At the start of May, Ross Wilson said something about the Tories that caused some of his audience in London to walk out. By the end of May, he won’t do it again.

“As soon as you say: ‘F*** the Tories!’ at a gig, then that’s when the people you need to engage with stop listening,” said the Blue Rose Code frontman of the night at London’s Omera. While the singer might have been able to count those who headed for the door on the fingers of one hand, their departure caused him to reflect, perhaps more than those who walked out after his eviscerating new tune 13 Years did.

“My granny raised me and taught me never to talk about sex, religion or politics,” said Wilson, speaking to The Herald ahead of his gigs in Dundee and Glasgow, where he could confidently lay his tour budget on nobody walking out at the end of a song criticising 13 years of conservative rule at Westminster. “But I think that’s where we have gone wrong as a society. I’m a political anorak. I was raised in that tradition. My auntie is married to an MP and my mum and everyone were big supporters of the Labour party, protesting, campaigning. I’ve always followed that, I’ve always been deeply interested in politics.

“I’ve been getting angry about it and it’s unhealthy to deny that emotion. I wrote 13 Years after listening to a woman from a charity called Magic Breakfast, which feeds kids who go to bed hungry, wake up hungry and go to school hungry. That affects them on a day to day basis, impacts their life outcomes and stores up problems for future generations. I understand why people vote Tory, although I’ll never agree with it. I just can’t get my head around how we are one of the biggest economies in the world, with one in five of our kids in poverty. And let’s not kid ourselves on that it’s not happening in Scotland, too.

“That’s a political choice. The solutions are right there. But without power, you’re just protesting, and your kids are going to school hungry.” The Edinburgh-born father of two young daughters, whose band this month released a new album, Bright Circumstance, album entitled, Wilson is a remarkably open character, both in conversation and song. On this new record alone, his lyrics cover his path through addiction, the loss of his mother and the sudden death of one of his best friends.

It’s nowhere near as gloomy as it all sounds, however. “Sometimes people think Blue Rose Code is a sad Scottish guy writing songs about alcoholism,” said Wilson, laughing. “But there’s an awful lot of joy about what we do as a band.” It’s obvious from Wilson’s on-stage energy that the joy flows through him. He cites Eddi Reader, who appears on the new LP, as someone who “embodies music, she’s a channel for song”.

The same might be said of Wilson in the live setting. His charismatic stage presence works the full spectrum of unguarded expressive engagement – bouncing like a kid in the playground after a high sugar breakfast one minute, edging on a moment of near-silent reflective transcendence the next. Anyone who has been in his audience, whether playing solo or with a full band, will know Wilson gets lost in both.  The album’s title comes from a podcast by philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris. “I don’t want to sound like a w**ker, but I was meditating, led by Sam Harris who is one of the four horsemen of the new atheist movement along with the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens,” he said. 

“He used the phrase Bright Circumstance and I’d been really floundering for a name for the album and just thought: ‘That’s it!’ But the record is the opposite of anything to do with the new atheist movement, and I like the paradox of that. It’s a very spiritual record.”

One of the many gems woven through the LP is the spoken word recital of Uist-based octogenarian Morena Bradey. “I almost felt like I had to cloak what she was reading in Gaelic because otherwise I worried people would be put right off what I was doing,” said Wilson, of Bradey’s guest vocal, reciting passages from the Bible. Wilson has been open about his drink problem in the past. He’s now open about what gets him straight.

He said: “I’ve been in and out of meetings for years and had long periods of sobriety. One thing I know for sure and that is that I can’t be a musician, and drink and use drugs. I can’t live happily and do either of those things. But after a period of four years I’d started drinking again. I was at the most hopeless period in my life.” An interview with Ricky Ross led Wilson to Irish theologian, poet and podcaster Pádraig Ó Tuama, who Wilson spoke to about his struggles with accepting the presence of a higher power.  Ó Tuama, in turn, introduced him to a vicar whose journey from atheism to ministry gave the singer the confidence to ask questions.

“I always thought religious people were a wee bit stupid and were maybe frightened of being asked questions,” he said. “He let me ask all sorts of stuff. I started going to church. I was divorced, had a child out of wedlock. I thought I wouldn’t be welcome. But nothing could be further from the truth. It’s about giving of yourself, and the by-product of that for me has been happiness. I feel like it’s the thing that I’ve lacked without knowing that I was lacking it.” Wilson describes his grappling with wider aspects of Christianity with an adage from American Franciscan monk Richard Rohr. “He says that just because you don’t eat the seeds doesn’t mean you throw away the apple. There’s a whole ton of stuff I wouldn’t ascribe my beliefs to in Christianity.

“The experience of us all being at a gig, or in the theatre, or at a football stadium or in the Barrowlands, everyone’s singing together, feeling the same thing, or at a church there’s an experience there which is beyond our five senses. To me, why can’t that be God?”

Religious or not, there’s something breath-catching in Wilson’s straight-from-the-soul storytelling on the record. Sadie is about his late mother’s own struggle with addiction. Now The Big Man Is Gone and McDonald’s Lament are offered in tribute to his pal Gordon McDonald, a taxi driver from Kilmacolm who drove the length of the UK – twice – to help Wilson when he’d reached his nadir.
And, perhaps the most affecting of all, I Wish You Peace In Your Heart, originally released as a festive stand-alone during the pandemic, coming on like a cold breeze in the baked heat of lockdowns.

“We lived in such anxiety for two years. We just didn’t know how to be with people. That song was a catharsis,” said Wilson. “I felt so powerless as a kid, growing up in a non-safe environment, when I learned to write songs, it’s where I finally found a means of expression. It has continued like that. It’s just what I do. It’s just the truth.”

Blue Rose Code’s album Bright Circumstance is out now. They play Assai, Dundee, on June 2, Glasgow St Luke’s on June 7, Out of Bounds Festival, Troon, on July 18 and Shetland’s Mareel on November 9