Deacon Blue - A New House
Daily Record 2nd September 2014

THE band, who release their seventh album A New House on 8 September, have provided Record readers with the chance to listen to stirring new track For John Muir.

DEACON Blue have given Daily Record readers an exclusive preview of a new track from their forthcoming album. The band, who release their seventh album A New House on 8 September, have provided Record readers with the chance to listen to stirring new track For John Muir.

The song was inspired by the Scots-born naturalist, regarded as a founding father of the modern conservation movement. Lyricist and lead singer Ricky Ross said: “It came about after Phil Cunningham and I were asked to work together on a possible commission. The commission didn’t come off, but it got me thinking about John Muir again. I remember being in Dunbar years ago and then we went on holiday to Yosemite National Park in California and I was taken by his amazing history, from Dunbar to America. It focussed a lot of things for me.”

Born in Dunbar, East Lothian, in 1838, Muir emigrated to the American state of Wisconsin aged 11 and went on to become a hugely respected figure in the study of nature. He lobbied American presidents Roosevelt and Wilson over the protection of delicate US ecosystems and was massively influential in the establishment of America’s National Parks. His legacy is such that the Scot is now known in America as the Father of The National Parks because of his pioneering insight. This year in Scotland, the John Muir Way was opened to mark the 100th anniversary of his death. The long distance walk stretches 130 miles from Helensburgh in the west to Dunbar in the east.

Songwriter Ricky was also inspired by the words of English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who spent time in Glasgow as a parish priest in the 1800s. He said: “He was a priest in the Gorbals for a time and felt oppressed by the city. There’s a handwritten copy of his poem Inversnaid in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and that fed into the song too.” Ricky joked: “It’s a mixture of things. It’s what an English teacher colleague of mine used to call ‘a stream of unconsciousness’ when handing back essays.”

Nature is a recurring theme on the band’s new album, produced by Paul Savage who also worked on their 2012 LP The Hipsters - the Glasgow band’s first in over a decade. Deacon Blue co-singer, Ricky’s wife Lorraine McIntosh, added: “At our age you can’t write songs without being aware of time having passed and time moving forward. So there’s a nostalgia, but also optimism.
“There’ a joy for the future in this record. That’s why I love it probably even more than the last one, there’s a real sense of looking back and looking forward and a real fusion of those two things. There’s a real sense of optimism around just now especially after the Commonwealth Games. I think that has fed into what Ricky was writing on this album.”

The LP’s lead single A New House, is partly inspired by the frontman’s childhood memories of his family flitting from one part of Dundee to another. Ricky said: “I was fascinated by old railway tracks when I was a kid. I’d think about how long they’d need to be there before they were completely taken over. I think I was overcome with the beauty of the place we live in, and how we just sometimes take it for granted. “My dad used to say every year how much he loved the spring. It was years before I understood it, the feeling that as you get older you’ve got through another winter.

“Tom Waits has a song called You Never Can Hold Back Spring, and it’s so true, it’s an enormous force. Even if you put two weeks of an enormous Scottish hurricane before it, spring will still batter through. “I don’t want this to sound pretentious, but it’s kind of what art is. People are fascinated by what they’re fascinated by. I listen to Bob Dylan and I think, ‘If he’s interested in that then I’m interested in that.’

“If he’s curious enough to want to tell a story, then I’m interested. So I think as a songwriter you have to have the courage of your own curiosity, and in telling a story you hopefully reveal something about yourself and the world that matters in some way.”  Paul English