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As I mentioned in last month’s review of the stellar debut album from Ross Wilson’s Blue Rose Code, I’m a fiend for folk tunes. Thus, whenever I am able to speak with other folks who work in the medium I leap at the chance. As such, the offer to speak with Ross about his struggles, the creation of such a stirring set of songs and the possibility to shine a brighter light into the lush emotional mosaic they present was an absolute blessing.
 
Wilson’s wit and sardonic flourish radiate off the screen- so even speaking via correspondence was an entertaining experience. I hope this insight into Mr. Wilson’s psyche is as enriching to you folks as well! Enjoy, Kickers!
 
WilsonGraven
 
Good day, sir! Thanks immensely for taking a moment to speak with us. Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself to our readers—
 
My name is Ross, I’m a Scottish-born, all-singing and no-dancing, London-based wastrel. If you’re into orthodox folk music, then my music is not folk; if you’re a fan of the alternative variety then you’ll probably consider me a folk musician. Likes to cook, GSOH, 177cm, Sagittarian; in the immortal words of Jim Morrison, “the most philosophical of all the signs,” but crucially, also in the words of Jim, “I don’t believe in that shit anyway.”
 
 
Is there a story behind the moniker, Blue Rose Code
 
Blue Rose Code comes from a scene in a David lynch movie, Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me. There’s a moment where a blue rose is presented as a symbol of something esoteric, something clandestine… and it is perhaps a metaphor for the other-worldly mystery that underpins the great TV show.
 
 
There has been a considerable amount of ink expended discussing your various vices and how they effected your life and career. How did your recovery effect your songwriting and approach to the industry (touring, performing shows, etc.)? Did anything change at all? 
 
For a very long time I wilfully deceived myself that great art comes exclusively from the Dionysian lifestyle. I’ve found that that only brings me despair. I was left with no desire to write, no ability to play and no-one around me with whom to work.
 
I have five moths of touring ahead of me now, inconceivable before, I’m playing several great festivals in the Summer. I go into all of that with no fear; grateful that, one day at a time, I can achieve what I want in recovery. Also, I’m in the middle of, I think, the most creative period of my career so far. The next album is all but written, I’m writing a lot of poetry (looking to get published in the future), and I’m blogging on politics and current affairs, an old love of mine which I have far more energy for nowadays.
 
I’m turning up for life today. In terms of changes, the change had to come from me and must continue to come from me. In the end it’s about personal responsibility. I can’t expect the world to adapt to accommodate my shortcomings. How does that old adage go….’If we try to run from change, we will be crushed beneath the wheels of change.’
 
 
Would you say you have a typical songwriting method (for instance, writing lyrics first, then music), or is your writing process organic for each composition?
 
No guru, no method, no teacher. The key, for me, is never to write unless I’m moved to write. There are songs, ideas that have lain in wait for months, “Julie,” being an example. It wasn’t until I really felt it that I finished the song. In the past I’ve tried sitting down, “let’s write a song a day” etc. The results were never good; disingenuous, insincere. I carry about a notebook, and if the feeling is there then I’ll write. Sometimes those words are married to a song, more often they remain as poetry.
 
The greatest feeling, for me, is channeling the muse in one sitting and writing a song in its entirety: the melody, the chords, the words. The whole kit and caboodle.
 


 
How do you orchestrate the instrumentation for North Ten? The various elements accent the compositions so perfectly— be it the strings, mandolin or upright bass. Were these studio decisions, or did you hear these elements while you were conceptualizing the songs? 
 
The record sounds exactly as I wanted it to; it’s uncanny. I owe a great creative debt to my producer, Alex Pilkington. I really felt a connection with him artistically and he just had an ability to understand where I wanted to take a song while at the same time bringing his own compatible ideas. There was a real simpatico.
 
I believe in finding people that you want to work with and respect and then giving them licence to make their mark. The instruments were the band that I play with, plus sounds that I’d always wanted: keys, upright bass, mando (mandolin). It was crucial for me to keep the record sounding contemporary, too, therefore a bit of electric and some samples, etc.
 
Nothing really works better than recording the album and then sitting on it and listening over a period of a couple of months. You’ll make the changes you need.
 
