This track from Noel Gallagher's self-titled solo debut album dates from his days as leader of Oasis. Soundcheck versions of the song had been floating around the web for a couple of years before he recorded it for Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Gallagher replied to Mojo magazine's remark that it sounds like an Oasis track by commenting, "When I played it to everyone they said the same thing; it sounds like it's always been around. You play G minor to F sharp a billion times and then one day it's like the first time you've ever played it."
The song was premiered on August 30, 2011 on KROQ Radio and was chosen as Gallagher's debut solo single in North America.
Gallagher told The Sun the inspirations for Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds include love, hope and "finding your feet." He said: "Oasis were a very macho rock band and you couldn't really sing songs about love. But I never shied away from writing those songs. - they were just piling up. For 'If I Had a Gun,' I'd like the listener to think about the person they love the most. It could be your mum, girlfriend or wife."
So who are The High Flying Birds? Said Gallagher: "My manager asked me who the High Flying Birds are. They aren't anyone in particular. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds is me and whoever is around at the time of whatever it is that I'm doing, a loose collective kinda thing."
Noel Gallagher penned this song during Oasis' last South American tour, when his relationship with Liam was at its lowest ebb and he had stopped traveling with the band. He told NME: "It was my decision. Mine and Liam's relationship, it go so f---ing bad, it was like, 'I'm gonna do everybody a favour here, I'm going to travel alone, because it's a bad atmosphere.' I'm alright being on my own. So at that point I was writing, not for any specific reason, just because I had a lot of time to kill."
A demo was bootlegged by a fan outside an Oasis soundcheck and then posted on YouTube. Gallagher recalled to NME: "It was one that came out on the internet from a soundcheck. But I only heard it a few years after, and I was quite impressed that I had pretty much nailed the arrangement. I didn't have the words fully formed, but I knew instantly, 'That's gonna be great when it's finished.'"
It was one of Gallagher's fans who told him this acoustic ballad was already up on the internet prior to him recording it. He told Spin magazine: "I was out one night in London and somebody asked me, 'Have you got a song called 'If I Had a Gun?'' I said, 'You couldn't possibly f---ing know that.' He said, 'I was just listening to it on the internet.' So I went to YouTube and there it was. It was recorded during soundcheck on Oasis' 2008 tour of South America, which is where I wrote the song. There was only about a minute of the audio. And while it didn't have any of the finished words, the basic structure was there, so people started writing their own words and finishing off the song and posting it to YouTube. Those cheeky f---ers. Before I'd even finished writing the song they're covering it. But it's flattering, too -- a quarter million people watched it."