All You Can Do Is Live Every Day As If It's Your Last
The Evening Times 25th April 2005

RICKY ROSS tells BRIAN BEACOM how the death of Deacon Blue's Graeme Kelling made him rethink his life.

At the age of 47 and having been a fully-fledged pop star for a couple of decades now, you would think the performance fears would have been conquered by now.

"I'm not sure why I get nervous," he says over coffee.

"Perhaps it's just the idea of playing new material to an audience. Sometimes when you have new songs to play that creates a sense of empowerment. This time, however, that's not kicked in yet."

He adds, smiling: "Maybe it's my mid-life crisis manifesting itself and I need to start taking medication."

Crisis may be too strong a word but life re-evaluation would seem right.

Ross has never been insensitive. But he admits he's at the age when life is moving on so much faster. Awareness is heightened.

And being a top musician, he reveals, certainly doesn't cushion you from tragedy.

He said: "I've been doing more thinking about mortality recently, I guess.

"When my dad died it was a shock but last year was a big year for me when Graeme Kelling (the Deacon Blue guitarist who had pancreatic cancer) died.

"When someone of your own age dies, it really makes you think.

"And then there was the recent illness of my pal Edwyn Collins (currently recovering from a brain aneurysm). It was all so sad.

"Edwyn's a big gentle giant of a guy. I had a really lovely night out with him and his partner Grace just before he took ill. To hear about the illness was a real shock. He's such a lovely guy.

"But you can't legislate for that. All you can think is 'live each day as if it's your last'."

The experience of visiting Graeme when he was dying was a complete eye-opener for Ricky.

He recalled: "When he was in the Marie Curie hospice at Stobhill last year I came to realise that these hospices are all run on a voluntary basis.

"Why should that be the case? It's frightening to realise governments don't pay for them."

Passing years may have produced greater anxiety, but they have also polarised life's priorities for Ricky. He reveals the re-evaluation process began in 1994 during a flight over Glasgow.

"I was fed-up being in a band, doing the promotion treadmill, the travel - all the things that should have been fun were no longer enjoyable.

"All I would seem to do was get up in the morning, fly to London and come back early evening.

"I remember the flight path seemed to go over a golf course near Glasgow and I'd look out of the window and see guys playing down below and think 'These people are having a life. I'm the one missing out. I've had enough'."

But what to do? Dundee-born Ricky couldn't consider going into management because he admits to being 'hopeless' with money.

Songwriting royalties cheques were popping through his south side letterbox regularly but he had more mouths to feed.

As well as his daughter Caitlin from his previous marriage, Ricky and wife Lorraine had daughters Emer and Georgia, and a son, Seamus.

"I suppose that's part of the reason my work life is much more fragmented and I don't do just one thing now.

"I've realised that any one project can go down the tubes at any time," he said.

THERE'S a self-assurance that comes with multi-tasking, whether it's his solo performances, revivals with the band, writing for film, radio broadcasting- which he'd love to do more of -or writing with other artists.

"I love working with other people," he enthuses.

"Next week I'm off to Ireland to write with Ronan Keating. And you know the guy shocks me in his commitment to things. He works so hard but has life well balanced.

"He even stopped a performance in his last tour to show a film for 15 minutes on Make Poverty History. If Radiohead did that, NME would be writing about it. But he's a former boyband singer so he doesn't get credit.

"I guess songwriting is the really important thing for me now. This morning I got up, still wearing my dressing gown, and picked up my guitar. To be able to do this in life really is a fantastic feeling and I really appreciate how lucky I am."

"A recent plus in Ricky's life is the success of wife Lorraine, now starring in BBC Scotland soap River City.

But was there an initial sense he was left holding the baby, literally?

"I think the time I hated most about our working life was when we both did the same thing.

We would then be in the house at the same time. And there was always a dilemma. You wanted things to be busy, but then you wanted a balance to have a relationship.

"So I was really glad when she landed the River City job. And I'm really proud of her."

Ricky is so much more aware these days of how much he needs his family and friends around.

That's why when he plans trips away for solo shows - whether to Ireland or the upcoming British tour he's in or Japan in the autumn - he makes sure the time away is contained.

"It's the little things that make the difference," he says, smiling. "It's when the girls tell me about the new music they're listening to, or slag off my old music pals who come to the house."

There is certainly no sign of angst in his delightful new album Pale Rider, the audio equivalent of a Swedish massage.

And if he's a bit nervous of walking on stage with new songs, it doesn't mean he sees the day when he will walk away from the business of performing for good.

"I've thought of the notion of retiring when I'm 60, but then think that's only 13 years away."

What he can't see himself doing is acting - despite being a once-hopeful thespian.

Even if River City producers came calling for a cameo?

"Lorraine and I will only ever work together on music," he says, grinning.

"In fact, I now have to admit I am, in fact, a rubbish actor. I used to do plays at college and have since realised I'm at best a panto ham. Serious acting? I don't think so. I'll stick with what I can do." Brian Beacom