When Colin MacIntyre’s debut Mull Historical Society single ‘Barcode Bypass’ (Rough Trade) was named NME’s Debut Single of the Year in 2000, and then received its first daytime airplay (all 7 minutes of it) on Radio 1 on Jo Whiley’s show, it was clear a truly original songwriting talent had emerged as if fully formed — and from the unlikely Atlantic outpost of the isle of Mull, in the Scottish Hebrides (pop 2,500 people, 28,234 sheep). Then came MacIntyre’s Gold-selling seminal debut album, the self-produced ‘Loss’, widely hailed as one of the best British albums of that year, including making Q’s top albums poll. It has since been voted in the top Scottish albums of all time. His acclaimed follow-up album, ‘Us’, landed in the Top 20, which included a follow-up song to ‘Barcode Bypass’, called ‘The Supermarket Strikes Back’, and the immense ‘The Final Arrears’ #19 single, dubbed ‘exactly 3 minutes of pop perfection’ by Mark Radcliffe. Once again MacIntyre also took on production duties.
MacIntyre/MHS has subsequently toured worldwide, including with The Strokes, Elbow and REM, being voted Scotland’s Top Creative Talent at the Glenfiddich Spirit Of Scotland Awards and into the top Scottish artists of all time public poll by The List Magazine. He has performed at all the major festivals and has appeared live on Radio 1, 2, 4, 5Live, 6Music, MTV, XFM as well as many other stations across the globe, including many TV shows such as Later With Jools Holland, and The Jonathon Ross Show. His first MHS chart single ‘Watching Xanadu’ made STV’s ‘Scotland’s Greatest Album’ as one of the top 3 tracks of the 00’s. This songwriting junkie has also collaborated with Irvine Welsh (who recently picked MHS debut ‘Loss’ among his favourite albums of all time) and Tony Benn on the track ‘Pay Attention to the Human’ (MacIntyre also appeared in the politician’s famous Diaries series), as well as writing music for films such as ‘Stormbreaker’ and radio plays for BBC Radio 4. He says: ‘As a Mulleach (native of Mull), that environment of space and remoteness is never far from me, but creatively, living among the masses has made its mark too. Before that I had to build my own cities in my bedroom. Not easy getting that planning permission.’
Colin taught himself to play by watching his uncle’s covers band, going on to make his debut performance in the Tobermory town hall with microphones attached to broomsticks. He wrote his first song when he was seven and there have been hundreds that have followed, recording prolifically through his teens. His music took off while he was studying at University in Glasgow, and training part-time (very part-time) for Scottish professional football outfit, Queen’s Park, at the legendary Hampden Park. By then, his identity of Mull Historical Society, stolen from his island’s local heritage organisation, was in place and the rest is, well, history. ‘It felt to me like taking a new identity, one I could explore and get my teeth into, inspired by Orwell’s 1984 mixed with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust or something, it just felt real and inspiring.’ (The ‘real’ MHS have since changed their name to Mull Historical & Archaeological Society, later to reappear in fictional form in MacIntyre’s debut novel).
2004 saw ‘This Is Hope’, recorded at the legendary Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, upstate New York. MacIntyre stayed in the same barn as used by Bob Dylan and The Band (Janis Joplin’s mini was still parked in the garage). It spawned the Top 40 single ‘How ‘Bout I Love You More’. MacIntyre also traveled across America’s deep south for inspiration, making a stop in New Orleans to record a gospel choir for the closing track, ‘In The Next Life (A Requiem)’, which also features his grandmother on vocals. MacIntyre has also released two albums under his own name: ‘The Water’ (2008), produced by Lemon Jelly’s Nick Franglen, on his own label Future Gods Recordings, with The Guardian hailing it ‘Pop perfection’. In 2009 Colin released his most stripped-back album to date, ‘Island’, recorded in his old school classroom. It was known to be played on none other than Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s tour bus.
