|Photographers call it the money
shot. Whatever the equivalent in the written word, it happened
when Seamus Ross approached his dad holding a toy helicopter –
in several pieces. While attending to the repair, Ricky Ross looks
up with an arched eyebrow that says: "I told you so."
Before Seamus's arrival, the last
point of discussion had been a track on his new album, Pale Rider,
called Boys Break The Things They Love The Most. The title is a
quote from his wife, Lorraine McIntosh, exasper-ated at her only
son's tendency to be overly boisterous with his toys.
The album is filled with deeply
personal moments like this, although Seamus's destructive
tendencies have been incorporated into a song which looks at the
wider picture of what it means to be male.
Ross openly admits that four tracks
are straightforward love songs, written for his wife. That
includes the first single, She Gets Me Inside, a song recorded by
Ronan Keating on his last album.
For a 47-year-old without any career
plan, there have been several strands to keep an eye on. His own
solo material; Deacon Blue, still a gigging entity; and the fact
he's in demand as a writer and collaborator.
Apart from the Ronan association, he
has written for artists as diverse as James Blunt and MOBO winner
J'Nay. Rather than being a distraction, however, Ricky Ross says
this takes him back to his original ambitions. "That's what I
wanted to do. When I started writing seriously in the 1980s, I had
other people in mind, but at that time my writing didn't really
match up to the blanket pop thing that was going on.
"I had started writing songs when
I was in Dundee and working with a youth group at Hilltown Baptist
Church. I didn't have a piano in the flat so used the church
piano. I used to get annoyed – what was the point of writing all
these songs? But a couple of them were good enough to keep me
The publishers' advice was to form his
own band. Four top-10 albums and 16 top-10 singles later, Deacon
Blue got off the recording/promotion/touring hamster wheel,
leaving Ross more time to write.
"I could never write on the
road," he says. "Writing at that time was specifically
for the next album. I never made the time to go off and do other
projects. It's my greatest regret that I didn't do that earlier.
When I look back at the Deacon Blue songs, however, I don't think
they could have been suitable for anyone else."
There seems to be a deep love of good
pop, which extends to believing that children should be allowed to
be children, even in their musical tastes. With no complaints
about what his own listen to – Caitlin is 17, Emer 12, Georgia
10, and Seamus a feisty four – the thought of children talking
about liking the same music as their parents, he says, is
Soundtrack to the Summer, a track on
Pale Rider, is inspired by making up holiday compilations for the
car, and making sure it's something everyone can enjoy. He was
disturbed that, at the age of two, Seamus would request The
Scientist by Coldplay, but "it turned out that he liked it
because he thought it was about spacemen".
His daughters come to the shows and
joined Deacon Blue on a particularly long tour in 1999. "It
wasn't long before they were spending more time with a new pal in
catering rather than watching us. "Emer was keen to come to
the Celtic Connections gig at Glasgow Cathedral this year, but it
was Saturday night and when she saw Georgia was staying in to
watch Casualty, well, there was no competition."
Pale Rider is the first solo outing
since This Is The Life (2002), a well-received album which fell
foul of a record company that went to the wall shortly after its
release. There was no great scheme for a follow-up, however.
"It sneaked up on me a wee bit . . . suddenly I found there
were quite a few songs. I had spent a lot of time writing for
other people and always thought I needed ideas.
"A good example is She Gets Me
Inside. I wrote that as an idea when James Blunt was coming round.
It was written quickly the night before, but when I played it to
him, he said, 'Well, it's kinda finished, isn't it?'."
His friend, Davie Scott of The
Pearlfishers, became producer. "He can't help but be the
producer, not in a pushy way, he's just good at helping me
articulate what I want.
"Everyone produces their own record
really, but I like having someone to phone up and cry on their
shoulder a wee bit. Our friendship has grown up through music more
than anything, so I can communicate with him. We scrapped some
really big things, and he was great about it."
Davie Scott will be the only other
musician joining him on a forthcoming tour. These are intimate
shows that Ross is rather nervous about.
A couple of small warm-up gigs at the
Bein Inn in Glenfarg shook off the initial nerves, but he has no
doubt that they'll come back.
"The feeling when the intimate
shows go well is amazing. Actually, it gives me the chance to talk
more about the songs. On the last tour for This Is The Life, some
of the songs were about my dad who had just died. I spoke about
the fact he suffered from depression and, after the gigs, people
seemed pleased the subject was brought out into the open."
Another emotional night came at the
Deacon Blue show at the Carling Academy in December, when he
previewed the last song on Pale Rider. In The End is written about
the last night he spent with Graeme Kelling, the band's guitarist
who died from cancer last June. It also turned out to be the last
night of Graeme's life. "We had had a busy day, but when we
got home I said to Lorraine, 'I think I should go and see Graeme.
I've got a funny feeling there's not a lot of time'. I grabbed
some old photographs of the band for him to look at. He was so
tired that's the only thing he had the energy to do, and, right
enough, he roared with laughter. Then he fell asleep and didn't
wake up again.
"The song is about that night.
There were only two people who knew what happened so I had to play
it to his wife, Julie, first. If she didn't like it, no-one would
have ever heard it, but she loved it and felt it represented what
happened that night.
"It's weird but it hasn't had as
huge an effect on the band as I thought. We miss him more
socially, as a friend."
As far as future plans are concerned,
he gives the shrug of a man who is actually rather content with
his life and will take things as they come.
"I've never had a commitment to
making more records. Even with Raintown, when the record company
brought in a group of Japanese journalists, I told them I'd like
to make three albums then split up. The press officers went
berserk. Actually we made four then split up . . ."
If the tunes dry up, a career in toy
repair may be the next move. Lorraine Wilson