IT’S been four years since Peter Kelly made a record. Four long years. “I think some people thought I had disappeared or given up,” he says as he sits in the lobby of the Dakota Eurocentral hotel. “I don’t know what they thought. Maybe they didn’t think anything at all.”

Four years. Does that sound a long time? Well, maybe if you take in the fact that for good measure he’s also written a book of short stories to go along with the new album that puts it into perspective. And created all the illustrations for said book. All of this in between his day job (he’s a full-time teacher who’s been teaching at the same school in Hamilton for the past 15 years) and his family life (he’s married with two young kids).

Maybe in retrospect, four years is frankly no time at all.

Kelly the singer-songwriter (and now just plain writer) is better known as Beerjacket. Since he first adopted the name back in the early years of the century he has supported Feist and The National and Kirstin Hersh, played Celtic Connections and on the BBC2’s Review Show and made some nine albums along the way (10 if you include the 2012 live album).

Silver Cords, his third studio album, is the latest; 12 suitably silvery songs about love and hope and fear powered by his singing guitar and yearning voice, with subtle musical and vocal embellishments from Stuart MacLeod, who has produced the album. and Julia Doogan. (Doogan also designed the accompanying book.)

About that. “It was an idea that I had about two and a half years ago while I was working on this album,” Kelly explains. “I thought: ‘That’s a crazy idea. It’ll take too long. I won’t be able to afford it. Nobody will want this’.”

And yet here we are. “I’m still in a wee bit of disbelief that I’ve done it, that it’s finished.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Kelly, 40, is one of life’s achievers. Someone who balances work and life with seeming ease. It perhaps helps that he doesn’t watch TV. “I don’t think I relax very much and I don’t sleep very much and I don’t really need to and I like getting up early.”

The book is a collection of lyrics and notes on the songs that make up Silver Cords and each one has an accompanying short story that riffs on the song’s themes and takes them in different directions. “I probably started thinking about this three or four songs in. I could already see where the stories were. There’s a direct link for some of them. For others not.”

Kelly’s favourite writers are Haruki Murakami and Paul Auster. “I think both have this amazing ability to say something in this incredibly exact way that contains a massive idea. And what I’ve tried to do with the measure of the sentences is have a big idea and make it something you could maybe pore over a couple of times like you would listen to a song on a loop.”

The stories, he says, aren’t about him. The songs? “I would be lying if I said some of them weren’t about me. Or about us.” Us? “My family.”

That means songs about parenthood, about the futility of anger, about how Kelly talks to spiders as he ushers them out of the bathroom.

It’s a grown-up record. Does Kelly feel like an adult now? “I became an adult when I became a father, but it’s different for everybody,” he says.

“I like being older. I like that I’ve lived. I’ve gone through difficult times. Everybody has. If you’ve come out of the end of that feeling grateful, feeling fortunate then that is not passive. It’s because of how you’ve dealt with things.”

It’s a contemporary album too. It’s about the here and now. There’s a song on the album called Grey Areas. It is essentially about the ubiquity of technology and the way it’s getting in the way of communicating rather than aiding it. It’s something Kelly worries about.

“I love communicating and I’m scared of it disappearing and I’m scared of people forgetting how to do what we’re doing right now. I’m scared that people aren’t really in the room. I’m in the room. I hate the idea that when you’re sitting across from someone they could be distracted.”

At the same time, he admits, even as we speak his phone is pinging away. This is the world we live in. But he worries that we’re too busy waiting for the next message, the next tweet, the next song for that matter that we’re not paying attention to what’s in front of us.

“People are dragged out of just being alive and in the moment. Always thinking of a time ahead … That’s a terrible thing.

“People don’t give time any more. Everything’s too fast. There’s too quick a turnover for things.”

He points to the book and record with the Beerjacket name on it. “I don’t want this to only exist for a little while. I want it to exist for good.”

Silver Cords is a stripped-back thing. The obvious reference might be Roddy Frame’s Surf, but then I said that about Kelly’s last album Darling Darkness. “I listened to that album,” he says when I bring it up again (he hadn’t heard it four years ago). Did you like it? “I did.”

I suppose the question I wanted to ask, Peter, was do you ever dream of musical excess? Is there any desire to load up your sound with strings and samples and go big? “Funny you should say that. I accidentally wrote another record recently.”


“A little bit. And it’s not go elaborate stuff on it yet, but I can hear it. Everybody loves strings, of course and if it’s done well, if it’s not plastered on …

“I think this is the last of a particular type of record but what this is not … I don’t think it’s the last record. And every other time I’ve ever talked to anybody about one of my records I’ve said: ‘I think this is the last one.’ And I don’t think this is … Because I’ve already written the next one.”

I wonder what his relationship to music is now. Kelly grew up in Airdrie and Coatbridge loving “angsty music” (think Nirvana). Now he’s 40 and a grown-up can it mean as much to him? Now that we live in a world where every song ever is at your fingertips is music devalued as a result?

“I think one of the positive things about streaming culture is the fact that music can be sampled maybe a wee bit like tapas,” he begins.

“Do I think that’s better than when I had very few records and I would listen to those records over and over again until they became part of my teenage DNA? Probably not, but I would never patronise a young person that they don’t feel like I felt about music. The experience is different.”

Over the last week, Kelly says, he has been listening to Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden on repeat. “That’s an incredible record and one where the subtleties and detail could only come out through repeated listening.”

He smiles. “Do I still feel the same about music? I think I feel it more strongly than I’ve ever felt it actually.”

Silver Cords is released next Friday. Visit for details. Beerjacket will be appearing at Cupar Library on Tuesday as part of Book Week Scotland, King Tut’s in Glasgow next Friday, Golden Hare Bookshop on November 24 and Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh on November 25.