For me, one of the biggest attractions of going to the BOSPOP Festival in Weert is of course, having a chance to see and meet up with friends but also to hear new bands and artists. As in the past, BOSPOP 2018 presented several opportunities for me to do just that and the artist that seriously caught my attention this year is, Scottish singer/songwriter, Colin MacLeod.
Go back a step to the original BOSPOP 2018 line up which included, Bruce Hornsby who, for whatever reason, cancelled his appearance and when the festival organisers announced the programme change, I was like… asking myself… uh-huh… so how come I hadn’t heard of this Scottish musician up to now? Hmmm… well basically, the answer to that is there is so much to say about Colin, I’ve decided to do a feature on him.
If you google Colin’s name in the internet, not only will you find a LOT of incredibly interesting material about him including performing links with some very top names in the music world that include: Roger Waters, Robert Plant, Van Morrison and Cheryl Crowe but also, in stark – and I do mean stark – contrast, the way Colin combines that with his life as a crofter on the Isle of Lewis.
Suffice to say I was well impressed by what I discovered and even though I really do prefer to have something tangible in my hands when it comes to listening to music, on this occasion, I downloaded a copy of the BMG release, Bloodlines and gave it my full attention ahead of my annual summer trip to The Netherlands.
Basically, I was so intrigued by the sounds I was listening to that I requested an interview with Colin while he was at BOSPOP as a way of discovering even more about this remarkable journey he is on.
What follows is a transcript of our chat which took place in the backstage garden at BOSPOP 2018 directly after Colin’s set, on a very sunny, Sunday afternoon.
Maggie: I’m sitting across the table from Colin MacLeod and would like to say, welcome to BOSPOP 2018… and thank you very much for taking the time to speak to me.
Colin: Not at all.
M: If I’m right, this is your first BOSPOP – not your first festival, but your first BOSPOP Festival… is that right?
C: Yes, this is my first time at BOSPOP…
M: So how did it feel out there on the main stage?
C: Amazing… it was hot, sweaty and… a-ma-zing.
M: Like facing a “sea of humanity” as someone described it yesterday…
C: It’s really cool… it’s like… one of my favourite things in life is “people watching” … it’s the biggest perk of what I do… I get to stand and see all these people, it’s amazing…
M: Well the thing is, we get to stand and watch you too! Bruce Hornsby was on the original schedule for BOSPOP and he cancelled… and your name came into his slot…
C: Oh, right…
M: So, I have to ask you, how did that opportunity land at your feet?
C: We met a nice man at South by Southwest who came to see one of our shows and he is a friend of our agent and he said, “I run a festival in Holland… I really love you guys, would you like to come?” And we were, like, “Holland? Yeah, definitely… we love Holland…” I played with Chris Isaak last year, I think it was… and he had known about that and he said, “Would you like to come?” And I said, “Yeah, totally!” and I didn’t know anything about the festival… he just said, “Festival in Holland” and I said, “Yes.” without realising it and then I saw that we were on before Billy Idol and I thought this must be a kind of a big deal… and so we were really chuffed.
M: Talking of “names” … I believe you were supporting Jeff Beck when he was in the UK recently touring, am I right?
C: Yeah… I had four nights…
M: So how was that?
C: Amazing… yeah, it was like going back to school…
M: Yeah? In what way?
C: Just watching him play guitar every night… it was like… I’ve got a bit of practicing to do… it was amazing, it was such a good opportunity to support and play to these guys but also just to watch him and to learn… it was amazing.
M: Now, you already mentioned the festival, South by Southwest… so where else has your music taken you this year?
C: Oh, jings… where have we been… we’ve been to America twice, New York and Nashville, Austin, Texas, around the UK… this is our first trip to mainland Europe this year, but I think we will be coming back, hopefully…
M: It sounds a little bit to me like you are “living the dream”?
C: We are living the dream, yes… not to skirt around the edges, it has been a very good year.
M: If I’m correct, the Isle of Lewis is still home?
M: What does that mean then, in terms of travelling from a logistics point of view?
C: Well, we’ve driven for a day and a half to get to here… that’s kind of it… we’re about fourteen hours from London where we are so to get to anywhere, it’s a big journey before we go but, I don’t know… it’s all part of it… all part of the adventure.
M: You mentioned the word, “journey” and that takes me on to your new CD, Bloodlines, which was only released a few weeks ago?
M: I downloaded a copy, even though I’m “old school” and really like to have a CD in my hand, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect… but, it took me on a journey… you have used different arrangements, there are different tempos, there are haunting melodies, there are catchy riffs… it’s all there… so I’m going to ask you… because I think in another life you actually were a crofter…?
C: Well, I still am a crofter… I still live on my croft, I still have sheep.
M: OK, right… so then how were the proverbial seeds for Bloodlines sown?
