Ricky Ross: I can remember Peter Kay watching us in Preston

When Deacon Blue take to the stage at Preston Guild Hall on Saturday, September 7, it’ll be the first of 19 nationwide dates before the year is out.

Thursday, 22nd August 2013, 2:49 pm
Deacon Blue
Deacon Blue

That includes an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall later in the month and Manchester Apollo and Liverpool Echo Arena dates in December.

With six million album sales, 12 UK top 40 singles and two No.1 albums to their credit, the Scottish outfit could be forgiven for sticking with their back catalogue.

But as Ricky Ross stressed, on the phone from his Glasgow home, it’s not just about old chart hits like Real Gone Kid, Dignity and Chocolate Girl these days.

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Raintown (1987) was the first of a string of best-selling albums, with When the World Knows Your Name (1989), Fellow Hoodlums (1991) and Whatever You Say, Say Nothing (1993) following.

Double-platinum compilation Our Town – The Greatest Hits (1994) was next, but they soon went their separate ways, Ricky building his career as a songwriter and solo act.

A more low-key return followed, but last year proved something of a revelation, a series of tours between other projects leading to The Hipsters, and plenty of fresh radio airplay.

It’s clear that the flame still burns brightly for Ricky and his band-mates, somewhat re-invigorated today and retaining a love for live shows.

He said: “I imagined I could do without it. I enjoy being in the studio, but last time around it was a good experience and such fun. The thing was that the demand was out there.

“That always increases your enjoyment. It’s great to have old stuff recognised, but it makes a nice change when people say they heard you on the radio, and it’s not something from 25 years ago.

“I’m always at pains to say how grateful I am for recognition of the old songs, but it gives the band a bit of life and urgency when there’s a chance to include new material.”

Do you tire of playing the old hits? “We definitely used to. Towards the middle of the 90s, we were thinking, ‘I don’t want to do that’.

“But I think we’ve totally got over that now, to such an extent that I look forward to the moment when we do Dignity, as that’s what our fans have asked for and bought.

“It’s important to respect that. To see people just delighted and happy.”

Last year’s Raintown 25th anniversary tour certainly proved successful, and Ricky added: “To have an album like that which people still treasure after all that time was lovely.”

Do you all still get on? “We get on better. When you have your first phase of a band, you get all your angst out. You go through different phases, and we’re a bit like a family.

“We don’t all go out together, we go out now and again, go on tour and enjoy the fact that when we come off we don’t necessarily see each other for a few months. But we’ve a great respect for each other and two relatively new session players that have come in and made a big difference.”

The band were rocked in 2004 by the loss of founding member and guitarist Graeme Kelling, who died of pancreatic cancer, aged 47. But his memory lives on.

“He was a big, big character. He was around for all these times we still reminisce about.

“You’re constantly looking at the photographs, listening to his guitar parts.

“Yesterday I did a lot of radio shows, and they were playing a lot of old stuff. I was trying to put myself back into that room. It’s funny, it’s so alive, but he’s not. We miss him.”

Ricky has another family too, his domestic life often over-spilling as his wife is band-mate Lorraine McIntosh, his collaborator on 2009’s The Great Lakes side-project McIntosh Ross.

“We’ve three children, and I’ve an older daughter.

Lorraine and I’s eldest has just turned 21 and their friends are re-discovering us, while our 18-year-old works in a bar where she says they finish Saturday night discos with Dignity!”

Ricky has released five solo 
albums and written for or with 
artists such as James Blunt, Ronan Keating, Jamie Cullum and Nanci Griffith.

“I’m having a meeting with an artist next week, keeping my toes in the water if someone’s looking for a song. I like to do that, and take on lots of writing projects.

“It keeps you fresh. You go off to write a song, thinking it’s for someone else, and it might end up for yourself. That’s how we ended up with Turn on the last record.

“There’s different things in the pipeline, but you need to really work hard to get touring and everything. That’s our priority at the moment.” He also presents Another Country with Ricky Ross on BBC Radio Scotland, and recently presented a TV show tracing the history of his hometown Dundee.

He added: “I really love that, and it keeps me in touch with a lot of music. I discover great things.”

When Ricky, now 55, moved to Glasgow in Deacon Blue’s formative days, he was teaching. I put it to him that he might be retiring now if he’d continued.

“I’ve no regrets, but like working with younger people and kids. If there was a way of combining it in a creative way I’d love to. You always get a lot back. I was working with kids disaffected with the system, and it was quite rewarding in that I got time to spend one-on-one.”

Does he have particular memories of past Preston shows? “Absolutely. First time we played there was maybe ’88 or ‘89.

“At that time we did four shows in a row and the fourth was Preston. We were so looking forward to a day off, because my voice was knackered!

“Much later, I met a lovely singer-songwriter who came on tour with me, Edwina Hayes, who was a kid who came to that show. I’m still in touch, and she had her ticket stub from then.

“I also recall coming off stage in Preston and Peter Kay being backstage. He came and said hello and entertained us. He loved the show and reciprocated brilliantly. Happy memories.”