Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody struggled with writer's block when penning Fallen Empires. Speaking to Q magazine, the singer explained how a chance meeting with R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe at a Californian studio rejuvenated his writing process. He recalled, "I couldn't even write my name on a cheque. It was that bad at the time ... (Stipe arriving at the studio) was amazing because the first song I ever played live was R.E.M.'s 'Find the River' at a school concert."
Although Stipe's input was minimal, it was enough to inspire Lightbody to rediscover his muse. He recalled, "Michael just made a few suggestions here and there. On a track called 'New York' there was a line, 'Your face has never left me.' He said, 'That sounds like you've got a girl's head in your bag.' So we changed that."
Lightbody explained the story behind this piano ballad: "I always try to write about personal experiences - 'New York' is about a girl I was seeing over there. We both had strong feelings for one another, but we were never in the same place at the same time. It's about missed opportunities."
Lightbody penned this song with Snow Patrol pianist Johnny McDaid in his London studio.
Canadian musician Owen Pallett, who has also worked with Arcade Fire and Duran Duran did the song's orchestral arrangement. Lightbody told Billboard magazine: "We were having so much trouble with it trying to get the arrangement but he came in and saved our asses."