart Stadium December 3.
Listen to: A Head Full Of Dreams (2015)