L-R: Ross Wilson, Gus Munro, Robert Robertson, Alasdair Turner / credit: Wattie Cheung
Ahead of Burns&Beyond, the Tide Lines frontman discusses the band's influences and upcoming second album
There is never a bad time to invoke the wise words of Keith Richards, who once acknowledged that the building blocks of rock'n'roll were the blues (of course) but also Scottish and Irish traditional music. Tide Lines have taken that idea and run with it, creating a big, hearty crossover Celtrock sound characterised as 'Runrig reworked by Coldplay', which has resonated across Europe and beyond.
Frontman Robert Robertson puts the broad appeal of their music down to its local inspiration – in his case, a Highland upbringing.
'In smaller communities, there's a real close-knit atmosphere and people are looking out for each other,' he says. 'People all over the place seem to be able to relate to that, particularly today because of what's going on in the world and the unpredictability of it all. We never set out to have a message in any of our songs but it's just appeared to be a bit of common theme, and it's to do with how we were brought up.'
Like many of Scotland's best-loved Highland groups, Tide Lines are actually based out of Glasgow, where Robertson and his fellow founding member Ross Wilson gravitated in their teens to attend university.
'In some ways I'm a hypocrite because I say I have this longing to be back home – I could just go up the road and stay with my mum and dad right now, but I love living in Glasgow,' says Robertson. 'There's a massive paradox in my mind between the thrill of the city – and that applies to when we go on tour and go down to London – but equally missing the tranquillity of the Highlands.'
Robertson originally hails from Lochaber, and Wilson from Mull. Both played in Celtic big band Skipinnish, but Robertson was looking for a more bijou outlet for his rock and pop oriented songs, and keyboard player Wilson was keen to find a home for his electronica diversions. Along with guitarist/bagpiper Ali Turner and drummer Gus Munro, they formed Tide Lines in 2016, achieving instant success when they launched their debut single and video 'Far Side of the World' on Facebook.
'Looking back, that was a pretty bold thing to do because then you are committing yourself to a calendar where there is not one gig on it,' says Robertson. 'There was a lot of people in the music industry, particularly in the Highlands at that time, that really trusted us. We got our first gig at Tiree Music Festival so that was really helpful. But we were almost a victim of our own success because people were checking us out and we didn't have any other songs. We had to do a whole summer of gigs and we only had one song, plus a load I'd written that nobody had every heard before. We had to get an album out as quickly as possible.'
Their self-released debut album Dreams We Never Lost appeared in 2017, acknowledging Robertson's love of classic artists such as Springsteen alongside Wilson and Turner's passion for electronica.
'If you were to sit in the Tide Lines van and listen to the music that we play, you would raise your eyebrows at how eclectic it is,' says Robertson. 'Chvrches feature a lot. It's a big melting pot but I think they are all connected.'
The band are stirring that pot right now, creating a more expansive sound for a planned second album, which will play to their growing audience. They've also got a spring tour of Scotland coming up in May and June 2020, which has just been announced.
'It's more of a pop/rock album with a bigger guitar sound and a lot more programming,' says Robertson. 'The first album was quite heavily populated with acoustic moments whereas this one is more all guns blazing.'
Tide Lines play Burns&Beyond at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Fri 24 Jan, 9pm.
Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker returns to celebrate the life and legacy of Robert Burns through traditional and contemporary art and culture from across Scotland and beyond. The 2021 free online programme includes KT Tunstall, Aidan O’Rourke, Rachel Sermanni, Aidan Moffat, Kinnaris and more.