A three-piece Scottish rock band, The XCERTS is comprised of Murray Macleod, Jordan Smith and Tom Heron. Formed when Macleod and Smith were 15, the bands sound has since spread throughout the world. Back with their latest release “Hold On To Your Heart,” a 10-track album released in January, the band will be touring through Europe starting in April.
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Sean Ritchie: Let’s start off with your home of Aberdeen, Scotland. What really stands out and make it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor within the country?
Murray Macleod: Scotland is a really gorgeous place. I actually think it’s a slightly overlooked country in terms of how beautiful it is. It’s no big; Scotland is not big at all. The difference between the east and west coasts are crazy. They are so different. I’m from the northeast coast in Aberdeen. That place is a pretty grey, rainy city. It doesn’t get much sunlight, but when it does it’s gorgeous. It’s known as the “Granite City”, because all of the buildings are made of granite. So, when the sun is out, the buildings just sparkle. The silver and the granite shine like you wouldn’t believe. It’s a really gorgeous place in the sun.
On the west coast they film a lot of big movies and shows there. They’ve filmed for “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” there. It’s so picturesque and beautiful. The landscapes are absolutely incredible. The countryside in Scotland is gorgeous. It’s a striking country, incredibly gorgeous.
SR: I didn’t know that it was named the “Granite City”. That’s really interesting.
MM: Yeah, it’s so weird, because the weather there is terrible. I kind of feel that it’s similar to Seattle. I’m a huge Nirvana fan, so the footage I’ve seen of that place is pretty grey. I can’t stress to you how grey Aberdeen is. But, when the sun is out it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s quite hard to explain. The city shimmers.
SR: Cool to hear. How did you first get exposed to music? Was it something that was in your family, or through your friends? How did you eventually become inspired to create your own?
MM: I grew up in an incredibly-musically household. My parents are both avid music lovers. My dad used to play in bands. My mom used to sing the choir. Growing up my sister played the cello in the house. My dad also had an extensive record collection. We had a piano in the house as well, so there was always music playing. It was really my dad that introduced me to rock and roll from an early age. He introduced me to The Beatles when I was super young and that kind of just changed my life really. The first record he played me was “Live at the BBC”. He played it to me in the car. I can still remember exactly where we were. From then on I just became fascinated with music.
That passion for music never really died when I became a teenager. That’s obviously around the time when you start thinking about playing guitar and getting together with my friends. That’s the age when I feel like people start jamming – the teens. I was never that interested in learning other people’s songs. I wanted to write my own straight off the bat. Like I’ve said, the weather in Aberdeen is so bad that me and my friends just wanted something to do, so we would just go to this practice space and spend hours upon hours in there working on songs.
SR: Then to create music, and traveling to promote it, must be such a feeling. What’s the most impactful and meaningful part you cherish about it? Does the travelling help inspirationally?
MM: I think, especially because Jordan [Smith] started this band when we were 15, the traveling aspect of what we do now blows our minds. We recently just went through Europe and have been to Japan, all these places, with the band we started in school. We would have never thought that the band we discussed in the playground would lead us to traveling to all these places and shows, even just to travel outside of the [United Kingdom]. It’s special, because we get to share it with one another and with our friends that work for the band and travel with us. That’s a special thing that we’re going to look back on when we’re much older. We got to see the world with our best friends. It doesn’t really get better than that.
SR: Incredible. It’s always so cool to hear the stories of people starting things so young and growing them through time.
MM: Yes, I think it kind of heightens the appreciation for everything really, because we know exactly where we come from – literally nothing.
SR: To fast forward a bit, you just released your album “Hold On To Your Heart” in January. Talk about that release. What was your thought process behind it? I know it’s been out a short while, but how has it been received so far.
MM: We wanted to make listeners of this record think in terms of cinema. We wanted this huge, wide-screen record that you don’t often hear with modern rock music anymore. I feel that things have gone a lot more alternative, which I’m into, but with our band we wanted to hark back to the 80’s era with [Bruce] Springsteen and Tom Petty releasing these massive, juggernaut records. That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted it to almost soundtrack a John Hughes movie. That’s what was in our minds. The reaction has just been absolutely incredible. With streaming services there is such a far greater reach for a band like ours now. So, we’re starting to see that more-and-more people are listening to us in America and Europe. It’s nice to see that growth happening.
SR: Bringing it into travel a bit, when you do have some downtime and are looking to get away, are you more of a beach guy? Looking for the mountains somewhere? Or, trying to be near a city?
MM: I kind of like it all. I do like the idea of seclusion when I’m trying to get away from the madness that is being in a rock and roll band. I love the madness within a city though too. To be honest, I’d probably say a city. I like to be close to the chaos. I like to be close to where the action is. I’m quite an excitable cap. I do like the idea of beach and seclusion though, but only for a short amount of time.
SR: Yeah, I find they all complement each other. If I go to a beach vacation, the next one I want to go to is a city.
SR: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling, not only to influence people to see and appreciate our beautiful world, but to also minimize cross-cultural divides. What effect does traveling have on humans in this regard? How has it broadened your perspective of the world?
MM: It’s an incredibly-special thing. It’s something that I believe to be real-life magic – music bringing people together under one roof. It’s all like-minded individuals looking for a good time. With this new record, it was really important to us that it had a positive message. With the current world times we want people to walk through the doors, have a great time and leave with a smile on their face. We’re trying to present an escape. We want people to dance, drink, smile and make friends. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s political viewpoints are, or any of that. People leave that at the door. It’s an incredible thing, it really is.
SR: There’s nothing that brings people together like music I feel like. Everyone has a list of places that they haven’t been to, but want to hit. Do you have three on your list?
MM: We’ve never done a full [United States] tour. That’s on the cards and I think that’s happening this year. We want to do the full tour, we’ve only ever done New York and Texas for festivals. We haven’t been to Los Angeles or anything like that. I’d personally like to visit a lot more places in the US. I’d love to visit Brazil, we’ve never been there. That would be quite something. We’ve had a few people ask us to come over there, but I don’t know if there’s a chance that we’ll make it there anytime soon. We would also love to play and visit Australia. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Australia.
SR: Lastly, what do the next couple of months look like? Anything else you want to highlight?
MM: We’re heading out to mainland Europe for a headlining tour in April. That’s going to be cool, because it’s our first ever headline run over there. Then the summer will be full of festivals, predominately in the UK and Europe. After that’s when we’re looking to come out to the US and play some shows. It’s about time.