Ricky Wants A Less Arctic Hogmanay
Aberdeen Evening Express 24th December 2004

Keeping Ricky Ross happy is quite simple really ... just stick him in front of a crowd of fans singing along to his songs.

Keeping him warm, though, can be another matter - which is why the man behind Deacon Blue is hoping for a mild evening when the band headline at Aberdeen's New Year bash.

Because he spent last December 31 performing in the teeth of near Arctic conditions at Stirling Castle ... the same conditions that swept away events in Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

"Almost everything else in Scotland was cancelled that night because of the weather," said Ricky from the warmth of his Glasgow recording studio.

"We were half-hoping we might be cancelled too, it was so grim when we went on. It was really mad ... it was just snow and really, really cold."

Despite that rather chilly experience Ricky and the rest of the band are looking forward to seeing in the bells at the Castlegate.

In part, it's down to the warmth of the reception they always get from Aberdeen crowds.

After all, just two days before that freezing Stirling gig, Deacon Blue had played to an ecstatic audience at the Music Hall.

The audience lapped up classic hits like Real Gone Kid, the anthemic Dignity and, of course, Queen of the New Year.

"That was a really good night, we all enjoyed that," said Ricky.

"So we are really looking forward to this Hogmanay. I think the trick will be to have lots of thermals and keep the set upbeat," he laughed.

Ricky described last year's Music Hall gig as a "Christmassy kind of show".

"I think the Hogmanay one will be different as it is outdoors. Indoors we can do a fairly expansive sort of thing.

"We're in Glasgow the night before and we'll be playing everything we released as a single. So a lot of singles will be involved in the show in Aberdeen."

And there are so many singles to choose from.

After all, Deacon Blue have been an indispensable part of the Scottish and UK music industry ever since the astonishingly good Raintown brought them to public attention in 1987.

During the late 80s and early 90s, the band just couldn't put a note wrong.

Wages Day, Chocolate Girl, Love and Regret ... Everyone in the land, it seems, has at least one favourite Deacon Blue song.

And everyone is willing to tell Ricky when they meet him.

"It's nice if your songs have an impact on people's lives," he said.

"It's good if people feel that's been a positive thing for them.

"It's a great thing to have familiarity with your stuff, if you go out and people know a lot of your stuff.

"It kind of makes your life a lot easier a lot of the time if you are doing a show," he said, with another chuckle.

But there's no getting away from the fact that Ricky still gets a buzz from watching a hall, a theatre or a street bounce with people, waving their arms and singing along.

"I think it's the connection between the songs and the audience. These songs obviously mean a lot to them."

Which is immensely gratifying for Ricky, whose life-long love has been to write songs.

A successful solo artist in his own right - a new album is due out next year - he also writes with and for others.

Right now he's working with Ronan Keating on the Irish star's next album.

But he's also keen to promote new talent.

"A guy I've been working with this year is a guy who will be big next year," said Ricky, confidently.

"He's a young guy called J'Nay, who is a good R &B act and who won the Mobo award for best unsigned artist last year."

While he enjoys writing pop songs for others, he has a definite gear change for music he writes for himself.

"I just want to make really good songs that connect to people. It doesn't have to be a very 'up' record ... not that it's gloomy in any sense.

"But the songs have to be important, meaningful stories that I can relate to. If I can relate to them, then perhaps other people can too."

So what does he draw on for inspiration.

"These days, getting older ... slowing down a bit," he said, laughing.

"But you don't want to be making the same kind of records you did when you were younger.

"A lot of people make good records as they get older, maybe more mature records. They have a different quality to them and I think that's good."

But for the meantime, the band are looking forward to getting back together for their Aberdeen and Glasgow gigs.

Ricky will be joined on stage again by his wife Lorraine McIntosh, now starring in River City, and drummer Dougie Vipond, now a BBC Scotland sports presenter.

But there will be a poignant note to the concerts. Earlier this year, the band's guitarist Graeme Kelling lost his fight with cancer.

"That was a terrible time and it's still a very hard time," said Ricky. "If you lose someone who is a contemporary, it feels such a severe loss.

"He is missed. There are some songs that we can never get quite right since he went. I think it's still pretty raw there, especially at this time of year."

After Hogmanay the band faces a busy year.

There might be more touring and there is talk of creating a new DVD and possibly new material for it. But Deacon Blue will never again be a full-time venture for those involved.

"None of us want to be in a band together. It would drive us mad," said Ricky.

"It's not quite a hobby, but it's not far off. Doing the odd wee thing, a wee run of shows or whatever, that's really enjoyable."

And that includes breaking out the thermals and keeping Union Street bouncing this Hogmanay. Scott Begbie