|Sit Down And Listen
To A Master Songwriter
The Evening Times 12th January 2005
IN the words of movie legend Samuel Goldwyn, if Ricky Ross could drop dead right now he'd be the happiest man alive.
At the age of 47, the pop star who delivered Deacon Blue to the world, has it all.
He can bask in the warm glow of nostalgia-fuelled applause generated by the band's loyal audiences, still desperate to hear Ricky and the team belt out Dignity and Real Gone Kid.
And when he chooses, he can step into a perhaps colder, more demanding environment as a solo artist.
Dundee-born Ricky admits however that a few years ago the very notion of a dual professional life would have been unthinkable.
Reforming bands to play golden oldies wasn't cool. Audiences may buy into reprise acts but other popsters and the music industry would have been sniffy about it.
But musical times change and artists such as Bowie, Elton and the Wets prove there's nothing wrong with becoming human juke boxes.
"No-one in their right mind wants to be in a band for very long," said Ricky, explaining the reason why the incredibly successful Deacon Blue imploded in the first place.
"The band has it's own dynamic which takes over. It means you can't do other things. But then you get to do other things and it seems right to get back together.
"And it's fine so long as it doesn't sound like you are just treading water."
Deacon Blue re-united after the success of a charity gig in 1999 which sold out in hour.
It highlighted that not only was there a huge demand for the music, the band themselves loved the process of recreating the anthemic sounds.
"I really have enjoyed doing the recent Deacon Blue shows," enthused the frontman. "The band are playing very well."
But the peace of mind he needed to re-engage with the mother ship came about slowly.
Ricky had to prove to himself there was musical life beyond that world.
Part of that voyage of discovery came via exploring Celtic Connections.
And there's a clear excitement in his voice when he talks about his upcoming return to Glasgow Cathedral. "I'm not that Celtic-ally connected," he said, smiling. "But the cathedral is fantastic place to play.
"When I did Celtic Connections once before at the Strathclyde Suite of the Royal Concert Hall it went well but was a bit lacking in atmosphere, like doing a gig in a large hotel.
"But then I got the chance to play at the cathedral, alongside Davey Scott and Mick Slavin and I really enjoyed it. It's an incredibly atmospheric venue.
"The actual space makes it a very special night."
He added: "My solo stuff is more of a seated occasion. That's a nice contrast with the energy of the Deacon Blue shows."
The last time round at the cathedral was so special Ricky found himself contacting bootleggers of his own material.
"The show went so well, performing a lot of the songs I would use on the next album, that I really wished I'd taped the gig.
"What I ended up doing was going on the net and finding someone who had taped the show. Luckily, I found some people who had bootlegged the show and I was able to get a tape."
Ricky laughed at the endorsement.
"God bless the bootleggers. I don't if they knew who I was when asking for the tapes, but I admit it's a strange situation for a musician to get his own work in this way."
The Dundonian's songwriting world has also opened up and he delights in the opportunity to write for other people.
For example, Ricky has been working with Ronan Keating for the past couple of years.
"I went to a show of his a few weeks ago at the SECC and it was the first time I'd really seen him live. And he performed a new song I had written. It gave me a great thrill to hear one of my songs being played at the SECC."
Ricky's year ahead is busier than the Barras. The new album Pale Rider is due out in the spring, but there's no sign that despite two decades at the top writing music has become anything like a thankless chore.
"The songwriting market is very competitive, but it's something I still love doing. I'll walk the dog and take a dictaphone with me and record ideas. I try to tap into the universal spirit, to find something people can get.
"For example, driving here today I heard Janis Ian's Seventeen and I thought that's the sort of song I would have loved to have written. But I still feel inspired. I still love the writing process.
"And it's the greatest joy ever when someone comes to my house and then leaves three hours later and we have a song. I really enjoy writing with Jim Prime (his Deacon Blue partner) but it's great to have new experiences, of collaborating with other people."
In spite of the sheer pleasure that comes from having a
best-of-both-worlds working life, Ricky Ross is not without his musical regrets.
He even becomes a little melancholy as he shares his greatest missed opportunities.
"I once had an offer to work with the legendary Dusty Springfield, but touring commitments wouldn't allow for it. And I had the chance to team up with John Barry, (the film and TV composer). Again, I had to turn down the golden offer.
"I really regret these chances, especially because Dusty is no longer with us. It would have been interesting to see what emerged."
He pulled himself back to the present.
"Right now however, things are great. I've got the band and I get the chance to work with a diverse range of people.
"I'm working with a younger generation who are very, very informed, and that is really refreshing for me.
"It really couldn't get much better." Brian Beacom