Colin Macleod released his first album in 2010 under the moniker The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, drawing comparisons to fellow Scottish artists Snow Patrol and Frightened Rabbit (R.I.P., Scott Hutchison). A native of the Isle of Lewis, he returned to the area three years ago, where he resumed life as a farmer. The move was a good one musically, providing inspiration for his album Bloodlines, produced by Ethan Johns. The songs have a great deal of emotional heft. He took us through them in this track by track.
The first song on the album is called "Kicks In," and 'Kicks In' is about growing up on the island. Loosely it's based around the things we used to get up to when we were young, kicking around on the moor, lighting fires, whatever.
The character in the story has got one eye on the future and he's thinking about when he has to leave the island. When we were growing up the ultimate goal was when you turned 18 you leave, go away and never come back - that's what lots of my friends did. Within the context of the song the character doesn't want to go, he wants to stay and he's worried about what that means for his life. Will he ever grow up? Will he ever get out of the way he is? But then he learns that he doesn't want to get out of the way he is, he wants to stay like that.
It's quite a personal song. It's the most personal on the album probably. When I was in school I was one of the few people that stayed behind and decided to make my home there, so it's based around that.
The second song is "Run Run." "Run Run" is the complete opposite of "Kicks in." "Run Run" is about just wanting to go, feeling trapped and isolated on a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic. Which a lot of my friends did. It's one of these places I think, you have to fully embrace it or it's too much. If you can't embrace the rawness, the cold, the darkness and all these things, if you can't make it the thing that you love, then it does overwhelm you. I can see the people that don't love it, I can see the people that find it too much because of these things that are quite overwhelming. The root of that song is about wanting to get away.
"Feels Like," is a song about a Saturday night out in Stornoway. When we were younger we used to play covers in a pub on a Saturday night to make a bit of cash. It was kind of our baptism really, a baptism of fire into the music world. We would play covers and play classic rock songs to rowdy crowds. It was really the making of a lot of bands from this part of the world. So "Feels Like" is just that. A lot of times you don't know what a song sounds like, but you know what it feels like.
"What Does It Mean To You"
"What Does It Mean To You" is a song about hardy people. It's a song specifically about women, based loosely around the story of fishing widows. There were a lot of fisherman lost at sea years gone by because the conditions were harsh. Men would go out in open-top boats without any safety gear, no life jackets. A lot of men were lost at sea trying to make their living, so there were a large number of widows.
Seven families I think it was that lost their husbands in one fishing accident in one boat. So there were seven widows in the village, and these women were just incredible. They were really stoic and really tough, they survived and they got by in a time that's really difficult.
The song's based around having to put your dreams on hold whilst living in a tough environment, because you have to provide. Nowadays you think of it as a historical story, something that's lost on the pages of a book, but what does it actually mean if you put it in the context? How do these people actually feel? It's based around that.
"Old Fire" is a song about the man that inspired the album. My old next-door neighbor, my dad's cousin Dordo, he used to tell me loads of old stories when I was younger. At the time they never really sunk in and I dismissed it as the ramblings of an old man, but it did sink in.
It dawned on me a few years ago how, for such a small place, so many incredible things have happened here. A crazy amount of stories and incredible people have come from such a small place. So he inspired the whole album, and "Old Fire" is about him in particular, about his hands - he had big, old-fashioned hands, hard from years of grafting. "Old fire" is just basically a description of the old boys that used to live up here. They were a different breed, direct descendants of Vikings.
"100 Miles" is about life on the road. It's the only song on the album that's not specifically tied to the island.
I suppose because it's written from my perspective, it's about touring when you live on an island, but really it's about the stuff that goes on away from here. It could be music, it could be touring, it could anything, it could just be life in general. The point of the song is the people you see in the snapshots in your life: your relatives, your friends, whatever. For me, I was playing lots of shows and I was getting older.
At the time I was writing the song, I was seeing all my friends and relatives. They were getting on with lives, getting jobs, having families. They were settling down and I was still going 'round with my guitar still doing the same thing, sleeping on their floors. I got to the point where I was thinking, Do I want that? Do I want to settle down? Do I want to give up the music for a real job, a real life? I've never thought that was for me. I've always enjoyed my life as a musician. I think if it's your passion you do it regardless. If you do something for money then you do it for the money and you get paid at the end of the day. But when you do something as your passion you have to take the good and the bad, you have to take the slumps as well as the good times. So, when you're sleeping on floors and you're wondering if you made the right choice, you know in your heart you did because it's what you love the most and it's what you want to do. That's what "100 Miles" is about.
"Homesick Daughter" is about the Iolaire disaster. Ninety-nine years ago, on New Year's Day, the Iolaire sunk in Stornoway harbor. It was the biggest peacetime maritime disaster ever in the UK. It's a sad story but it's really really important to remember, because it made such a lasting impression on the island that it's still keenly felt 100 years later. It's never lost any of its potency nor should it.
"Dream" is more about the feeling than about the actual meaning behind the words. People talk a lot about dreams up here, they've always seemed to be really significant. People are really superstitious, even people that are quite level-headed, religious people, churchgoers, old people or whatever. Basically the people you think would be the least superstitious are really in tune with dreams, and they will talk about it and it'd be random and completely off the wall, but they would talk about it in a very matter-of-fact way. So the basis for that is straight-ahead nonsense really. I don't know how else to describe it.
"Shake The Walls"
'Shake the Walls' is a story connected to the Lewis Revival, which was a spiritual movement in the 1930s or '40s, I'm not entirely sure on the dates. There was a house in Arnol where they were having a prayer meeting one night - they called it a "movement of God." There was a spiritual revival going on and lots of people coming to faith - there were lots of things happening.
In this area there wasn't anything happening, and this old man was praying and issuing an ultimatum to God, saying, "If you're really there then make the walls of this house shake." And as he said it, as the story goes, the house began to shake and he was put in his place.
The song goes from his perspective, not of the scenario at the time but more of his feeling of being small in that position, and how you would react to something like that.
"Ria" is a story about the Highland Clearances. Basically there was a mass movement to clear out crofts around the West Highlands and the islands to make way for the big sheep farms, and many people emigrated to Canada at that time. A lot of people went semi-voluntarily, but a lot of them were forced evictions and it was well known as a time for being quite brutal. It wasn't a good time. It was a bit of a dark period in the history of the west coast of Scotland.
The song is about a family basically, and the mother holding the door against the bailiffs coming to clear them off to Canada, not really sure about what they're going to do with their lives but just trying to hold out for one more night in their old life.
"Bloodlines" is based on the idea of a psalm melody. It's not any known psalm, but it takes the idea of that call-and-response singing and it's just a bit of a homage to that. I don't speak Gaelic as much as I'd like to. I probably should learn, but I've always been inspired and drawn to psalm singing and the traditional melodies. A lot of them are made up on the spot or they come from a basic melody but people will take it. In a congregation when they do psalm singing they have a lot of people, and one person will start then everyone else will lead on but some people will take the lead and some will hold back. It's all very fluid and quite ethereal. That was the inspiration for the song, and basically "Bloodlines" is the whole theme of the album so it felt appropriate to have it at the end to bookmark it.
May 18, 2018
Get Bloodlines at smarturl.it/Colin-Bloodlines