A rush of endorphins
Before music became his life, a university writing course provided Liam Fray with creative stimulation and excitement
My mum and dad are teachers, so it was always a given that I'd go to university. I got good grades at A level in business and economics, so I drifted into an economics course at the University of Salford.
But it was wrong for me - as soon as I started I thought: "Hang on, I don't want to spend three years of my life doing something I'm not in love with." So I left after one term, worked in retail for the rest of that year, then went back to Salford to do creative writing - and I loved it. I stayed for only a year - the band (the Courteeners) were starting to do well and I left to do music full time - but I'm really glad I did it.
I don't come from a wealthy background; my mum and dad were working class, and both were the first in their families to go to university. I felt quite bad about packing in the economics course, and I had a student loan, so it was a big decision to leave. I didn't tell my parents until after I'd left the course and had been working for six months.
I worked in management in a shop in Manchester and also did little acoustic gigs around town. I was at my friend Sean's one day and saw a prospectus on his bed for a creative writing course at Salford. I thought: "I'd love to do that." So I went in the next day and signed up. I was honest and told them why I'd left - that I hadn't been in love with economics and hadn't clicked with people on the course because they were so business oriented.
Some degrees are very specific whereas creative writing is open, which I enjoyed. I knew from the start that I wasn't going to be a writer, but I loved gaining skills and meeting like-minded people. I was surrounded by creativity - someone would have a poetry reading or something and I'd go along and feel I could contribute. It embellished the whole experience for me, and through it I met a lot of people who are still friends today. I enjoyed going in every day because I was getting so much more out of it, rather than feeling I had to go because my folks were paying for it.
One of the best things about being at university was that I was pushed into thinking differently. In college, it's very much teacher-talking-down-to-pupil, but at uni I didn't see the people down the front as teachers. I gained a different sort of respect for them because they made me expand my thinking and enticed ideas out of me. The social aspect was also very important: Salford is three minutes' walk from Manchester city centre, so you'd finish your lectures and it would be: "Anybody want to go for a drink, or go shopping?"
I intended to complete the course, but halfway through I was given a book to read in the middle of the week, on top of one I'd been given earlier in the week. I'm a particularly slow reader, and I also had all these gigs around town. I couldn't do both.
One night around Christmas in 2004, I did a pub gig that was the turning point. It was a freezing night, and the pub had Christmas cards all along the bar, and the atmosphere was so warm and happy. I thought: "This is what I want to do all the time." I went back and did the next six months of university, then left and formed the band.
I always think I could go back to university, and if I did I'd approach it differently. A lot of people go without knowing what to expect - they see it as an extension of college, or they go because of their parents' expectations. But it should be a whole new lease of life. At school, you're just sat there and fed information, but you come out of university feeling really fulfilled, with the endorphins pumping.
Liam Fray is lead singer of the Courteeners. The Courteeners' current European tour will include appearances at the Isle of Wight Festival, Glastonbury, T in the Park and the V Festival.