AS lead guitarist and chief songwriter with Oasis, Noel Gallagher was one of the biggest stars in rock.

With his brother Liam and band, he scored 22 consecutive top 10 hits and eight number one singles. A global phenomenon, Oasis were declared Britain’s biggest band from the mid-90s to mid-2000s.

Debut album Definitely Maybe – boasting such huge hits as Live Forever, Supersonic and Cigarettes & Alcohol – topped the charts and went eight times platinum. Follow up (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – with tunes including Roll with It, Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger – is one of the biggest LPs of all time, selling 22 million copies and going 16 times platinum.

None less than Beatles producer George Martin branded the straight-talking Mancunian “the finest songwriter of his generation”.

Yet, 14 years after Oasis broke-up, and 12 years since the founding of his own band High Flying Birds, Noel says he is happier recording and touring now than ever before.

“Like life itself, one tends to appreciate things more the older and more handsome one gets,” he says.

After a spectacular last summer which saw him and his band captivate Glastonbury Festival, preceding songwriting icon Sir Paul McCartney, Noel has been out of the limelight so far this year. But he has not been twiddling his thumbs.

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He last month released new album Council Skies – his first in five years – and tonight gives the tunes a live debut at one of the summer’s hottest festivals: PennFest.

Taking place among the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire, the festival runs today and tomorrow.

Noel headlines the opening night, sharing a bill with Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes’s ‘solo’ band of talented Oxfordshire artists, and the Smiths guitarist and co-songwriter Johnny Marr.

Tomorrow is headlined by pop-rock band Bastille who appear alongside Corinne Bailey Rae and Embrace, among many others.

The presence of Johnny Marr today is no coincidence. The iconic guitarist played on three tracks on Noel’s album – standout tune Pretty Boy, Open the Door, See What You Find and the title track.

Noel is eager to give the songs their first live airing.

“I’d be amazed if Easy Now and Pretty Boy aren’t great live but, as of yet, we just don’t know,” he says modestly.

Oxford Mail: Oasis and High Flying Birds star Noel Gallagher

The collaboration with Johnny follows previous projects which saw the axeman playing on High Flying Birds tunes Ballad Of The Mighty I and If Love Is The Law.

For Noel, the love goes back to the Smiths, the sound of which was shaped by Marr’s sophisticated chord progression, layered guitar parts and signature chime and jangle.

“Like all the great bands they had an undefinable thing,” Noel says of the Smiths. “Yes, the tunes were undeniably great – and they were amazing live – but there was something else. As for what that ‘something’ was? I still don’t know.”

The new album is the first to have been recorded at Noel’s own studio, Lone Star Sound. Has it always been an ambition for Noel to have his own studio?

“Yes and No,” he says. “It was born out of necessity, really. Luckily it sounds and feels and looks amazing.”

The record sees Noel exploring themes of youthful yearning and unbridled ambition.

“It’s going back to the beginning,” he says. “Daydreaming, looking up at the sky and wondering about what life could be… That’s as true to me now as it was in the early 90s.

“When I was growing up in poverty and unemployment, music took me out of that. Top of the Pops on TV transformed your Thursday night into this fantasy world – and that’s what I think music should be. I want my music to be elevating and transforming in some way.”

Fans include a certain Robert Smith of The Cure, who remixed Pretty Boy. So how did that come about?

“Well, I just asked him,” says a typically matter-of-fact Noel. “I never thought he’d even listen to it, far less actually agree to do it. A lovely man. He’s from the North West so I should have known he’d be cool as...

“I do love The Cure – one of the great British guitar bands.

The PennFest headline set is one of the most eagerly awaited of the summer. As unlikely as it may seem, the two-day Buckinghamshire bash promises to be something of a homecoming for Noel.

“I lived there for a long time – Chalfont St Giles to be exact,” he says. “I might pay my favourite Indian restaurant Milton’s Cottage a visit for a vindaloo!”

Joining Noel – and Gaz Coombes – on stage will be a face familiar to many Oxford music lovers: singer-songwriter Piner Gir. The Kansas-born, Oxfordshire-adopted artist has played on some of the world’s biggest stages with Gaz and Noel as part of backing group Roxys alongside friends Emma Brammer and Amy Ashworth.

Having spotted the girls backing Gaz, Noel signed them up for his own live shows – including last summer’s epic Glastonbury show, performing to a good chunk of the festival’s 200,000-strong crowd and millions more watching on TV.

“Noel spotted us singing with Gaz when he supported him at Edinburgh Castle in 2018,” she recalls.

Oxford Mail: ‘Roxy, Roxy, Roxy’: Piney Gir, Emma Brammer and Amy Ashworth provide backing vocals

‘Roxy, Roxy, Roxy’: Piney Gir, Emma Brammer and Amy Ashworth provide backing vocals

“He told the NME that he ‘stole’ us away from Gaz, but in fact we continue to sing with both legends.”

They were christened Roxys by legendary producer, guitarist, composer and Chic star Nile Rodgers whom they met backstage at TV show ‘Later... with Jools Holland’ after singing and providing percussion for Gaz.

Nile approached Piney, Emma and Amy in the hall and gestured toward them saying “Roxy, Roxy, and Roxy... who knew sleigh bells could be so sexy?”

So, what was it like to play The Pyramid Stage?

“Surreal,” she laughs. “From the stage, I could not even see the end of the masses. The faces kept on going and going. It was a really special experience. The huge amount of people singing along with Noel’s hits was really cool too.

“Those songs mean a lot to people; it felt like a whole lotta love!”

PennFest takes place today and tomorrow, July 21-22, at Penn, between High Wycombe and Amersham. See