His 2012 Mull Historical Society album, ‘City Awakenings’, was released on Xtra Mile Recordings. Produced by the Grammy-winning Dom Morley (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Grinderman), it is his tribute to Glasgow, London and New York – the 3 cities that have most influenced this islander abroad. MacIntyre co-produced the closing track ‘Thameslink (London’s Burning)’, which he first performed at his father’s funeral, Kenny Macintyre, the widely respected BBC Political & Industrial Correspondent, (Colin’s father’s death inspired ‘Loss’). Colin’s father having once carried aloft a Fender ’78 Telecaster home to his teenage son on the island on a trip back from the mainland, wading ashore with the guitar held aloft after the ferry had failed to dock. There were live sessions (with said guitar!) on Radio 2 with Jo Whiley & Bob Harris, as well as on 6Music, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Ulster, XFM, Radio Clyde and more. After a summer of Festival appearances including V, T in the Park, Eden Sessions, & the Scottish Parliament with Annie Lennox – and returns to Europe with shows in Berlin and Blue Balls, Lucerne – came his first Xmas Single, ‘Christmas Is Here Again’.
2015 saw MacIntyre release a Best Of album to mark 15 years of MHS, and sign an exclusive music publishing deal with BMG/Xtra Mile Music in a landmark deal which includes new MHS albums and his entire back catalogue, as well as his new electro pop project (more below). Music Week announcement of Colin’s BMG publishing deal. His Best Of Collection came out on Xtra Mile Recordings. It marked 15 years since that debut MHS single and was fronted by the new single ‘Keep Falling’, a soaring new Mull track which was also produced by Morley. It came out in an exclusive colour double-Vinyl on Record Store Day. And MacIntyre then launched the single and Best-Of collection with a sold-out UK tour: the tour featured for the first time a full live performance of debut MHS album ‘Loss’ in its entirety. MacIntyre has come a long way from Mull, the island, but somehow never leaves it behind. He also actively supports the work of the Argyll-based charity Mary’s Meals, who feed over 1 Million children a daily meal in their place of education every day: “My visit to some of the Mar’s Meals projects in Malawi was life-changing. Music broke down the barriers and I realised that community is at the heart of all my work.”
And so to 2016 – and MacIntyre completed his new MHS album ‘Dear Satellite’ with the Grammy-winning (and Blue Peter badge-winning) producer Dom Morley at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, London. It was released on April 8th 2016 (his birthday) on Xtra Mile Recordings/BMG. Mull Historical Society are touring in June. He says: ‘I couldn’t be happier with the album. It is 10 songs, 36 minutes, and it feels like a perfect distillation of what I can do. It is about home, getting home, leaving home, finding home, whatever planet or street or field you live on. Whatever home means to you. I’m so excited to see it enter the world. It looks bloody good too!’
The paperback of his debut novel was published a week later in April 2016. And, to tie both identities nicely together, a new Mull track ‘The Ballad of Ivor Punch’, is the first single off ‘Dear Satellite’.
June 2018: ‘The Humdrum Drum’ — Colin’s first children’s picture book is published by Little Door Books. It is about an orchestra drum and has been beautifully illustrated by Catherine Thomas. It also features an accompanying CD of specially written songs and Colin reading the audiobook. More info:
The Humdrum Drum is Colin’s first book for children and features an accompanying CD with specially written original songs and an audiobook.Meet ‘Drum’, the orchestra drum who is feeling very humdrum. When Drum is feeling unhappy he stops playing and the entire orchestra comes to an embarrassing halt. But with the help of his friends – a cast of colourful instruments, as well as ironing mice and shaving pigeons – Drum realises that without him keeping the beat, they lose their way and that they need him to save the day!
June 2018: Colin’s memoir about growing up on the isle of Mull ‘The Boy in the Bubble‘ is now published by W&N /ORION BOOKS as part of their ‘HOMETOWN TALES’ series, celebrating regional voices. It is a bright, intensely funny and deeply felt memoir about growing up on the Isle of Mull from multiple award-winning musician (Mull Historical Society) and author of The Letters of Ivor Punch, Colin MacIntyre. It is a moving and fascinating exploration of what ‘home’ really means, charting his journey from island boy to internationally acclaimed musician. It will be in available in book shops and online from 28th June 2018. Pre-order.
From 2012-2014 Colin also ran the charity ‘Mary’s Meals‘ in London, it is a volunteer-led movement which provides children with a daily meal in their place of education in some of the world’s poorest communities for just £13.90 a year. Mary’s Meals is based in (an extended) shed in the Scottish West Highlands and currently feeds over 1.2 million children every day. Colin continues to support the work of the charity.
There is also Colin’s new electro art-pop project… FIELD STARS (formerly INK), that has been the Guardian’s New band of the Week, proclaiming: ‘perfect without being too box-ticking…going to be massive’. 2016 promises to be an exciting year of stars aligning for Mull’s History man who can’t stop creating.