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TRNSMT sensation Paul Heaton on why he put money behind Glasgow bars

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To be a member of one successful band is a great achievement, but to be involved in two?!

Paul Heaton, frontman of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South, performed at TRNSMT last week, and I had the chance to interview the singer-songwriter about his distinguished career and love for Scotland.

Also gracing the stage at TRNSMT were Pulp, Niall Horan, and Sam Fender.

You could say that Heaton’s performance brought a new challenge of winning over the younger generations – was he worried?

“I didn’t know what to expect from the audience because we’ve not been here before and it’s quite a mix,” Heaton explained.

“It’s nice to play in front of people who don’t know you weirdly enough. I know it sounds a bit strange but it’s nice to try and win people over with your songs.”

Although Heaton was new to the TRNSMT stage, he is an old friend of Scotland and his long-standing connection with the people here has certainly left a mark.

“I’ve got a long relationship with it,” Heaton said. “I’ve been coming here since 1985 and that’s sort of my fifth decade of coming to Glasgow, so it’s a while isn’t it.”

From forming The Housemartins in 1984 with the hope of being the best of busking bands to forming The Beautiful South and selling around 15 million records worldwide, Heaton’s success is one he can’t quite get his head around.

“We used to call ourselves the bumpkin billionaires – not that we were billionaires, but there used to be this comic strip where this family used to give all their money away and, the more they gave away, the more they got.”

He added: “And we were always, not trying to assassinate our careers, but it seemed like everything we touched turned to gold.”

Since Heaton’s long-time collaborator and singer, Jacqui Abbott decided to step back from live performances to allow her voice to fully recover, Heaton had to fill the void in the meantime.

Heaton said: “I said we’re going to have to get someone who can sing very, very well because Jacqui has a very particular voice and I’d been searching round and round for different voices.”

It was Bellshill-born and friend of the show Rianne Downey who in Heaton’s mind, made perfect sense and has joined Heaton on his tour.

He said: “It sort of doesn’t surprise me that she’s from where she’s from as well. Because Jacqui’s from a similar place, a smaller town on the edge of two very big ones… Full of people with music in their systems and wanting to sing.”

Whether he won over the multi-generational crowds at TRNSMT or not (although we’re sure he did), Heaton’s gesture of putting money behind the bars at the venues he performs in will most definitely have gone down well. 

“It’s a little bit of a political statement… I don’t feel greedy, I don’t feel as though I want more.”

He added: “I feel as though I want a decent life for everyone. So, it’s a very small dent and just a way of saying thank you for the years of support.”

Most of all, Heaton confirmed that it’s down to his love for the people and places he is able to visit.

“You won’t meet anyone happier to travel and to go to places than me, and so it’s a way I can say ‘thank you’,” he explained.

You probably won’t meet anyone happier to receive a packet of crisps either; Heaton has become well known for his vintage crisp packet collection.

So I gifted Heaton a pack of Mackie’s ‘Tangy Tomato’ in my own way of thanking the singer.

“They’ve just recently been taken over by Taylors,” he informed me, as I handed over the goods.

He explained his love of crisps stemmed from entertaining his German friends when they come to the UK.

“I wanted to show them something traditional. Now, when they come over, they say ‘I want cheese and onion!’ and ask ‘where’s the salt and vinegar?’ because they don’t have them over there,” he said.

“I’ve become proud of it, in a strange sort of way. All the band are addicted.”

Paul’s favourite flavour? Tayto’s spring onion, which he brought with him on the road to TRNSMT.

He said he’ll likely be in Scotland in a year’s time – but he plans to write and record a new album first.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing music, as long as I can sing reasonably,” – a humble Heaton answer. 

Well, when it comes to the crunch, we’ll always be here for the music.

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