Up Close And Very Personal
The Herald 28th April 2005
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 going."

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 "just wrong".

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