They might not be hip but they're still adored
CATCHING Ricky Ross in a reflective mood doesn't happen very often, but it seems even he isn't immune to a bit of nostalgia.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Deacon Blue's first album, Raintown, and it has also been 11 years since their last album.
Where as many other bands are happy to make money from their former glory days by rehashing the old songs, Deacon Blue only reunite if there is a good reason to.
And there is definitely one now with the release of new album The Hipsters. To coincide with its launch this week, Deacon Blue are about to embark on a 15-date tour which includes a stop off at Plymouth Pavilions on Sunday, October 21.
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"It's been a very irregular career," laughs Ricky, referring to the many breaks the band has had. "To be honest with you it's nice because it means we don't have to do anything really. We do what we want to and it's got to be good enough. The thought was we either become a museum piece and just do old songs, or we do something creative because the real fans will want to hear something new and fresh.
"I'm not a big person for looking back, but this year we are remastering our original albums and for the repackaging of it I've had to dig out things from the loft. I found so much stuff from old pictures to press articles so it's been a nostalgic last few months."
During the band's lengthy career they have achieved six million album sales, 12 UK Top 40 singles and two number one albums to their credit.
Along with the reminiscing has come the realisation for Ricky – the singer, songwriter and mainstay – that he now enjoys being in Deacon Blue more than ever.
"I've really enjoyed playing live more these last few years than I did back in the day which does sound odd, but back then I was always focused on the next thing, and the next thing after that," admits Ricky.
"I was never satisfied I suppose, but that's what drives you on. It's only when you're older that you think, 'This is not bad at all'. I really enjoy being with the other musicians in the band: I love them. They are deeply great friends, and they're like my family."
Of course, one band member is much more than that – Lorraine McIntosh, who Ricky has been married to for 22 years. Outside of Deacon Blue they both have very different careers, but also perform occasionally as duo McIntosh Ross.
Ricky, a father-of-three, said: "It's much healthier now because we both go off and do lots of other things, and then we come together like now.
"She was my pal's wee sister and I used to see her busking in the street, but apart from that I didn't know her until we formed the band."
As soon as Deacon Blue released debut album Raintown it began a string of best-selling albums. However, after the double-platinum compilation Our Town – The Greatest Hits in 1994, the group split for five years.
Ricky built up his career as a songwriter and solo act, and the other band members set about establishing themselves in various other fields of the media, arts and academia.
But as their lives unfolded they never gave up on the Deacon Blue dream and have reunited whenever there has been a good reason to.
"It's great being in a band, but you will want to leave eventually," reveals Ricky. "If not your whole life is just too intense. Anyone who has spent time in a band knows that you can't sustain that relationship all of the time. The ones that stay together the longest are the ones who manage to do other things and have a bit of a life outside the band. When you come back together you know what you've come back together to do.
"There was a time when I didn't want to be in the band, and I'm sure they all felt like that, but I'm really grateful for everything that's happened."
For the last few years Ricky has toyed with the idea of making a new album.
"One day it just literally clicked into place," recalls Ricky. "I had just made an album with my wife which was very raw, acoustic and simple. In Deacon Blue we are lucky to have lots of great players so we decided to embrace that. It's big, brass and bold.
"It did take a while. We burrowed away for maybe a year, but when we finally got a plan and funding to do it, we recorded it relatively quickly. We don't tend to spend a long time in a studio because we want it to be us playing live."
The album title, The Hipsters, is meant to be ironic because it refers to the fact they were never deemed to be one of the coolest bands around. Despite that, people have always loved them and on the new album is a collection of finely tuned songs reflecting on the long-distance life and times of Deacon Blue.
"I didn't start with any overriding ideas, but I quickly realised it was reflective a lot of what I was writing about as a band," says Ricky.
"For the first time ever I thought about the experience of being in the band.
"The name of the album, The Hipsters, came later. Outsiders was the working title for a long time."
While Ricky is in a reflective mood, it seems the perfect time to ask whether he would change anything that has happened in the last 25 years?
"Absolutely I would, but you can't do it," concedes Ricky."There's probably lots of things I would have done differently. My hope is people have connected with the songs and the songs have connected with their lives in some way. There are songs I love because I always will and there are songs that mean a lot to people. There's songs like Dignity which we will always play as it means so much to people in so many different ways.
"Our songs have been played at weddings, funerals or even had boats named after them. That's a real honour."
And it's not just Deacon Blue songs that gives Ricky that buzz, but also the numerous songs he has written for other people including James Blunt, Ronan Keating, KT Tunstall, and Will Young. He also wrote Jamie Cullum's biggest hit, I'm All Over it.
Ricky says: "It feels very special if the song does well, especially when it's the artist and not you because they have to go off promoting it and you're watching it all happen."
Just as unpredictable as record sales is attempting to predict the future of Deacon Blue and life outside the band.
"I have not got a plan really," admits Ricky. "I will go back to doing different things after the tour. If there is a demand to do more shows we will want to do them. Between now and the end of the tour is still quite a long way off.
"I know Lorraine wants to go back to doing some stage work and I've got a solo record due for release next year, and a lot more radio shows. I also want to get back to doing some writing.
"I never thought we would have done this album so I'm not even thinking beyond that. We're looking forward to the tour as the last time we did a proper tour was back in 2007, and we'll get to perform the new songs.
"I don't think we would be touring if it had not been for the new album. There's only so many ways you change songs, and part of the Deacon Blue thing has always been to change the shows night after night."
Tickets for the gig cost from £29.50 to £39.50. Call 0845 146 1460 or visit www.plymouthpavilions .com