Deacon Blue Singer Reveals The Realities
The Herald 31st January 2016
Deacon Blue singer reveals the realities of motherhood
The Herald 31st January 2016
LORRAINE McIntosh is sitting in a plaster bare-walled rehearsal room in Glasgow’s south side, a space so cold her plastic chair is placed about six inches from the single, tiny radiator. Sadly, the heat emitted could scarcely warm a flea’s armpits, never mind an actress’s countenance.
Yet, McIntosh isn’t grumbling at all. Far from it, in spite of the fact this is all a stark contrast from the doe-eyed performer’s rather more glamorous other life, as a singer in iconic Scots band Deacon Blue.
McIntosh is enjoying the rehearsal period for her new stage show, Mum’s The Word, in which five actresses perform comedy monologues, all on the theme of motherhood.
“I suppose it beats a real job,” says the performer, looking up at the specs of light coming through where roof should be. “And I love rehearsals, getting a play on its feet. It’s like being at school when we did classroom plays, which we made up on a Friday.”
McIntosh adds, smiling; “I would be the director, and cast myself in the main part. But I could never be a director now, though. I’m too bossy.”
Admissions of mild megalomania are reassuring; know your weaknesses. But McIntosh’s strength, it seems is she always knew she wanted to perform, whether as an actor or a singer.
“But there were no drama groups where I grew up in Cumnock. (Her family had moved from Glasgow when her dad found work in the colliery.) I didn’t even know the RSAMD existed. The only person I was aware of who’d stepped out of the world I knew was Lena Zavaroni. There were no role models. At school however there was a teacher who created a folk band. I wasn’t into folk, particularly. But I’d have sung anything.”
It wasn’t until McIntosh’s Fifth Year at school when an English teacher encouraged the class to perform an unknown musical, Free As Air. She loved the experience, but it hardly directed her towards the light of showbiz; there was no such daylight in Cumnock. In 1982, McIntosh resolved to become a teacher instead, moved to Glasgow to study and busked part time on Argyle Street. When she met hopeful pop star Rikki Ross she joined his band. Some years later, the chance to act presented itself in the form of director Ken Loach, who offered her a lead role in My Name Is Joe.
Now, here she is starring in a show about motherhood in which all the actresses are mums. McIntosh has three children, two daughters Emer, 21 and Georgia 19 and 15 year-old son, Seamus. But did the decision to have children come easily, given her 11 year-old self had acted as surrogate mum to her two siblings after her own mother died, aged 46 (from leukaemia.)
“I didn’t think I would never become a mother, even though I did have to look after a household, being mother and housewife when I was very young,” she offers. “I always wanted to have a baby.”
What becoming a parent has given McIntosh is an appreciation of her father’s commitment to his children. “I can’t appreciate how my dad coped after my mum died. He walked three miles to work, starting at six in the morning, walked back in the freezing rain, then he’d prepare a meal for three hungry kids. He must have been constantly exhausted. And because we had no car, we had to carry the groceries. We never had carry out food. But it makes you appreciate life now.”
McIntosh didn’t have an easy start in life, born in a single end in Glasgow’s East End where all you could taste was poverty. “We never ever had a take-away,” she recalls. “And you ate whatever was on the table. Always.”
But do her children appreciate life, given the success and wealth which the band has create? “I think so,” she says in hopeful voice. “The kids all came along to see Men Should Weep (the depressing, depression-set play, at the Citizens’) and it helps make them aware of what they have.”
McIntosh, it seems, has Motherhood in her DNA. “I also have a step-daughter, Caitlin, who is very much part of my life, even though she’s very close to her mum, but she’s my fourth child really.” She adds, grinning; “But I would have liked a fifth.
“I like them when they’re young, all under the one roof. It’s only when they start to move out I find it difficult. Going to uni wasn’t so much a problem but Caitlin was in San Francisco last year, our eldest was in Baltimore, the other one in Shanghai and I really worry about them.
“I spend most of my life on Facetime. The problem is they phone you in the middle of the night because of the different time zones, and you comfort them and then stay awake worrying. By morning, another one will call, from another time zone and the process starts all over again.
“What really worried me was that if anything had gone wrong, I wouldn’t have been able to get there for at least 24 hours. It was a nightmare.”
Were there ever concerns about career/life balance? “We didn’t have our first child until the band was successful, and that meant when we went on tour we had a nanny. And we were living really well, with no cooking. But having said that I wouldn’t hand the baby over to the nanny at nights. The only time I did was on long flights when |I was totally knackered. It wasn’t until we had our second that it got tricky, two kids, big long flights to the likes of Japan, and it became hard work. But at least we had the financial back-up. I really feel for actor pals who are struggling and they have families, but go out to work when they can and have to put the kids into nursery.”
She adds in pensive voice; “I’m totally aware that success cushioned our reality. But after Georgia was born the band stopped for five years and I did nothing. Then I began acting with the Ken Loach film (My Name Is Joe). When the girls were about nine/ten they came to gigs and just sort of accepted what we did.”
Do they know she once busked on the streets of Glasgow? “I don’t actually know,” she says, smiling. “But I guess at one point they’ll ask questions as to how it all happened.” Do they grasp the level of success the band has had? “No, but here’s the thing; last year I was driving Seamus to the train and we were listening to Chris Evans on Radio Two. Evans played Raintown and said ‘This is from one of the best albums ever recorded’ and Seamus said ‘Wow! Did he really mean that?’ And I said ‘I think so.’ It was great to see the delight on his face.”
McIntosh’s acting career grew, and ran parallel with the band. However the BBC soap River City experience wasn’t all positive, playing the vodka dependent Alice Henderson. “I enjoyed being in the show but I didn’t enjoy the impact it had on the kids. My eldest daughter was in First Year when I began and I remember going along to parent’s night and it was awful. Some of the other kids would be saying ‘Oh, is that your mum? I’ve seen her on River City.’ Then they would add; ‘Is your mum an alkie?’
“When it came to Second Year, she asked me not to come to parent’s night. That really wounded me. I thought ‘Oh, no. That’s not right.’
“The difference with being in a band is that those who come to the concerts like you. If you do a soap like River City then people love or hate you. They all have a strong opinion. And some can’t separate you from the character you play.”
Did she ever buy books on bringing up children? “I’m quite a confident person, some would say bossy, (perhaps more than some, given she’s used the adjective twice) but I did buy one book; Toddler Training. It was quite helpful, but bringing kids up is common sense; it’s about not giving in when they’re bad, it’s about praising them when they’re good and enjoying them as much as you can.”
She breaks into a laugh; “I did love Supernanny on TV, and I remember one Christmas we put Seamus on the naughty bench, as we called it, but we forgot all about him. We ate dinner, finished it and sat talking for ages, then realised he was still out there. Thankfully, there was a nativity set next to him so he amused himself with that.”
What of the future? McIntosh will be back touring with the band, but wants to act more. Does this mean she and Ross will be arm wrestling a little? “Yes, a wee bit more this year. We’re looking at summer gigs, but they could stop me doing the Edinburgh Festival. Yet, I’ve had such fun with the band in recent years. And I’ve got a very good life. I get to do two things I love. How can I complain?”
And she gets to appear in a show mums can empathise with. “That’s right. This is a Facebook era when we all share the wonderful pics and great moments but the reality, as we know, is sometimes very different.”