When all of this started I was in the process of bringing out a new record. One of the loveliest things a few people said to me at the time was that the songs on our new album were speaking to where people were at as they listened. It was one of the loveliest things to hear that in the dark days of March, even before we knew the fullness of what we were facing, but with a sense of dread very much in the air, people were taking comfort from songs we’d put out into the world.
Over the next few weeks that thought has occurred to me too. I was playing a song in the kitchen and my wife said – that is a song for these times. It was, and as the weeks have passed so too have there been many moments when songs have come on the radio or popped up on a playlist and I’ve wanted to turn it up a little louder as it seemed to be speaking to me.
All of us over the last few weeks must have felt fear, loneliness and a little despair. At the beginning of all of this, when I was ill myself I remember looking out from my isolated bedroom on the first night of the lockdown and unable to countenance the magnitude of the profound silence that seemed to fall on my home city of Glasgow that night. I didn’t get out of that room for a week or so and drove a short distance as if driving through a dream. The world had changed and there seemed to be very little on the horizon to give us hope.
In the first days the only music I wanted to hear was classical and a day or two passed when Radio 3 would be the only thing I could listen to. Perhaps it allowed me to inhabit another world and my imagination was allowed to roam to different places and other centuries, finding myself inside the mind of great musicians whose own imagination was much bigger than anything I’d ever be able to dream up. Perhaps too it was gentler, slower less loud that rock’n’roll & soul & country and all the pop music mostly on my radar. However my first date back for any official work was my first New Tradition show on Radio 2. My dear friend and long standing producer of anything musical I ever do for the radio, Richard Murdoch said to me I should simply play the songs that are getting me through. It was the best suggestion he has ever made. That night on the radio I felt the love coming in from all across the UK as people felt strengthened, excited and happy because of music. To be in the middle of that was like doing a gig for me. The show ran itself, I merely let it all go on and rejoiced to be part of it.
A week ago I felt the sense that this lockdown has gone on a long time. We’re all struggling to see this through and it’s lucky we’ve had some compensation from fine spring weather to ease our journey. But I think we need a musical blow-out; a short but loud burst of joy to help us over the line. So this Tuesday night we’re going to do just that. We have gathered from your generous feedback the songs you feel will help your fellow listeners breast that finishing tape. It’s A Country Jukebox where we play you songs to get you through, to get you going and most of all; songs for these times. It’s going to feel urgent, positive and a little bit emotional in all the right ways. I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts as we go live this Tuesday evening from eight o’clock on BBC Radio Scotland. Join me on text, twitter and Facebook if you can. This one’s from the heart.