Ricky : I Kept My Dignity When Sony Axed
Daily Record 16th April 2002
Deacon Blue singer on the moment his world fell apart
AFTER selling more than five million albums during his time at the helm of Deacon Blue, you'd think Ricky Ross would be happy to sit back and spend the rest of his life living off the royalties from the hits that made him a star.
The band notched up 19 top 40 hits, two No.1 albums with anthemic tunes such as Wages Day, Fergus Sings The Blues and Dignity. And Ricky and his singer wife Lorraine McIntosh even knocked pop queen Madonna off her throne with When The World Knows Your Name in 1989.
But the charismatic singer, who plays in Glasgow tonight to promote his new solo album This Is The Life, isn't happy to sit back and count his pennies. Having been dumped by his record company in 1996 - on his 38th birthday - Ricky knows what it feels like to have no money coming in.
The 44-year-old Dundonian said: "People assume that we're millionaires, that when I'm on tour it's just a wee hobby for me.
"But we never made anywhere near the kind of money that people think we did. I still need to work. "Even supposing I had made all the money people say I did, I'd still want paid, you know?"
Two years after Deacon Blue split up, father-of-four Ricky launched his first solo album, What You Are. Against all expectations - especially those of his record company Sony - the album flopped. The he was unceremoniously dumped and, for the first time since packing in his job as a teacher to form a band, he had no work on the horizon.
He added: "I had to keep myself busy during that period. For the first time, there was no work and no plan."
But time has helped heal Ricky's battered confidence. These days he can laugh about the "farcical" situation of being kicked out of work.
He said: "It was my birthday and the piano tuner had just arrived at the house. Then the manager from the record company phoned to say that they weren't intending to carry on with me. "So I was standing there, shell-shocked, asking the piano tuner if I could just write him a cheque and get on with stuff.
"He said 'yes, of course. But hold on a second, let me play you a little song'. And he just kept on going. Looking back now, it's brilliantly funny, although at the time it was a bit of a tragedy. Now I think it's just a hysterical farce."
However, Lorraine, 36, thinks otherwise. Now making a name for herself as an actress after starring alongside Blythe Duff in the hit stage show Mum's The Word, she said: "It was terrible. He took it badly. "You'd have thought having sold five million albums for Sony, they might have held back, but they washed their hands of him and it knocked him for six. "It happened at the worst time of the year for us, right before Christmas. We can look back and laugh now, but when he was dropped, we had the most elaborate and spectacular Christmas that we'd ever seen. He took to the kitchen and he cooked everything he could. "As long as he was there and cooking, then it meant that his mind wasn't on what had just happened to him."
But Rick - father of Lorraine's three children, Emer, nine, Georgia, six, and year-old Shamus - reckons it was just a coping mechanism. He said: "You just have to work through these things. You have to keep doing what you're doing. "It's not as if I sat around thinking up some scam such as getting the band back together again. I just wanted to be able to do what I do."
ALTHOUGH his confidence took a battering, it wasn't long before he found himself back writing songs again.
He said: "I'd sit in the kitchen at night when no-one was about with my guitar and a mini-disc and started writing again. "When you've been through something like being dropped, it becomes a struggle again to move on, but no-one can stop you from making music." Within months, he had sacked his agent and was playing solo shows all over the country and across Europe, with just his guitar and piano for company. He recalled: "The guy I was with at the time didn't want me to do certain gigs that he didn't think would make him any money. He'd booked my worst-ever gig in Manchester.
"The venue was all wrong and there was no piano. I felt so low. But the next night I played in Dublin. The place was packed and I really connected with the crowd. "It made me realise that my songs do mean something to people and I started doing gigs all over the place again." Last year, Deacon Blue released their first album for seven years and toured the UK twice.
Now Ricky - who has secured a deal with Papillon Records - has delivered a new album, reminiscent in places of David Gray and Ryan Adams.
Clearly, Ricky Ross has triumphed over adversity and emerged with his dignity intact. Ricky's new album, This Is The Life, is out now. He plays the Cottier Theatre, Glasgow, at 7.30pm tonight and Edinburgh's Queen's Hall on May 4. Paul English