AS Colin Macintyre stood anonymously on a street corner in Glasgow in 2000, he made the phone call that changed the course of his life.

“My new manager had been waiting to see what I had decided to call myself,” he said.

“The demos I sent out were all under my own name. But I’d since written a song titled, Mull Historical Society, that seemed perfect for what I was doing.

“I was trying to create characters and identities which spoke for the island community I had come from.

“For me it was all about authenticity. It was MY journey and the minute I began to use that in my work it suddenly felt real.”

Four years previously, Macintyre had relocated from his home in Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, to study politics at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The island - (population: 2,500 people, 28,268 sheep) as listed on his official website - was in rock terms well off the beaten track.

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Musically, the singer’s education had come from watching his uncle’s band play covers of songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and trying to pick up John Peel on Radio 1 or Tom Ferrie on BBC Scotland, reception permitting.

Macintyre, who wrote his first song aged seven, made his debut fronting The Lovesick Zombies at Tobermory Town Hall as a teenager, singing into mics attached to broom handles.

In the song, 14 Year Old Boy on his 2018 album, Wakelines, he recalls the thrill of seeing his late father Kenny carrying his first guitar – a Fender Telecaster – aloft as he waded ashore.

“Whenever I play the guitar even now, I still expect an electric shock. To be plugged into the mainland, to be that 14 year old boy again with his dreams,” he said.

In Glasgow, the singer gave himself one year “to see if I could really get something going”, as music took precedence over his studies.

“While I didn’t feel at a disadvantage creatively my first thought was … I’ve got a bit of catching up to do,” he said.

“Mull did feel cut off from music. There were no record stores or gig venues.

“There weren’t too many A & R men passing by the island either, unless they were on a yacht. You did feel like you were on the edge of the world.

“So arriving in Glasgow and the onrush of populous - riding buses and trains - was a lot to take in.

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“Having gigs like Nice ‘n’ Sleazy and King Tut’s on tap was amazing. These were places I’d only ever read about.”

The seeds for Loss were sown when Macintyre got a part-time job working for British Telecom in a Directory Enquiries call centre. It proved a fruitful source of inspiration.

“I wrote a lot of words and phrases, which may have seemed like poetry, while working there,” revealed Colin.

“It was one of my biggest influences for Loss. The environment really interested me.

“The lyrics of Public Service Announcer – ‘To the friends in my head/Let it never be said/That they work/That they work for nothing’ I just imagined coming from an employee. I was thinking about a guy triple tasking in an office.

“When I recorded the song, on the off-beat I used the sound of a phone ringing.

“For me it was all about storytelling. Loss was the first time I wrote about characters I could identify with. They felt real.”

Another great track on Loss – the single I Tried – was also inspired by late nights on duty.

“The line: ‘You, you, you … you’re determined to be a woman’ came directly from that office environment,” he said.

“There was a girl I used to see in the lift who I didn’t know. But I always imagined who she might be and felt she was acting a lot older than she actually was. I didn’t think that as a judgement. She just seemed very mature to me.

“As Paul McCartney says, ‘when you have one line you just run with it’. So I created a narrative around this relationship.”

He would later use his call centre greeting: “Directory Inquiries 192 … what name please?” as an intro-tape at gigs.

Macintyre was also a keen footballer, training with Queen’s Park at Hampden, and played five-a-sides with Teenage Fanclub, Belle And Sebastian and Justin Currie of Del Amitri.

“I was starting to get to know people, but I still felt very much an outsider,” he admitted.

He used money from a song publisher to fund his recordings at Gravity Studios, adjacent to the bustling Berkeley Street rehearsal rooms.

“I began to realise this was where all the bands would hang out,” recalled Colin.

“Little did I know I’d spend the next three years of my life there recording my first two albums.

“But I was so focused. I knew how the songs should sound and I also got to flex my production muscles for the first time. That alchemy of things coming together – influences, moving to the city and finding the right people – meant Loss was the culmination of the stars aligning.”

Songs such as Animal Cannabus, Only I and This Is Not Who We Were gave the album a solid foundation.

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The title came from a “hidden track” which appeared at the climax of the running order.

It is one of several compositions fuelled by the death of his father, Kenny Macintyre in 1999.