WilsonNorth10
You have a phenomenal ability to craft memorable melodies and lyrics. Are there any songwriters who inspired you stylistically, or anyone you feel you pattern yourself after or take inspiration from?
 
I listened to Motown, anything from their production line, as a child. From there my obsession with pop and the perfection of commercial music grew. The truth is that I love a lot of shady stuff, Garth Brooks, West coast 90’s pop hip-hop, chart music that wouldn’t do great things for my PR……I’ve got a rep to protect, yeah? There is no shame in a hook or a chorus.
 
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always held the belief that I’m primarily a fan of songs, and by proxy a fan of the artist.
 
I love the creative and uncompromising journey that Van (Morrison) has taken over a period of decades… I mean many, many genuinely great albums. Also English multi-instrumentalist Nitin Sawhney I find extremely inspiring. He continues to be relevant, craft social commentary through his music without being dogmatic: he’s amazing. Miles (Davis), too… perhaps the greatest band leader?
 
 
Through all the varied hardship in your life, what do you consider your greatest challenge thus far in your career? Also, to contrast that, your greatest accomplishment?
 
My greatest challenge has been, and continues to be, putting my recovery before everything in my life. That’s what I do for a living now. Without my sobriety everything else would dissolve. My greatest achievement, to date, has been recording and releasing North Ten (an album that, as a music fan, I would respect) with people that I love.
 
 
What sort of goals do you have for yourself professionally? Are there any major milestones you aspire to that you feel you haven’t reached yet or that you’re aiming for? 
 
The US, frankly. I’m a bit of a lover of all things American. I’ve been to SF and NY, Chicago too, but I want to tour the country… the Omahas and Nebraskas, Missouri and Idaho. I want to play in Nashville and in Seattle; all over, really. I’d like to get over to SXSW and play Burning Man and Coachella.
 
There is a centuries-old traditional link between the Scots and the US. You hear a great deal about the Irish link, but last time I was in NY there was ‘Tartan Day’, what a sight that was! The US loves songs and songwriting and, I’m told, has a fondness for the Celtic burr: well here I am! I want to tour the arse off this album and then get the next record done. I want to have my poetry published and continue to be involved at a grass roots level in politics and community mobilization. Lots to be getting on with…
 
Now, for my James Lipton portion of the interview…
 
Do you have an all-time desert-island Top-Five albums (or Artists)?
 
So, in no particular order and only selecting one album per act –
WilsonLive
 
Sketches Of Spain – Miles 
 
Inside Out – John Martyn
 
Counting Crows – August And Everything After
 
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
 
Veedon Fleece – Van Morrison
 

Honourable mentions for Trane’s (John Coltrane) A Love Supreme, Blind Melon Soup, The Blue Nile Hats, McCoy Tyner‘s The Real McCoy and Joni’s (Joni Mitchell) Blue
 
Yes, I know that I’m cheating.
 
 
What single song has the highest play-count in your music library? (Check your Mp3 player, iTunes, etc. or plead the 5th if it involves Jessica Simpson or Olivia Newton John and John Travolta)
 
Top 3 –
 
 
Marvin Gaye – “Chained”
 
Van (Morrison) – “Sweet Thing”
 
Ray Charles – “Georgia On My Mind”
 
 

If you could choose any artist living or dead to collaborate with (could be recording, tour, or simply write with—), who would it be?
 
I would love to write with Gillian Welch or Adam Duritz.
 
 

What is the best live show you have ever attended? (or if that’s too difficult to narrow down… just the first show you ever attended)
 
The concert that has inspired me the most was seeing John Martyn and Danny Thompson play together after years of estrangement. It was a tiny little theatre in Glasgow about 12 years ago. The warmth and camaraderie between them, the love they showed playing all of the songs that I’d hoped to hear, it was the most special evening. It made me want to be a serious musician and influenced my decision to move to London.
 
Close second was Van playing Astral Weeks in its entirety at the Albert Hall a couple of years back. Wow!
 
 
That, my dear sir, concludes the interview! Thanks immensely for taking the time to speak with us- it was thoroughly informative and immensely appreciated! Best of luck with the touring schedule, and we eagerly anticipate hearing your next record!
 
 


 
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