Ewan MacFarlane is a rocking rhythm ’n’ blues man in the fine Scottish tradition of tough-yet-vulnerable soul singers – perhaps not the most obvious choice to front an electronica band, yet in 2018 he closed a decade of touring as singer and chief rabble rouser with festival favourites Apollo 440.
His connection with these brothers in rhythm goes back to the early Nineties when he first met them in London and collaborated on their 1997 track Electro Glide in Blue. A few years later, he came to prominence in his own right as the frontman of Scottish indie rockers The Grim Northern Social, who were regulars at T In the Park in the early Noughties, but has only emerged as a solo artist in the last two years, inspired like many to explore new pastures through the pandemic.
MacFarlane was floored with Covid at the start of the first lockdown. To aid recovery, he challenged himself to write a song a day for 30 days, posting the results on YouTube and sowing the seeds of solo debut Always Everlong, which he considers an ode to heroes such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie.
Follow-up Milk was released this autumn. MacFarlane describes it as a musical curveball while lyrically it is a concept album inspired by his wife Jo. “Milk is a bit more edgy, and there’s a lot more soul,” he says. “It’s very varied and unpredictable with some big changes in the way that some of the songs go. That’s my favourite thing about being a solo artist. I can do exactly what my mind and heart want to do. I suppose the diversities of sound from the different bands I’ve been in has inspired me to write with the same freedom. I can push in whatever direction I like, with no expectations from anyone else. It’s really liberating.”
For his Scotsman Session, he has recorded an acoustic version of album track Tangled at home in his Royale Stag Studios. He describes the song, inspired by the night he met his wife, as “an almost possessive type of love song in the realms of Every Breath You Take. It’s about being caught up so much in your lover that you almost can’t get close enough and you need to be literally ‘tangled’ in each other with the twists and turns of life.”
On a solo roll and heading “upwards and onwards in 2023”, MacFarlane has an acoustic album slated to follow in spring before the release of a third solo album next autumn. He’s a seasoned live performer but was still caught up in the thrill of conducting his first solo Scottish tour in September and now rounds off an action-packed year by supporting Big Country on their home turf, “which is cool as me and my mates used to listen to them when we were at high school in Canada to remind us of home.”
Ewan MacFarlane plays PJ Molloys, Dunfermline, on 21 and 22 December. Milk is out now on Royale Stag Records