MEETING Ricky Ross in Glasgow on a day when Raintown is living up to the name bestowed upon it by Deacon Blue’s debut album feels highly appropriate. Add to that the surroundings of Café Gandolfi, a city institution, and the experience could hardly be more Glaswegian.

Ricky Ross has put down substantial roots in his adopted home city but always kept a foothold in Dundee, his city of birth. This dual citizenship has allowed him to write love letters to both across the years.

The new Deacon Blue album, City of Love, has inspiration in the west but there are substantial influences from the east, none more than the increasing involvement of Deacon Blue’s Broughty Ferry-based guitarist Gregor Philp, who has several co-writes on the album and also acted as co-producer.

“There’s a story that St Francis Church in the Gorbals holds some of the bones of Saint Valentine,” says Ross. “Of course we know what these stories are like – some guy has come back from the Middle East with some bones that he bought for five bob. But that’s not really the point. It’s the idea of that.

“Growing up in Dundee, Glasgow and the Gorbals always seemed quite frightening places. It was a big dark place with dark tenements. When the football teams came to your town, the teams kicked yours around a bit. Then maybe the supporters kicked you around a bit. Once you get to know Glasgow, you do realise that it is a city of love. It’s a city of warmth and compassion.”

As illustration, Ross mentions a tweet from a friend of his saying that his mother-in-law, who has dementia, ended up in Glasgow city centre, lost and alone. People took her into their care, kept her secure, and made sure she was returned home safely.

“In the imagery of the city of love,” he adds, “there's also the idea of hope and what kind of city are you looking to build. At the moment we have these binary discussions about independence and Brexit and there is a tendency to ‘other’ people. There are many reasons for that, and how we communicate makes that easier, but we have to take responsibility for that too.”

The album has been an ongoing project for the past three years, with initial demos by Ross and Philp “worked to death” before the band had to head out on tour in 2018.

He still enjoys writing alone, but Philp’s involvement has been quite a natural progression for the two writing together for other projects. “Jim [Prime, Deacon Blue's keyboard player] doesn’t really write as much as he used to, but when he does it’s always good.”

The album thanks Lorraine McIntosh for her role as an editor, one that Ross says is invaluable to the process. “She has a massive input. An idea will come up and I try to encourage her to get involved in the writing of it but she really doesn’t want to do that. When something is good, she encourages and when we’re maybe going down the wrong road she doesn’t hesitate to point out that it isn’t working.

“Lorraine has also nagged a few songs back to life! There was a song that Jim, Gregor and I wrote for this album, but I couldn’t get the chorus right. She kept nagging at it, and it’s turned out to be In Our Room, which might be my favourite song in the album.

“I’ll always run something past Lorraine. If I like it, I’ll see if she likes it too. Of course it helps that she’s in the house.”

Even though City of Love comes out on CD and three versions of vinyl, Ross is in no doubt that the physical musical product is still under threat. Many record shops tend to concentrate on vinyl releases, but apart from the biggest global names, vinyl is released in relatively short runs.

“People really have to go looking for CDs now. It’s great for us that some of the supermarkets are stocking this new album – it really makes a difference.

“There are three different versions of the vinyl. HMV are putting out a picture disc with Nipper. There's a green coloured vinyl, and the one I like, the straightforward black vinyl. They are all beautifully designed and look great but to me I’m happy that they are all really well mastered, great-sounding vinyl.”

As with the majority of musicians, the decrease in physical sales has run parallel with an increase in live performance.

“It’s certainly been very good for us, but in fairness I think it's the successful side of music for a lot of people now. It’s difficult to over-estimate just how important it is. I think that people are looking to live more of a clutter-free existence and are looking to collect experiences instead.”

When I say he’s wearing his 62nd year rather well he laughs and asks me to look across the table a bit more closely. But it's true that the band are looking fit and fresh, considering that four of the members have been involved for almost 35 years.

“It’s kind of you to say but I have to say I’m feeling the touring schedules more now. The most important thing to me is that our voices are still in good shape. Naturally your voice changes as you get older, but we haven't ruined our voices. In fact I think Lorraine is singing better than she ever did.”

With City of Love the band’s ninth full studio album, the creation of set lists gets harder with every tour. Could the band leave the venue without police escort if they didn’t give the audience its 'full bounce' moment with Dignity?

“I honestly used to think you could get away without doing the big songs. Now I think it’s how you do it that’s important. It has to be said too, there's something really lovely about a ritual. That moment when people know something is coming and there’s anticipation and then, ‘right, they’re doing it now!’.

“Also there’s also something really OK about making people happy.”

The gig is almost a coming together of band and audience to create one night that’s different from any other. Ross says that the difference between the band in full rehearsal and when the audience is there creates new dynamics in the songs, between the band members. There’s a spontaneity that can only come with the collective experience.

“It’s not about flinging a show together and playing a bunch of hits. There are people that have been with us since the beginning. One German women – then a girl – who is at a good number of our shows.

"As much as we would like to do some B-sides etc for the people who know what we do inside out, we have to think of the one-off audience member who has probably invested a lot of time and money to get to a show. A set list is more about an emotional journey really.”

The City of Love album almost echoes that sentiment. Apart from the bones of St Valentine, look in the records at St Francis and you’ll see the marriage of McIntosh’s parents.

“That was a lovely thing to find out. We also recorded the album at Gorbals Sound so all of that kind of squared the circle.

“If the album is about anything really, people need to remember that without love, a city can be the loneliest place to be. It’s about that human connection that we all need.”

City of Love is released on Friday, March 6.

The Cities of Love tour visits Perth Concert Hall on October 28, P&J Arena, Aberdeen on October 31, Leisure Centre, Inverness on October 30, Edinburgh Usher Hall on December 3, and SSE Hydro, Glasgow on December 4.