Edinburgh’s Mike Scott remains one of the true legends of Scottish music and his new Waterboys show “An Appointment with Mr Yeats” has been a massive success. Mike Scott spoke to Dear Scotland this week about the new show, his favourite Waterboys videos and what he really thinks when he hears certain U2 songs.

Full details of The Waterboys summer shows in Norway, Ireland and The Netherlands are at the foot of the page. Additional dates have also just been added for the “The Appointment With Mr Yeats” shows in Ireland in November. Additional UK and European gigs are expected in 2011.

Interview with Mike Scott

Dear Scotland: Where are you now and what did you do last night?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: In Dublin. Last night my wife and I returned from Galway where I’d been doing an interview for a TV documentary on Spiddal House, the location on Ireland’s west coast where The Waterboys recorded Fisherman’s Blues and Room To Roam back in 1988-90.

The Waterboys – Fishermans Blues Galway 1986


Dear Scotland: Paul McCartney said he got into music to avoid a job – and get lots of girls. What made you get into music?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: Paul’s just trying to be cool when he says that. If he didn’t start playing in bands because he loved music then I’m a Dutchman’s uncle.  99% of musicians do it because they love music and the creative flame is in them. Anyone who says otherwise is a posturer or in a boy band.  Secondary motivations would be escaping a humdrum life or the lure of fame/glory, but they’re a long way back on the list for most people, and the pursuit of fame/money is a groove musicians tend to fall into later, and not always to the good of their creativity.  As for me, I started falling in love with pop records when I was 9 and started noticing there was music in my head all the time. From then there was nothing I wanted to do but be a singer and musician.

Dear Scotland: You recently completed the first ever performances of the new Waterboys show “An Appointment With Mr Yeats”, in Dublin to rave reviews. Was there something in particular that you connected with in Yeats’ poetry or with Yeats himself?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: Same answer really: when I read certain of Yeats’ poems, I hear melodies in my head.  Unlike many poets, Yeats often wrote in strict rhythmic metre and with consistent rhyming, so his words lend themselves to musical treatment.  A lot of them make great rock lyrics, and in our show I’ve striven to create music that is worthy of the words.  I also like Yeats’ subject-set: love, politics, myth/legend, the mystic and the Celtic soul.

Dear Scotland: Your European festival performances this summer will be Waterboys shows though. What is your favourite Mike Scott/Waterboys song to play right now then?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: One of the Yeats ones: The Song Of Wandering Aengus.

Dear Scotland: Do you have a favourite youtube video in which you feature?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: The one where I sing The Whole Of The Moon in a school in Connemara.  And there’s a good one of Fisherman’s Blues at The Albert Hall.

The Waterboys – Whole of the Moon in Connemara


Dear Scotland: What will be your first words on stage at the Rootsfestivalen in Norway?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: Dunno till I open my mouth.

Dear Scotland: You’ve toured the world quite a few times now. Is there one particular city or venue that you really looking forward to playing?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: For style of venue, I prefer classic theatres.  For audiences my favourite cities are Glasgow, Valencia, Minneapolis, Galway.  For that most blessed of tour experiences, the day off in a supremely fabulous city, it’s Paris, Edinburgh, Austin or Galway again.

Dear Scotland: When touring, do you feel more Scottish when you are abroad? Anything you miss about Scotland?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: I don’t feel especially Scottish when I’m abroad, probably because I’ve spent much of life “abroad”. But when I first left Scotland and moved to London in 1981, I felt my Scottishness very strongly.

The Waterboys – This is the Sea


Dear Scotland: Much has been written about the period in the mid 80s when The Waterboys were playing arenas across the world with U2 and Simple Minds. Is there perhaps a Waterboys song or even a U2 or Simple Minds song that makes you think about that time in your life?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: Yeah, when I listen to “Streets Have No Name” or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 I realise how much they copped from us!

Dear Scotland: Newer Scottish bands like Broken Records have spoken about how The Waterboys have influenced them, but are there any Scottish musicians, past or present, that have influenced you?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: Alan Mair, bassist with The Only Ones (great band from late 70s) produced an album by my first band, and he was a man I admired a lot. Jackie Leven once said something very soulful to me, in a caring-big-brother kind of way, that helped me take a right road in my life. My favourite Scottish rock’n’roller is the great Alex Harvey.  My favourite current Scottish singer is Freddie Stevenson, a killer songwriter.  I also like David Bova (from Glasgow) and Haight Ashbury (also Glasgow).  And Ed Larrikin of The Pan I Am.

The Only Ones – No Peace For The Wicked


Dear Scotland: What do you think the Scottish national anthem should be?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: Auld Lang Syne.

Dear Scotland: You mentioned in a KEXP interview that you like the idea of time travelling. If you had a time machine how would you use it?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: Go back to the 60s, hang out with Bowie when he was an unknown hustling for gigs round Soho. Then be a fly on the wall at the recording sessions for Scott Walker’s “Scott” and “Scott 2”. Then back to 63 to sense the rise of The Beatles in the air of Britain. As for the future; that’s unwritten.

Dear Scotland: What is the best after-show experience you’ve had?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: A recurring but very rare and special one: after a great show – I mean a night where everything goes right, a momentum takes over, the melody lines zip into my mind that little flashes of lightning just before I sing them, and the band and audience fuse and something bigger than all of us is present – after such a show I feel wrapped in creativity and power, profoundly connected to my musical inspirations and sources. Nothing beats that.

The Waterboys – It’s Gonna Rain (live in York)


Dear Scotland: And finally, many many years from now, when you finish your farewell world tour, is there one place to where you would like to retire?

Mike Scott, The Waterboys: The west of Ireland.


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Follow Mike on Twitter @MickPuck

Massive thanks to Mike for taking the time to answer our questions and to Paige from The Waterboys webteam for her help in putting this together.