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Music is always framed by context, shrouded by landscapes both internal and external. Growing up on the Isle of Lewis, Colin Macleod has let the desolate beauty of the Scottish Hebrides seep into his soul, with the open expanse of that Atlantic drift practically stamped on each song.
Musical from a young age – truth by told, it was the only thing that retained his attention – it took a support slot with super-producer Ethan Johns in the Highlands to give him the spark he needed. The two hit it off, developing an intensely close creative relationship that allowing Colin MacLeod’s songwriting to blossom, with his eagerly awaited debut album now in sight.
“We spent a lot of time on this,” he tells Clash over the phone, during a rare day off in his touring schedule. “We spent a lot of time first developing the sound of the album, so when it actually came time to get in and do it we went in for a few weeks and bashed it all out. It’s not a live record, as such, but everything is tracked live.”
“The songs were all there – I started on the guitar, and took it to the band. So it’s all live takes, to get that feel, but the actual process of developing the songs took a long time. I spent more time recording the demos than I did recording the album just because I was exploring the sonics more, and the actual feel of the album.”
A fastidious artist, Colin Macleod’s songwriting has a wide-open feel, like Springsteen transplanted into an area of Scotland seeped in tradition. “That expansive sound is a reflection of the landscape, really,” he says. “If you look at a band like Sigur Ros or Mogwai, they make music that is directly influenced by its surroundings. I love that classic sound, from Springsteen to Tom Petty, a fantastic, great American sound.”
“I’ve never really written anything other than songs, and I try to be as honest as possible in my lyrics,” he continues. “Stay true to what I write. It comes from that. I’ve always been a big fan of storytelling in songs, I suppose it comes from country music – I’m a massive country music fan. It’s relaying the situation within the first line of song – so you knew what would happen, who was talking to you… and I love that.”
Observing the tightknit community he was brought up, Colin Macleod’s music fuses spectral Americana with a ghostly sense of what it means to grow up on the fringes. At its core, though, is a simple, unadorned passion for making music.
“It’s always been about making good music,” he says simply. “The driving force for me has always been about being proud of a song. And that’s it. Everything else comes along after that.”
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