C: The seeds of the album have kind of come about… I think it’s been brewing in my head since I was about sixteen… since we started playing in the pubs, pretending we were eighteen, sneaking in on a Saturday night, getting a free pint and playing all these covers and then going on tour and playing with a different band… and the whole time, it was always based around this island where I grew up and the stories and the people. You know, when you’re younger, you fight against that stuff… you don’t want to be kind of beholden to the old guys that have gone before you… but then you get a little bit older, you realise that that is the kind of roots of it all and that’s what it’s all about… so I had this notion about writing folk songs, basically rewriting Gaelic songs and stories from the islands… things about the sea, the land, the lifestyle, the struggle, the hardship and all the rest of it… but I started putting it into the music I had been playing all these years…
M: My homework has told me that this isn’t your first actual CD release, there’s another album called, Fireplace and you recorded under the name of, The Boy Who Trapped The Sun… there’s a story there?
C: Yeah… The Boy Who Trapped The Sun… well, actually… I often get asked where that name came from… but it was just one night in a pub and a mate said, “The Boy Who Trapped The Sun would be a really good name for a band…” and I said, “Oh yeah, that’ll do… I’ll have that…” But yeah, that was when I was a bit younger. I got a record deal and moved to London… got a little bit of money, got a little bit of time, got introduced to some people, got to make the record… and then… I had a good time, I enjoyed it but then I got homesick and kind of went back home… so yeah, it’s a part of the journey.
M: So now that I’ve heard your new CD, can I still buy a copy of the old CD?
C: Yeah, yeah… I think it’s still out there… on Amazon…
M: Well, thank you Bruce Hornsby because of your cancellation, I now know that you, Colin, have quite a large internet presence… and I’ve been having a bit of a noodle. I came across a video you posted on YouTube… an acoustic cover of Dancing In The Dark…
C: Oh, yeah…
M: OK, I have to say, I mean… you’re playing in the dark… it’s a very seductive video… why did you choose that song?
C: I love that song. I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen… I think everybody is, at least I don’t know anyone who isn’t… I love that song because it is so bombastic in the recording… it’s a real 80s “banger” … it’s like the ultimate middle-of-the-road pop music from the 80s, and the video and all the rest of it… but the lyrics are just so self deprecating… it’s like a guy looking in the mirror, and he’s just like, “I’m just not good enough…” I just always thought it was a weird juxtaposition between the two, really… I thought it was great and I thought it would be cool to do it kind of down-beat… so yeah, I did it and I hope I did it justice…
M: Well… speaking as another Scottish Bruce Springsteen fan, I think you did, yes… OK, Colin, what’s next on your schedule? Where do you go from here?
C: I go back home, for a month, I’m going to do some writing and after that, I’m going to be going on tour in Scotland… a couple of weeks tour… go back to America for a couple of weeks on tour and then in October, I’m supporting Robert Plant and Van Morrison in the O2 in London.
M: A couple of big names there…?
C: Yes, not bad…
M: I’m hoping that maybe your tour will come to Germany where I now live and then I can see you again as well…
M: Yes, please… but for the moment, thank you SO much for taking time to speak to me and I truly wish you all the best. It was an absolute pleasure watching you this afternoon, it was like a “listening party” for me and quite brave playing all your original songs here but, the crowd loved it and thanks very much indeed.
C: Thanks for having me.
M: My pleasure.
Since downloading it, Bloodlines has become one of my favourite CDs to listen to. I just love the opening track, Kicks In… the guitar work, the rhythm, the slight – to my ears at least – Roy Orbison/Keith Urban vibe in Colin’s vocals… and of course, the accompanying video which gives you a little bit of an insight into the kind of scenery that will welcome you, should you venture onto the Isle of Lewis. Some of the riffs in Run Run took me along the streets of PA; Feels Like has such a solid beat running through it; What Does It Mean To You veers off in a Tom Joad direction; Old Fire brings you straight back with its fabulous harmonies; 100 Miles (featuring Danny Wilson) starts off solo-acoustic and builds brilliantly to full band level; Homesick Daughter brings the tempo down a notch and tells its own haunting story; Dream picks up the pace again and is another track with an official video; Shake The Walls ventures off in a slightly heavier direction showing the diversity of Colin’s musical capabilities also captured on video; Ria allows Colin a bit of solo vocal scope before the band builds behind him as he delivers this emotionally-charged track; Bloodlines starts with a piano intro and develops into a cacophony of different instruments and harmonies as the lyrics unfold… an altogether very powerful arrangement and preceded by an edited version of Dream, which concludes the chronological track listing on, Bloodlines.
From my point of view, reviewing an album is a very personal and evocative experience and all I can say is that this collection of exceptionally well-written material ticked all the right boxes for me.
The tour Colin mentioned in the interview kicks off in Glasgow at the Poetry Club on 2 September 2018, all the details here and fingers crossed, i.e. the weather, I’m hoping the Loganair flights I’ve booked will get me to at least one of the island dates.
It goes without saying that Scotland has certainly contributed a fair share of mega-talented musicians and bands to the world of music over the years and in keeping with that tradition, it is just great to see Colin MacLeod keeping the pot boiling, as it were.
Colin MacLeod is without a doubt a very talented musician whose name is rapidly becoming known far and beyond the stunning landscape of his/our native Scotland and yes, his musical talents have impressed me… check him out for yourself and see if he impresses you too.
Oh yeah, if you go to see one of Colin’s shows? Be sure to tell him I sent ya!