Ross Wilson has lived in exile for more than 15 years which makes his visits to Scotland more poignant and productive.
Much of his latest album ‘And Lo! The Bird is on the Wing’, released in March, was written in Shetland - at the opposite end of the country from his home near Bournemouth on the south coast of England.
“I moved here from London after 15 years there, it’s a complete change of pace; just myself and the ocean. I have pals in Shetland and we’ve been up to play on three different occasions”, said Edinburgh-born Ross, aka Blue Rose Code.
“Island life holds a real appeal to me, locked up tight in a cottage on a croft in the north, and walking the remote peninsula I wrote the bulk of the current album.”
Another exiled Scot unexpectedly appears on the album, Trainspotting and Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor who recites some of the lyrics on the track ‘Glasgow Rain’. The Hollywood superstar’s uncle, fellow actor Dennis Lawson, sent him a copy of Blue Rose Code’s previous album ‘The Ballads Of Peckham Rye’, which was nominated for the prestigious Scottish Album of The Year Awards in 2014.
“I think, being a Scot in exile, the themes were familiar and he could identify with a lot of what I sing about. He got in touch and asked if I would send him the chords to my song ‘Edina’.
“When it came to recording the next album, I’d written a poem and I asked him if he’d like to read it for the song. We’ve become pals. He’s a really guid lad.”
The critics have praised the new release and it seems the audiences have responded well also on the current tour: “Touring has been great fun on this run, playing the new album and hearing people sing back to you, it’s a special thing”, said Ross. “I feel quite blessed to have the support I do.”
The gigs will take him back to the Outer Hebrides, another part of the country with which he has a special affinity, when he appears at the 21st Hebridean Celtic Festival next month. “I played the festival in 2014 and had a cracker of a time. In fact, I still have the sticker on my guitar.
“I’ve had a long distance love affair with the isles for years, my travelling to Lewis, to Uig and Bernera has given me some of my fondest memories. I’m coming back in the autumn to finally play An Lanntair (arts centre in Stornoway) too. The place holds a special place in my heart and my songs.
“I only choose to do festivals that I know will be fun, full of genuine music fans. HebCelt is a fine example of that. When it goes well, when you can have a few thousand faces singing a chorus with you, well that’s a spiritual thing. Makes it all worthwhile.”
Coming up for Ross, recently seen in The Quay Sessions on BBC Radio Scotland, is a sold out show at the Edinburgh Fringe which sees him teaming up with three of the finest contemporary folk musicians: Ross Ainslie, Jarlath Henderson and Angus Lyon, and performing traditional songs as well as his own.
He said: “I wanted to play some older songs, songs that are generations old, connected to my history, to my family and place in the world.
I also wanted to play with some real trad faces and I’m delighted to have a band comprising some of the finest for that Fringe gig. I don’t want to spoil the surprise by revealing what we’ll be playing but it’s going to be a rare show alright.”
The current tour over the autumn and winter will culminate in his first headline show at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh: “It’s a significant night for me, a homecoming of sorts, my biggest headline to date and we’ve got the wonderful (Welsh duo) Zervas and Pepper joining us and more to be revealed.”