Runrig will bring the curtain down on a remarkable and unique recording career when they release ‘The Story’ – their 14th and final studio album – this Friday (29th January).
The 11-track album is laced with nostalgia – charting and celebrating the group’s journey from a dance band playing at village halls to one which has sold out shows all across the globe.
Speaking to the Free Press Malcolm Jones – the guitarist and piper who joined the group as an 18-year old back in 1978 – admitted it was hard not to feel wistful when making the new album. But he’s pledged that the last studio recording will not signal the end for the band.
“Speaking for myself, you’re really just trying to do the best you can with any musical project, hoping it will turn out a worthwhile piece of work and that others will also enjoy it, so in that respect it (The Story) was no different to other projects,” he said. “But I did find myself in wistful mood at times – it’s impossible not to be intensely nostalgic, given the long history of the band.
“It’s been my life since I was 18, back in the days when we all hailed from houses just two streets apart in Portree. Inevitably, Rory and Calum’s songs on this album explore feelings looking both to the past and the future, of hope, joy and loss, so that also lent itself to a certain mood, which I think we were all aware of throughout the making of the album.
“But it’s certainly not the end of the road as far as making more music is concerned, collectively or individually.”
Rory and Calum MacDonald, are the two Portree-raised sons of North Uist who along with Blair Douglas founded the Run-rig dance band back in 1973.
While Malcolm said he hoped the new record would contain “all the things that people like about Runrig, but at the same time still sound fresh”, he felt the time was right to bring a close to the band’s recording career.
He added: “If you do the maths – this is the band’s 43rd year, plus we’ve at least two years of concerts ahead of us. Potentially it could be at least five years before another album is mooted – so purely on a practical level, if we’re not all on our zimmers by then, that’s a big commitment to take on long term. The likelihood is that this will be the last studio album – of course it doesn’t mean to say that we won’t bombard the public with more live and compilation albums in the future.”
Though the band will no longer be found in the studio, Malcolm says he is looking forward to getting back on stage and embarking on a 16-date UK tour.
Four of Runrig’s February concerts in Scotland have already sold out, while bumper gigs in Stornoway and Edinburgh are planned for this summer.
“Getting back onstage is the final part of the creative jigsaw, and for me, probably the most satisfying,” added Malcolm, who with keyboard player Brian Hurren penned the track Elegy – a short instrumental piece, which acts as a coda to one of the highlights on the new album, ‘Rise and Fall’.
“The music, the performance and the audience reaction all happen ‘in the moment’ and, on a good night, it’s where bits of musical magic can happen.
“Travelling is always a pain but it’s a small price to pay!
“As ever, we’ll be especially looking forward to a return visit to the Heb Celt festival in July, always a special night.”
He continued: “We have tours of Scotland, England and Denmark coming up, festivals in the summer, with Germany later in the year plus we’re already looking at ideas for live shows in 2017. What people don’t realise is that each album cycle probably lasts a minimum of three years – well over a year spent writing, rehearsing and recording the songs, then all the preparations for touring and the actual concerts themselves. The studio album before ‘The Story’ was in 2007 – all of nine years ago, so on that timescale there’s a few years left in the old dogs yet.”
Runrig release the ‘The Story on their own independent label, Ridge Records, on 29th January. The band will be playing in Scotland in February and July. The February shows at Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh have all sold out, though there are still tickets for their Dundee concert on 12th February. This summer Runrig will headline the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway and play live at Edinburgh Castle on 23rd July.