Belfast Telegraph

'I’m 53 now and proud a big chunk of my income comes from singing ... I’m very lucky'

Ahead of their Belfast concert in March, Eighties chart-toppers Hue and Cry remember their heyday and say why Northern Ireland reminds them of their Scottish homeland. By Stephanie Bell

Pat Kane is feeling grateful that 35 years after he and his brother Gregory rocked Top of the Pops with hit singles like Labour of Love and Looking for Linda that they are still producing the music they love.

The Scottish pop act Hue and Cry are Belfast bound in March as part of a UK-wide tour to promote their latest album A Pocketful of Stones.

Now in their 50s, the brothers have never stopped making music or performing and A Pocketful of Stones sees a new generation of the family follow in their footsteps as Pat's daughter Eleanor joins her dad for a duet.

The brothers were in their early 20s when they stormed the charts in the Eighties and along with Wet Wet Wet, Simple Minds and Deacon Blue, were one of the most successful acts to emerge from Scotland.

Unlike so many other teenage musicians starting out, they didn't have to spend years doing backstreet pubs and clubs before being noticed.

Their early pop career came with all the glamour of that time, flying to Los Angeles to make pop videos and working with only the best musicians in the world.

Their first two albums Seduced and Abandoned and Remote were big hits but the brothers were dropped from their label after the release of their third album Stars Crash Down.

It didn't stop them recording and they continued to produce albums experimenting with a mix of genres from jazz, drum 'n' bass, R&B and Nuyorican Latin-funk.

Looking back now, Pat thinks they peaked too early but he has no regrets and it is with fondness that he remembers the Eighties and Nineties when they were living the dream.

Speaking ahead of their forthcoming gig in Belfast, Pat says that now being out on their own means having to take care of the business side of things and while it is a big change he is grateful that he is still enjoying and making a living from music.

He says: "We are more like entrepreneurs now. We are very much hands-on running the business, coming up with ideas, organising gigs and promotions and merchandise. We do it all ourselves.

"It is very different from the Eighties when we were like overgrown children being run by corporate masters.

"We make all the decisions and we work harder than we ever have, but we are grateful to be still doing what we love.

"We had a fantastic time in the Eighties, it was very carefree and in the music business then there were lots of resources to make your ideas possible.

"We didn't exactly have to play in the spit and sawdust pubs before we found ourselves being flown over to Los Angeles to make our first video.

"When we left the record label our standards were very high as we had been used to doing things like recording in New York with the best musicians and that's what we had come to expect and we had to learn it is not always that way.

"Maybe it was too much too early, maybe we peaked too soon, but I am 53 now and I am proud of myself that a big chunk of my income comes from me singing and I count myself very lucky that is one of my day jobs.

"I feel incredibly blessed that my music career has been part of my life for the past 30-plus years. I really believe if you still have it you have to use it or lose it.

"I still have an insatiable curiosity about music and am happy to do things in new ways."

The boys have created something new with their latest - and 12th - studio album Pocketful of Stones, which has been launched to critical acclaim, gaining four and five stars in both the Sunday Express and The Scotsman.

They will spend the first half of 2018 touring the UK and Ireland to promote the album which Pat is very proud of.

He describes it as an "album of masterful ballads and anthems" and says it represents their accumulated creative outpourings and observations from the past four years.

Always writing from the heart, the album covers a tumultuous relationship with politics, examines their perspectives of love and parenthood, looks at how reflection in oneself can ultimately lead to appreciating what makes you truly happy, and what the shortcomings of failing to live up to modern societal standards can be.

Family is also a recurring theme, as Pat's youngest daughter Eleanor duets on the track Let Her Go, penned in tribute to her flying the nest and carving her own path through the world. She is in her final year at drama school in London and plans to become a dancer, singer and actress.

Pat says: "It is a very moody, soft album. There is not much dancing can be done to it, but it is one of the most beautiful things we have ever done.

"It was quite something after more than 35 years in the music business to have my 20-year-old daughter in the recording studio with me.

"I had written Let Her Go about her getting her first flat in London and being really excited to be starting stage school and it was Greg who said that she should sing it.

"Eleanor aims to be a 'triple-threat performer' - to act as well as she sings and as well as she dances.

"She is a magnificent talent. I am really proud of her. She will go far.

"We've performed it together a few times and the first couple of times we were quite tearful and now we're professional about it and can do it with just a wry smile.

"It has had a great impact on people. People love it."

He is just as proud of his eldest daughter Grace (28) who is a sustainable technology design engineer.

Working with his brother all these years he admits that they "have had our moments" but have worked through them to become closer than ever.

He says: "He is my best pal and we are very intuitive with each other, it's almost like we are telepathic. We work so well together and know instinctively what the other person wants.

"It is not always the case that brothers and sisters get on so well with each other and also get to be so creative together and we are quite lucky that that is how it ended up for us.

"Like many families there have been tensions in the past but we worked through them together."

There is also another brother Gary John who plays bass for The Proclaimers. Pat says: "He is an accomplished bass player all over the world. He is the best bits of Greg and I combined and the worst bits discarded."

Their late father John who passed away 10 years ago aged 78 was a big Sinatra fan and Pat says they all got their love of music from him. Their mother Mary who is 84 was a midwife.

Pat divides his time between Scotland and London where his long-term partner of 15 years lives.

He says 2018 is all about touring and promoting their new album before the brothers decide what comes next. To celebrate the announcement of Pocketful of Stones, Hue and Cry have made the title song available to stream via YouTube.

The track is a fantastic introduction to the sound of the new album, including lyrics detailing the central theme of the album with what Pat describes as "lots of poetic images… I love the way that Greg has arranged the song as one giant metronome, ticking away".

"It is about sensing that time is running out for you to do everything you need and want to do," he says of the album.

"At this age and stage, you have responsibilities which you have to live up to. If 'half a century has piled up' (as the title track lyrics put it), then you must know something by now."

As with most performers, he loves Northern Ireland audiences and can't wait to come back to Belfast on March 2 when they will play in the Empire Music Hall.

He says: "One of the earliest gigs I remember was in a bar in the dockside in Belfast in the early Eighties and it was absolutely brilliant performing in that wee club.

"We've been back since then and I also remember lying in my hotel room in Belfast looking out my window on a Saturday night watching all the good fun people were having.

"People in Belfast know how to have a good time.

"It reminds me of the West of Scotland and down through into the Republic of Ireland where people appreciate your performance.

"You just know if you put it out you will get it back and from that point of view Belfast audiences are fantastic and we are really looking forward to coming back to the city."

Hue and Cry play the Empire Music Hall, Belfast on March 2. For tickets visit thebelfastempire.com/music-hall/hue-cry/

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