Ahead of the release of his debut album, Liam Ross chats to IGigs.
Borne out of his Masters degree coursework ‘Hearts and Faces and Abandoned Spaces’ is the first album for Liam Ross who is recognised as one of the foremost fingerstyle guitarists in the Scottish Highlands. With the release looming we thought it would be a nice opportunity to catch up with Liam;
Last time we spoke to you, you spoke positively of the influence of “My Life In The Bush of Ghosts” by David Byrne and Brian Eno’, what are you currently listening to?
During the lockdown, I’ve started listening to Genesis for some reason. Both the Peter Gabriel era and Phil Collins era. It amazes me how they can fit so much lovely imagery and story into their music. Songs like ‘Ripples’ and ‘Carpet Crawlers’ are particularly beautiful.
As well as this I’ve been listening to PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ which had a massive influence on my album as well as John Martyn’s ‘One World’. They all have a positive impact on me as they serve as examples of what can be possible with my music and creativity.
One of our reviewers once noted “I could listen and watch Liam play all night, so good is his performance on the guitar”, what do you think it is about your performances that are so entrancing?
I think because it is so different from what people are used to. I usually have people say that they expect the acoustic guitar to be nice and quiet so they are a bit surprised when they see me play and it’s loud and in your face. I also love to showcase just how diverse the acoustic guitar is. You can incorporate drums and various percussive sounds to create a soundscape.
It’s also that interaction between myself and the audience. I’ll give 100% of myself to playing and entertaining people even if I’m having an off night and I think people appreciate when they see you are trying to do that even if the music isn’t their cup of tea.
Given that you have been working on the concepts behind the album for so long why choose now to release the LP?
The recording was made about a year and a bit ago as part of a project for my Masters course. I would have ideally liked to have released the LP sooner but life gets in the way sometimes. I’ve been busy teaching, plus I wanted to get this right. To get the artwork, package, and vibe closer to what I originally envisioned. Also, I’ve started to collect a lot of ideas and songs that I’m pleased and satisfied with so I would like to dive into them
The album is described as “taking guitar music in a new direction”, how is that represented in your music?
The album is primarily based on abandoned locations and my hometown. So I wanted to get local’s views about what they dislike/like about the town as well as what they feel could be done to improve it. Their views as well as some of my own are included in the music.
So it’s not just my expression, it’s the expression of others as well. And I’m pretty certain this is the first time someone has written about their part of the world through the context of an acoustic guitar in this way. As well as this it has the sound of the longest reverb in the world which is inside the Inchindown Oil Tanks close to Invergordon. This was such a cool sound to include on the song ‘Darklands’ as it threads the theme of abandoned locations, Invergordon, local views, and acoustic guitar in the one song.
During the strange times that we live in, how does the current environment impact on you as an artist?
I make my income from playing and teaching music. So the main impact this has had on me is one of adapting to the times. I now teach online, make music videos, and even play live through the internet which is a big change but a change that had to happen. On an artistic level, it’s drawn my focus to the small things that surround us. Things like birds singing, the sound of the sea, and the way the sunsets are all having such a positive impact on me and my songwriting. I have a collection of songs I’m proud of because of this.