Singer songwriter Raymond Meade first cut his teeth with lively Glasgow four piece The Ronelles. Although critically acclaimed for their songs, youthful spirit and raw rock n’ roll energy with an ever growing fan base, the band imploded in 2007.
Since then the Scots/Irish songwriter has played alongside Shane MacGowan, worked for Liam Gallagher’s clothing firm Pretty Green and invited esteemed guests to appear on his forthcoming album Fables and Follies.
The glittering cast includes Philip Chevron of The Pogues, renowned author Iain Banks and Glasgow rocker Jon Fratteli.
Fables and Follies reveals an unmistakable positive punch the air quality, spliced with catchy old fashioned rock n’ roll values.
There’s also a hint of Irish melancholy on the ballad Waiting For Lucy featuring Philip Chevron. Undoubtedly The Pogues have always retained a strong link with the green half of Glasgow, sitting down over a pot of tea in the city’s West End, Raymond explains how the Dubliner ended up on the album.
“I had got in touch with Philip when I heard he was ill and sent him a get well card. I got a lovely email from him in response and we kept in touch. After he recovered from his illness (throat cancer) he became involved with the track. Joe Strummer of The Clash once said Philip was the greatest rhythm guitar player of his generation, the way he plays that four by four rhythm on the offbeat, only he can do that, his voice was also a key thing on the record. I wanted to capture that Celtic sound, that longing that you get on songs like Thousands Are Sailing or A Pair Of Brown Eyes.”
Undoubtedly there’s a strong Irish essence to the track. Philip Chevron revealed what attracted him to working with Meade: “I liked the song, which he had sent me an mp3 of, so was happy to be part of it. He mentioned that it was kindred to some of my own writing, which I suppose it is. I quite liked the intimate studio set up he used in Glasgow for his album.
“Obviously it’s (the songwriting) got what we used to call a strong ‘pop sensibility’ which really just means well-crafted and tuneful, but I’ve always liked those values. Cities like Dublin, Glasgow and Liverpool, with troubled social histories, often produce the sweetest sounds. It’s what governed the old Postcard Records sound, really, in as much as a label can be said to have a ‘sound’.”
Raymond’s musical values seem to hark back to those Postcard ethics but there’s a definite edge to it too, which keeps it grounded.
Raymond’s Glasgow Irish background has been a major contributor to his attitude and rock n’ roll principles. His former band The Ronelles were tipped for huge success until mis-management pulled the band apart.
“My grandmother is from Limerick, my grandfather is Italian and my dad’s side is Scottish so there’s quite a mix. “We grew up listening to R&B when it was Rhythm and Blues, like Chuck Berry and 1970s Rolling Stones. I formed The Ronelles with my brother and we started playing battle of the bands competitions in Glasgow. One night there was a bit of banter between the acts and a bit of slagging. I was packing my gear and this guy stopped me and said ‘you’ll go far son.’
“I didn’t realise but it turned out to be Chris Glen of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, those guys are a big deal in Glasgow. After that we got a record deal and toured with Kings of Leon, The Proclaimers and The Zutons. We were playing to thousands of people a night in America and Japan but things went really wrong, we had a problem with management, although we made money, life changing money, we never saw a penny. I can’t really talk about it; it still hurts.”
Despite international success the band returned to Glasgow frustrated and home sick. Raymond faded from the music scene until a chance encounter with Shane MacGowan encouraged him to get back in the game.
“I had been asked to support Shane, he was playing some gigs in London with a house band but there had been a fight in the band and the guitarist split. I offered to play and they were like; ‘no way’. I said ‘c’mon I know all the songs’ and we went for it; it was amazing and Shane was great. He loves Glasgow; he heard my accent and started talking to me about the city.
“He’s a really generous and humble man, he tried to pull out a fistful of Euros to pay for my flight home when he heard I’d got the Mega Bus down to London but I didn’t want to take the money; just to play alongside him was enough for me.”
Away from music Raymond also became a well-known face running Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green store in Glasgow, creating a friendly environment which attracted bands to play in the store, creating something of a community spirit.
“Liam Gallagher is a real gentleman and a genuine guy, it was great to meet him a few times at the shop, we had a few mad days when he came to meet the fans, but I didn’t see eye to eye with some of the people I had to work with in the store and it was time to move on.”
Undoubtedly Raymond’s heart belongs to rock n’ roll; which he explains doesn’t necessarily mean wild nights and hedonism.
When not working solo Raymond also plays guitar with Manchester band Proud Mary: “Proud Mary are a great band, I’ve got to know them over the years, I just show up and play the gig. They had a strong connection to Noel Gallagher a few years ago; he signed them to his own label, produced their first record and played a few gigs with them.
“I’ve been trying to get them to call him; I’d love to share a bill with Noel. “For me rock n’ roll is a heart and head thing. My heroes are Keith Richards and Shane MacGowan and apart from being great at what they do; they are pretty decent human beings; it’s not a job to these guys; they’re heart merchants.”
Radio-Anna, the first single from Fables and Follies is out now. Catch Raymond Meade touring this summer with Proud Mary on July 7 at Gloucestershire, Nibley Festival.