“I wanted to tell different stories of love…” - Ricky Ross opens up about Deacon Blue’s new LP City Of Love
Ever since Scottish pop-rockers Deacon Blue released their 2012 album The Hipsters, they’ve been on a roll.
The band, perhaps best known for their early albums Raintown and When the World Knows Your Name, the latter of which produced megahit single 'Real Gone Kid', initially split in 1994. First reforming in 1999, they wouldn’t record another album until The Hipsters, but since then it’s been business as usual.
A New House followed in 2014 and Believers in 2016, after a slightly longer gap, the latest instalment, City Of Love, arrives this week.
An 11-track record of bombastic pop-rock, it continues in the band’s fine tradition of delivering uplifting melodies and arena-filling choruses.
As the album arrives in hmv stores, we spoke to frontman Ricky Ross about how he put City Of Love together and how the discovery of some bones led him down a romantic path...
When did you start working on the songs for City Of Love?
“It was a long process, actually. We’d only put out Believers in 2016 and I was writing solidly again by the summer of 2017. Writing without much of a goal or an end date. We initially planned to record in the summer of 2018, but I wasn’t sure we had what we needed, so we just kept going…”
Did that mean you ended up with a lot of songs?
“We always have a lot of songs. It’s always been that way. Gregor (Philip, guitarist) and I always seem to end up making a lot of demos. This time though we had the two singles right from the off, ‘City Of Love’ and ‘Hit Me Where It Hurts’, so they were a real ballast to build the album around.”
It’s an 11-track record though, were you quite brutal about what made it?
“If anything, I think we overcut! There are a few songs that will definitely still come out and we’ll hope to release them in time.”
Has the process of recording changed much for Deacon Blue over the years? Or is it a similar way of working?
“Weirdly, we’ve come back to the way we made Raintown all those years ago. We try to do things as live as possible and to keep the overdubs to an absolute minimum.”
You self-produced the album, what did you decide on that approach?
“We’ve worked a lot with Paul Savage over the years and we felt that we’d got as much as we could from that. We had a great engineer and the demos Gregor and I had made were sounding so strong and focused that we weren’t sure what a producer could bring.”
Was it strange working without a producer?
“A bit strange. I do like having someone around to be a sounding board. But the most important thing in making a record is that you’ve got a clear sense of what you’re doing and what you want. Sometimes you need a producer to help you get there, but we had such a strong sense of where we wanted to be that it worked with just us.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme?
“The springboard was all from the song ‘City Of Love’. I’d discovered that the bones of Saint Valentine are kept in a church in the Gorbals part of Glasgow, which is where we’d made the album. That gave the album a feeling. It’s a feeling of reconciliation and bringing people back together. I wanted to tell different stories of love. That really anchors the record, you’ve got the title track opening it up and then ‘On Love’ closing the album.”
Was the album always going to be called City Of Love?
“It was there from early on. If you get something like that, something to build around, then it’s great to have it and really work to it. We had that this time, but you don’t always get it. Sometimes we’ve had the album done and been looking at the artwork before we’ve chosen what to call it.”
You’ve got a big tour ahead of you in the autumn, how’s your live set coming together?
“It was interesting, we were in Australia when the first single dropped and we put it straight in the set and people really went for it. Over the last few years, I feel like we’ve got a real momentum about the new material and we’ve reflected that in the set. That said, you always want people to go home thinking they’ve heard a ‘Greatest Hits’ set. We’ll be trying to do that too.”
Finally, last time you were back writing a few months after the album dropped, are you already collecting songs for the next run?
“I am collecting songs again. But not for Deacon Blue…”