HERE’S a new chapter in the life of Ricky Ross that was written too late to be included in his memoir. “It feels fantastic,” says the Deacon Blue frontman, days after becoming a grandfather for the first time.
“I texted Jim Kerr the other day to tell him, and he said to me: ‘This means you definitely have to carry on. My grandkids told me they tell people their gran [Chrissie Hynde] and granddad are rock stars.’ Jim said that was the coolest thing, which I thought was really funny.”


At 64, the arrival of his daughter Caitlin’s son into the world, in California, comes at a time when Ross shows no sign of doing anything other than carrying on. His band recently completed a UK tour of the album they brought out weeks before the beginning of the pandemic and will perform in the Netherlands and Belgium this month. But August 2022 will also mark the beginning of what he jokes feels like “starting a new job”.
“I’m enjoying the change,” he says, reflecting on his first venture into memoir writing and the unfamiliar territory it will deliver him to. “It’s an unknown world to me: publishers, book launches, book festivals. But it’s an interesting world.”


The memoir, Walking Back Home: Deacon Blue and Me, is accompanied by a new solo record, Short Stories Vol 2, which will take Ross back out on the road just weeks after Deacon Blue completed a tour originally scheduled two years ago, albeit this time in considerably more intimate venues than Hammersmith Apollo and Glasgow Hydro.
Aside from the literary festival appearances at Aye Write in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Book Festival, there will be a spoken-word component to his solo tour, allowing Ross to share stories he started writing before he had any notion of publishing a memoir.


“It’ll be a bit experimental, and I’ll have to judge it as I go along,” he says. “But that’s my intention. I didn’t intend to write a memoir. I wrote a song called On Love for our City of Love album, which vaguely mentioned my grandparents. It was a trigger for me. I wanted to write more about them, and then I started to think about other people I wanted to write about. So I did.”
For all Ross’s credentials in the field, having sold albums by multiples of millions, and rising to the top-end of the international pop industry during the excess of the 1980s and 1990s, Walking Back Home is determinedly shy of showbiz spills.


There’s a brief mention of a party with Bruce Springsteen, a wink in the direction of a do with Bono and The Edge, a head-tilt towards Rod Stewart and a cute anecdote about Billy Joel. The Rolling Stones and George Martin ghost through paragraphs and Mike Scott of The Waterboys – a pivotal figure in Ross’s story – is both gently held to account and, ultimately, absolved. 
An anecdote about how Ross bought his kids a pony after a co-writing credit on James Blunt’s song High from his mega-selling debut album is among the few divulgences of showbiz excess, a tale told more fondly than the one about the New York record execs and the offers of cocaine and prostitutes.

HeraldScotland:
“It doesn’t really matter if you’re meeting the Pope or the Dalai Lama or the bloke three doors down,” says Ross. “What the reader really wants to know about is you and your emotions.”
Yet anyone looking for the kiss-and-tell candour once pursued by the Press after the singer married his Deacon Blue bandmate Lorraine McIntosh, following the end of his first marriage, won’t find tittle-tattle here.
“I suspect some people might want to read salacious gossip and all the rest of it, so we should warn them now,” says Ross, lightly acknowledging the parts he left out.
“I don’t talk really much about Lorraine, or my ex-wife, and I don’t talk about my children. I love them all dearly but I felt these weren’t my stories to tell.”


Nor is it a blow-by-blow account of the success of the band he formed in Glasgow in 1986, or a ‘making of’ chronology of how songs like Dignity and Real Gone Kid drove them to the top of the charts and into pop history. Fans will have to look to elsewhere for that. Instead, the memoir’s early richness is found in the detail Ross shares of his Dundee childhood, with warm stories of an exciting aunt whose record collection gave Ross and his sister childhood access to pop hooks via repeated listens to her copy of Petula Clark’s Downtown. 


There are sepia-toned recollections of the roles his grandparents played in his young life, and insights into the stifling nature of an upbringing in the Plymouth Brethren. Passages about the dawning realisation of his father’s mental health struggles and, much later, well-intentioned events going wrong in the days preceding his mother’s death in 2020, are especially moving. His recollections of his days as a youth worker in Dundee, and as a young teacher in Glasgow, suggest that had the nascent songwriting flame not taken hold, working with young people would have delivered their own, harder-won, joys.
“It’s the constant search in the book,” says Ross, when I suggest that the pursuit of joy is a recurring theme, whether on stage in front of 250,000 headlining Glasgow’s Big Day in 1990 or visiting slums in Brazil with Christian Aid.


 “I think that’s the search for most people – to realise when you are happy, to realise when life is good. I don’t want to use the cliche of Calvinism, but there is a sense in which sometimes that can dominate our lives, that somehow you deny yourself. 
“I think you have to allow yourself to celebrate these moments. I talk about a gig we played in Kilmarnock prison, and the chaplain Fr Joe Boland saying to me that where there’s joy there’s God. And that was such a great thing.”
His Ayrshire jailhouse rock epiphany is one of several in the memoir which suggest that Ross didn’t fully appreciate what he had until it had gone. 


His band split at the top of the UK album charts in 1994; two years later, after a lukewarm response to his first solo album, the songwriter was dropped by his record label. Even when Deacon Blue eventually reformed in 1999, Ross tells how the road back to fulfilment – and joy – was a long time coming. 
A turn at Glastonbury in 2011 gave him the confidence to consider the possibility of a Deacon Blue Version 2.0. They’ve released five well-received albums since, returning to venues the size of which they last played in their first heyday 30 years ago. The memoir’s title fits. Its final chapter, though, is no conclusion.

 

Ross says: “I’ve often said people would be surprised by how easily I could give up playing live. But our last tour, which was so difficult with the restrictions and because we had to cancel shows in Ireland and Scotland, there was actually something magical about it. I realised this isn’t something I’m ready to quit yet.”


Walking Back Home: Deacon Blue and Me, by Ricky Ross, is out on 4 August, published by Headline. Short Stories Vol 2 is released on 5 August on Cooking Vinyl. Ricky Ross will be in conversation with Nicola Meighan at Edinburgh’s Book Festival on 18 August.
rickyross.com