Murray Macleod has gone through something of a songwriting sea change over his career.
Founded on a gritty alt-rock sound which saw them support the likes of Manchester Orchestra and Taking Back Sunday, The Xcerts have never been content to rest on their laurels over the years, and 2018’s Hold On To Your Heart finds Murray focusing his songwriting nous on huge hooks rooted in the finest ’80s pop had to offer, all with a contemporary rock edge.
Before the album drops, we got his thoughts on the gear that’s passed through the ranks and why he’s not so keen on strobe lighting any more…
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“It was a black Ibanez Gio GSA60, and I received it on Christmas Day when I was 14 years old.”
2. The building’s burning down - what one guitar do you save?
“Without doubt, my Fender 72' Telecaster Deluxe. That's my baby!”
3. What's the one effects pedal you couldn't do without, and why?
“My Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail (Plus) Reverb. I use the thing in some sort of capacity in pretty much every song that features in our set. I would be in deep trouble without it.”
4. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?
“Not really. In regard to my setup, everything is there for a reason, and everything that I've gotten rid of has been disposed of for a reason.”
5. And what's the next piece of gear you’d like to acquire?
“I would absolutely love to own a Gretsch White Falcon. A wonderful friend of mine lent me his for the making of Hold On To Your Heart and it features in every song on the record. It's such a gorgeous guitar! She will be mine, oh yes, she will be mine!”
6. What’s your favourite chord, and why?
“D minor. It's the saddest of all keys, and I don't know why but it makes people weep instantly.”
7. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?
“I've always considered myself a songwriter first and foremost - that's the craft that I've been working on for years to be better at, so there are many aspects of my guitar playing I'd like to be better at. Basically, I wish I could shred!”
8. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
“Probably Mike Campbell from The Heartbreakers. I just think he is such an incredibly effortless and classy guitar player. He never wrote complicated parts or lead lines; everything had a place and so much breathing room, which I guess was necessary whilst playing for a songwriter like Tom Petty.”
9. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?
“When we were 16 years old, we thought it would be cool to buy a couple of strobe lights and have them go off during a certain part of a song. When the strobes kicked in, myself and Jordan [Smith, Xcerts bassist] were rocking out as if we were in a hardcore band and those things completely mess with your depth perception.
“I thought Jordan was on the other side of the stage when, in actuality, he was right next to me and he slayed me with the headstock of his bass. Needless to say I hit the deck and briefly blacked out whilst the strobes continued to do their thing.”
10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?
“Stick with it, kid, because that thing with six strings is real life magic.”
Hold On To Your Heart is out on 19 January 2018 via Raygun Records.