Scots pop pioneer Edwyn Collins ‘changed’ by Highlands move

Edwyn Collins in his home and studio in Helmsdale, Sutherland. Picture: BBC Scotland
Edwyn Collins in his home and studio in Helmsdale, Sutherland. Picture: BBC Scotland
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Edwyn Collins, the groundbreaking Scottish pop and rock pioneer who has recovered from two devastating strokes, has opened up on how moving to the Highlands has transformed his life and helped him continue to make music.

The former Orange Juice frontman said his entire “world has changed” after relocating from London to Helmsdale, on the Sutherland coast, five years ago.

Collins, who has just released his first album recorded in a clifftop studio he has had built, revealed he had been forced to simply his songwriting and conentrate on “simple and direct words.

In an interview recorded at his Helmsdale home for BBC Scotland’s new channel, Collins admitted: “Music is my life and my passion, and without music I would be lost.”

Collins is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s most influential singer-songwriters after enjoying chart success in the early 1980s with the post-punk band Orange Juice, who released their first singles with the celebrated independent Glasgow label Postcard.

After the band split in 1985, Collins went on to pursue a solo career and had a worldwide hit a decade later with “A Girl Like You.”

However the Edinburgh-born musician was struck down by two brain haemorrhages in February 2005 and spent months in hospital.

But following extensive rehabilitation and therapy was able to return to recording, releasing three albums between 2007 and 2013.

The following year Collins and his wife Grace decided to sell their home in Kilburn in London and move to Helmsdale, where generations of his family have lived and the musician had been a regular visitor over the years.

Interviewed in Helmsdale for The Loop, a new weekly arts programme, Collins said: “I had a stroke. I had a titanium plate inserted in my head and six months in hospital. I couldn’t say a word. I used therapy to help me get better.

“Nowadays I’m calm, relaxed, my world has changed since moving up to Helmsdale. It’s a magic experience. I start my day at nine in the morning. I go off to the studio and climb up approximately 105 stairs. I was so fluent before my stroke. Now it’s difficult to get the message across and get the idea across. It’s about simple words and direct words and feeling vulnerable.

“I can’t do ironic nowadays, it’s beyond me. Words are important to communicate. I’ve had a stroke, but words are important to get ideas across.”