WHATEVER you do, don’t call Tide Lines a Gaelic band. “The Gaelic side of things is an equally reasonable influence in our music as the American influence or the European influence,” says frontman Robert Robertson.

“We don’t want to be categorised like that. Our influences are from American folk and rock and roll, Scottish folk and pop; it’s not all that different, really.

“They’re all just different components of the one big thing. I find it strange that because of that Gaelic influence, people say we’re a Gaelic band. We’re not. The new album doesn’t have a Gaelic song on it.”

What Tide Lines are is a band who wear their honest, open-hearted melodies on their sleeve.

They live in Glasgow and hail from the Highlands (Mull, Easter Ross, Fort William and Lossiemouth respectively). The band’s name evokes the faraway shores of their youth and their music rings with the clarity of a Hebridean stream. Previous albums have included a mix of songs in English and their mother tongue.

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“The traditional melodies from our part of the world have always been really simple,” said Robertson, the band’s singer and principal songwriter.

“You go back home to a ceilidh and everyone’s singing really simple melodies that you could be singing for the next week, just going round and round in your head.

“Keith Richards said he thought rock and roll was a blend of blues and Irish and Scottish Celtic music. The blues is built around simplicity and Gaelic music is like that too – when you listen to Tide Lines songs … the way we build songs and choruses, with a simplicity that people can relate to and sing along to at live gigs, I think that’s an inherent thing from our part of the world.”


Their approach is working. Their live gigs are packed with anthemic singalongs from lovelorn foot stompers about a guy missing a girl under a red Lochaber sky, to sunny day choruses honouring those who’ve gone before, boys on dancefloors and girls tying bows in their hair.

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Robertson cites his father’s record collection of Don McLean, Roy Orbison, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan, as being as formative as any Celtic instrument he picked up as a kid in Lochaber.

Having just released their third album, the band – Robertson, Ross Williams, Ali Turner and Fergus Munro – are mid-way through a UK tour which sees them playing venues like Edinburgh’s Usher Hall and Liverpool’s O2 Academy. Later this summer, they’ll play the reliably mighty Gathering in Inverness, followed by an open-air concert at Glasgow’s Queen’s Park bowl.

Their adopted city has as much to do with this gang of four’s story as anywhere else.  Each of them made the journey south at some point in their lives and are now honorary Weegies.

They’ve filled the Barrowlands, they’ve supported one of the city’s beloved bands in Deacon Blue, and have taken inspiration for songs from the lives of the people in the city as much as the wide open spaces they call home.

Robertson said: “I don’t really understand how inspiration works. You get to a place like that, and see a forest and an island and a shoreline, but it’s not as if you think you’re going to write about a forest and an island and a shoreline.

“You do get a sense of something, and I think because we’re all from rural parts of Scotland and we all live in the city, we do get a sense of relaxation when you get out of the city and into fresh air and a landscape you’re used to rather than tenements buildings.

“Maybe we do our best stuff when we’re surrounded by that, and the only reason I can think of for that is because it’s where we’re from.

“But I wouldn’t want to mischaracterise the album because a lot of the stories are about people in the city. When I’m sitting in the flat writing, it works, it just takes a bit longer.”

The band decamped to Mull, recording the LP in a former church with views out onto the sea.

Guitarist Ali Turner said: “The first few songs were partly recorded at home during lockdown, so we used the technology available to us, with Zoom calls and things like that. But when we got to Mull, the room we did the majority of the recording in had windows that looked out over the bay. We’d pop out for a walk round the local area, and be surrounded by incredible beauty. It’s hard not to be influenced by that.”

Among the tunes on An Ocean Full of Islands, which landed at a very respectable 13 on the UK album charts when it was released last week, is its yearning denouement, The Last Song.

Songwriter Rob recently suffered a close family bereavement, and the song seems to hint at it. Yet it was written well in advance of his personal family heartbreak.

“When I wrote it, it was a love song about heartbreak, but when I listen to it now it means something totally different,” said the 29 year old.

“I think The Last Song was written because lockdown shook us out of our complacency a bit, and we realised that terrible things can happen in life. It has the line, ‘How are they supposed to know that everything in life must go’.

“I didn’t have a specific reason for writing that at the time, it was just more of a sense that I had. It’s strange, because everything in my life did go in a moment, only a year later. But the song was written in more general terms.”

The theme of self-reflection is a constant on the album, with lead single Written in the Scars – playlisted on the country’s most-listened to radio station, Radio 2 – similarly surfing the inner terrain.

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“It’s about the realisation that life was moving too fast for us before the pandemic,” said Robertson.

“In 2019 we’d just won The Rising Sound of Scotland at the Scottish Music Awards, we played the Barras and it was a really exciting time for us. Then there was a sense of frustration when all that stopped.

“But I realised we’d been trying to keep everything going as quickly as possible, rather than thinking: ‘Hey, we’re young lads in our 20s, in a band and doing it full time, this is pretty good.’

“Written In The Scars was about time going by so fast, and the idea that we should take a lesson from the pandemic, and appreciate every day. I know it’s a cliche to say it, but it’s about making the most of everything that’s happening.”

Tide Lines’ new album An Ocean Full of Islands, is out now.
The band are currently on tour across the UK and Ireland. They play the Gathering, Inverness, on May 27, Queen’s Park, Glasgow, on June 23 and at the Lerwick Tall Ships event on July 27.