He was BBC Scotland’s highly respected Political and Industrial Correspondent, described by former PM Tony Blair as “an institution”.

“My dad had seen me trying to get my music going. He’d always said … ‘remember to embrace where you’re from’,” he said.

“It’s no accident that a year after his death I wrote Mull Historical Society, and came up with that whole identity.

“When it was time to release my first album I just felt that as much as it was about the juxtaposition of an islander in the city, there are songs such as Only I and Instead that would never have been written if I hadn’t lost him.

“So it was a tribute to him – without being too maudlin – and while it does have a few quiet moments, I liked the fact it was largely upbeat.

“In many ways I felt very similar to my dad because his BBC career only happened after he’d sent his demos in the local bread van from Tobermory up to Radio Highland in Inverness.

“I liked the whole symmetry that my musical lift-off was happening in a similar fashion to his political one.”

In 2000, Macintyre signed to Rough Trade Records and released his first single, Barcode Bypass.

The epic song imagined the plight of the owner of The Corner Shop on Tobermory main street being swallowed up by the major supermarkets.

“I’m not sure if the person even knows the song is about him,” admitted Colin.

“I just imagined it being overtaken by a 24-hour convenience store. And the shopkeeper telling his wife he was going to stop taking his heart medication … he just couldn’t compete any more.

“I know it doesn’t sound very rock and roll, but these were the narratives I was interested in.”

Barcode Bypass was voted Debut Single of the Year by NME.

It was followed by I Tried and Animal Cannabus, which paved the way for Loss on October 15, 2001.

Watching Xanadu – also from the album – was a Top 40 hit single.

In 2022, Macintyre will revisit Loss with a series of shows to mark the 21st anniversary of the album.

“It’s still a record I have great affection for because it was the first,” he said.

“What I get from it is that whole personal journey of signing a record deal, putting an album out and starting to build a community musically.

“It’s more for other people now. Somehow, because of those lucky breaks along the way, Loss seems to have found its way into people’s hearts and minds.

“That for me is the biggest thing. I could have done a few things better. But it captured me at a time when I wasn’t polished. I probably never will be. When I listen to it now I hear somebody thinking … this is my chance, so take it. That’s exactly what I did.”

WHEN Colin Macintyre played his first UK tour to promote Loss, he shared a bill with the hottest new band on the planet.

The singer was signed by Geoff Travis to Rough Trade, the label that launched the careers of The Smiths, Aztec Camera and Stiff Little Fingers.

“Geoff said: ‘I’ve seen a band from New York and I want you to tour with them’,” revealed Colin.

“He played me a song, The Modern Age, on his Walkman. It was The Strokes. Six months later we were on a tour bus together.”

Their gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow on June 20, 2001 has taken on an almost mythical status.

“It was a great night and after the show I took them to The Garage to drink whisky,” he recalled.

“Every night was electric. In Oxford, I was side stage and felt a buzz around me. People were being shuffled in through a fire door.

“It was Radiohead, all five of them. Thom Yorke looked me and said: ‘Good luck’.

“At other gigs, Kate Moss, Jarvis Cocker and James Dean Bradfield turned up.

“The tour gathered heat as we moved from city to city. Their rise was meteoric.”

Another highlight was a gig at Heaven in London.

“When we got back on the bus they began singing my song, I Tried. It was a real magic moment,” said Colin.

“They were being courted by so many people but were interested in my music too.

“At the Reading Festival, my guitar tech couldn’t do the gig. When Nick Valensi found out he offered to step in. We had The Strokes’ guitarist roadie-ing for us just before they were due on the Main Stage.”

But Colin was a hit in their home city too. While chatting about music to a barman in a New York pub he let mentioned his own band.

“Oh, yeah, the dog in the wig,” said the guy, in reference to the cover artwork.

“That doesn’t even happen to me in Tobermory,” said Colin, laughing.

“I got the photo, taken in Amsterdam in the 1960s, from the Getty Images Archive.

“The dog’s face is actually quite sad, but I liked the juxtaposition of the stupidity of the wig on its head.

“The shot was unusual, but not just quirky for the sake of it. So I suppose it had its merits.”

* THE Billy Sloan Show is on BBC Radio Scotland every Saturday at 10pm.

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