Me by roddy hart splash image

Me by Roddy Hart

Roddy Hart (LLB 2001) has had a life immersed in music, from starting his own bands at school to becoming a performer, arranger and Emmy-Award-winning composer. He presents the regular Roddy Hart Show on BBC Radio Scotland, as well as The Quay Sessions, which showcases emerging live acts. He is also heavily involved in the annual Celtic Connections music festival held in Glasgow each January, when he presents an epic themed show, the Roaming Roots Revue.

What sort of music were you around, growing up?
I come from a real music-loving family. There were always records being played – Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan. My mum was really into Motown, and my dad, singer-songwriters, so there was a good cross-section of musical influences going on. Then I joined bands when I was in school – I just loved the feeling of playing music with other people. I don't actually know where the obsession came from, but I just knew, from a very early age, that music was for me.

"I was in a Beatles tribute band at school when I was 12 years old; I was ‘John Lennon’. Our parents made us little suits to play in and the local paper did a story on us.

You’re a prolific and versatile songwriter, arranger and musical producer – how have you been able to cover such broad ground in your career?
I think I realised early on that if I was going to have any kind of success in the creative field, I would have to be in it for the long haul, so diversity was the key. There was a sense of industry in me and a determination to keep going and recognise that it would never be plain sailing. But I had a passion for songwriting.

You’ve played live with some of the biggest names in music such as Glen Campbell, Ray Davies and Jeff Beck. Which of your collaborations do you remember most fondly and why?
I developed a really strong relationship with Kris Kristofferson that endures to this day. He sang on my first album and offered me shows around the world to play alongside him. That was an amazing lesson in generosity, because he didn't have to do that. I was nobody – just trying to make my mark in my own way. But it’s funny that the more famous, the more legendary they are, the nicer they are, that's the truth. I learnt so much watching these artists do their thing.

Roddy (centre), with his band, Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire. (Photo: Simon Murphy)

How did you make the jump to presenting music shows on radio?
It happened by accident. I played a session for the BBC, and then one of their presenters was going to be off for a couple of weeks, and they asked me if I would step in. I didn't have a clue about how to present a radio show. Some might say I still don't! But saying yes to things has been a very positive thing in my life, even if it scares me, so I thought, I’ve got to try this.

"Music is such an amazingly powerful thing when it happens to you at the right time in your life, and it stays with you forever.

Who have been your most memorable interviewees?
Noel Gallagher from Oasis was one of the most entertaining and brilliant guests you could want. He has a story for every question you ask and seems to tell you things he hasn't told anybody before, despite the fact he's been interviewed a million times.

You do a lot of work now involving writing and arranging for film, TV and theatre – was this a big change for you?
I was releasing albums and gigging for most of my 20s and 30s, and then I was asked to work on the movie version of the musical Sunshine on Leith. That was my first exposure to music in film – I was teaching the actors, helping them learn their songs. It was another important moment in my career where I thought, this is something I really want to do more of. But it was a new world where you're suddenly a small part of a massive machine – I'd gone from being a solo person or in a band into this world of directors, producers, actors and money people.

How do you like to spend your free when you're not playing music?
Hanging out with family, friends and my brilliant partner Natasha. We have a new son and we’re having an amazing time getting to know him. Movies are a huge part of my life – I have a tradition of going to see Coen Brothers or Tarantino movies with my dad. And I'm also a total amateur photographer, but I love it!

Most treasured possession?
I have a guitar that my parents bought me when I graduated from uni. It's battered and bruised, but it’s seen me through just about every gig I've ever played. It's the most beautiful thing, and I treasure it to this day because it signifies a really important junction in my life. It’s also something that I’d like to hand down to my boy.

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Roddy with his current songwriting partner and Emmy co-winner, Tommy Reilly. (Photo: Colin Mearns)

What’s your favourite place in the world?
I do love Los Angeles. I'm there quite a lot with work these days, and because of the history of LA, musically – Laurel Canyon, places where Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell etc would hang out – it's legendary to me. Seeing the street names – Sunset Strip, La Cienega Boulevard, places that are mentioned in iconic songs – it's magical.

My perfect day ...
… starts with coffee. Then, because I'm getting older, I do love a crossword. I’d go for a walk with my partner and my son, then to the studio to make music, because I still get a buzz from doing that. I'd go for a lovely meal – I've got more and more into tasting menus and that kind of thing – and finally, I’d go to a great gig. The simple pleasures in life.

What always lifts your mood?
I think I can say that for my partner and I, it has to be our son. He’s the best – if I have a hard day at work and I come in and see his little face, he's full of smiles and it just brightens your day.

Memories of Glasgow

I remember going to an open day and seeing the GUU on one hand and the QM on the other and thinking, “This is amazing, it’s like two worlds happening here.” I wanted to study law, I was really interested in politics, and UofG had a great reputation for both.

"I'm a Glasgow boy. I couldn't really see past the history of the University of Glasgow. I looked at a few other places, but there was just something so alluring about it.

I had this fear that I wasn't going to do very well, so I wanted to make sure that I made the four years count. I had a great group of pals that I met early on in the law school, who I still see to this day. We all pushed each other forward, but we also loved to go out and have fun. So much of your experience at university comes with ‘finding your people’.

The law school tends to lean towards the GUU, but I did find myself sneaking off quite a lot to the QM. That was where I answered my first advert to join a band, up on a noticeboard, looking for a guitarist. I took down the number, and that just opened up a whole new world for me. So I've got a lot of love for the QM for that reason.

I did the Human Rights Project in fourth year. I think UofG is the only place in the world to do this kind of thing. You prepare a case based on a fictitious set of human rights scenarios, then you go to Strasbourg and debate it in front of the judges of the court. That was an amazing experience – one of the highlights of my time at Glasgow.

I did a diploma after UofG, then I got offered a tour with Kris Kristofferson, and that was me off. But I kept a hand in – I did some UofG research projects and stayed in touch with some of my tutors. It was a special place for me.

Roddy has ambitions to write more in the worlds of film and TV. “I used to always write little short stories when I was younger, and then music took over. It's something I'd love to get back to.” Roddy also has a couple of stage musical projects coming up, as well as the next Roaming Roots Revue, “a labour of love every single year for Celtic Connections.” And of course, more radio. “So just a bit of everything, and I'll be happy!”

This article was first published January 2024.

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