"It’s an album about self-worth..." - The Xcerts talk making Hold On to Your Heart...
Much like their fellow Scots Biffy Clyro, The Xcerts have spent the first part of their career largely under the radar to most, but those who have discovered them absolutely adore them.
Returning today with new album Hold On To Your Heart, the trio have a new collection of heartswelling rock and roll songs, but, as we discovered when we spoke to frontman Murray Macleod, they are songs born from a dark, dark place…
How did you want this album to move on from what you’ve done in the past?
“We really wanted to showcase our songwriting ability. There was a definite sense that we wanted to simplify everything, I think that comes from Tom Petty, who’s been a big influence. Making sure we cut the fat and made every song as lean as possible, really push the melodies to the front. There’s a big 80’s influence across the record, that’s really turned up to 11.”
It’s been four years since your last record, is that a pace you were happy with? Or has it been longer than you’d like?
“It’s the way things have worked. The last record came out at the end of 2014 and we spent all of 2015 and most of 2016 on tour. We made this album at the end of 2016 and the first single came out last summer so it doesn’t feel like that long, we’ve been constantly working, it doesn’t feel like four years. That and some dull music industry stuff, we were between labels for a little while, but that’s all sorted now.”
You worked a lot with songwriter Gary Clark, who has written for McFly, Demi Lovato and many others, did he produce the record?
“Gary Clark oversaw everything while we were writing and through pre-production. We demoed down in Brighton and then I took the recordings up to Dundee and we’d work on them together and then I’d go back. For the actual recording itself, we went to Rockfield Studios with Dave Eringa, who has produced two of our records. We had 10 days there laying down tracks and then we took all those recordings to Gary and did the vocals and the final work with him in Dundee.”
Was it an odd process? Working with two producers?
“It was a bit of a risk. Most people have one person there for the duration, but we had Gary, Dave and Chris Sheldon mixed the record. It was a different way of working for us, but it’s come out really well. Gary was fantastic to work with, he’s my spirit animal, he’s a brilliant writer and someone I’ve admired for years.”
Do you think you’d like to do the same again next time?
“It was incredibly organic. I know it sounds very convoluted, but it felt very simple and very easy. I don’t know what we’ll do next time, but we do want to keep up that relationship with Gary. Having his influence is a massive thing. That said, if there’s a chance to work with someone like Rick Rubin then it might be a whole different story…”
What kind of album do you think this is lyrically?
“I felt like I had a big story to tell. It’s an album about self-worth and dealing with a break-up. I had a five-year relationship fall apart during the making of the last record and so this was written in the aftermath of that. I was dealing with a real period of deep depression, I lost my grandmother and one of my best friends so there was a lot of darkness to process. But I wanted this record to be positive and to show people there is a finish line. Outside factors can break your heart, but there’s no need to take those broken pieces and smash them up even more. I wanted to run towards life at 100 miles an hour.”
Did that attitude inspire the title?
“It did. I had a song called ‘Hold On To My Heart’ which was a song I wrote for my mum when my grandmother passed away. That song fell away a bit during the making of the record, but it was Gary’s idea to have another look and change it to Hold On To Your Heart. It’s a title about self-worth, knowing that the feeling growing inside your chest is good and not burying yourself away when dark forces come around.”
Finally, how are your live plans coming together?
“We’re off to Europe for the most of the early part of the year and we’ve got UK dates booked. We’re going to take this record to America and try to break it. Then it’s festival season and we want to do as much as we can. We want to spend the whole of 2018 and beyond. I want to hit it hard for a year and a half and then go straight into the studio. I’d like to get on with it. That’s if people like it, if people don’t then maybe this will be it. I hope not…”