“This never happened to me before.” Colin Macleod is recalling how his second album Hold Fast, pieced together, rather swiftly. “I like to write but I usually don’t write an album in a week,” the Scottish singer and songwriter shares with American Songwriter. “It was a pretty surreal experience.” Written within seven to 10 days, Hold Fast is steeped in a lifetime of stories, a reconnaissance of one’s homeland, and constant rediscovery.
Living off the land on Hebridean Isle of Lewis, where Macleod was born and raised and lives just a few houses down from his father, Hold Fast reflects life on a remote island, however good or complex, all fused around soulful Americana.
“Where I’m from is a very beautiful place, and it’s a very unique place,” says Macleod, “but the stories are the same.”
On the road, supporting his 2018 debut Bloodlines, and partially homesick for his isle, Macleod began reminiscing about friends and earlier days playing gigs at local pubs, filling sets with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ACDC covers. All the recollections sparked the beginning of Hold Fast, a doctrine on a fuller life, aging gracefully, and finding gratefulness.
“I wanted to try and make an album that summed up what happened on Saturday nights in a small town in the middle of nowhere, every week on replay,” says Macleod. ‘Being on an island, it’s an isolated community, but it’s a tight community, so you know, everyone and everything. Everyone is connected. Everyone knows each other, and that definitely feeds into it.”
Macleod adds, “The album from start to finish is based around a guy who find his fortune and he comes home with his tail between his legs, then has an epiphany. He realizes that his home and his friends are all he needs.”
A narrative Macleod knows too well, the artist initially moved from Lewis in 2009, relocating to London only to return home after two years. “It’s the push and pull of leaving and coming back, and it’s a real strong one for me,” says Macleod. “People my age, felt it keenly, because at a time there weren’t any opportunities here. There weren’t any jobs, but there’s still this strong connection to this place. Scottish people, I think, are very wistful about their homeland and very tied to the place they’re from, and the more you get out into the Highlands and the islands the stronger the ties to your homeland.”
Recorded in London with producer Jimmy Hogarth, who hails from another Scottish isle of Orkney, Hold Fast traverses island life and times, captivating from the opening “Queen of the Highlands” through the fiery “Warning Signs” and anthemic “Runaway,” driven by faults and holding back and recounting a more personal story of a friend that died on the emotive “The Long Road.”
“Old Soul,” features Sheryl Crow, who stayed in touch with Macleod after touring as her supporting act in 2018. Crow returns, joining Macleod on the more plaintive “33,” a reflection of aging, and the gift of growing older. “Working with her was organic,” says Macleod of Crow. “She’s such a lovely person and really supportive. When I went on tour with her, there was none of that ‘you’re over here, and I’m over there.’ There was none of that with her.”
Never dwelling too long on a song, Macleod says Hold Fast was an exercise in storytelling. “I don’t labor over songs,” Macleod shares. “They never seem to feel as good as the ones that naturally come out to me as a writer. Once the balls are rolling in my head, it all just came out. You just sit down, you have an idea, strum away, write some words, and then 10, 15 minutes later, you’ve got a song. Personally, the better stuff I write comes out that way.”
Musically, Macleod still feeds off the island, through all its drear and light, continuing well beyond Hold Fast.
“When I was 25 or 26, I didn’t want to write about myself, I wanted to write about the people I know, the things I see, and I was getting stuck on internalizing and dwelling too much on on myself,” says Macleod. “Then you grew up and you get married, and you settle down, and you start to think about the people around you and life and death and problems and all of these things. It’s just a natural thing. I just needed to shift the focus away from myself.”