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Ian Donaldson

Looking to the stars - again (with the former H2O singer)

By • Nov 11th, 2018 • Category: Feature

The 1980s, it seems, are back in fashion. Well, if they ever were in fashion. But among the poodle perms and bad trousers was something of a Scottish invasion on the charts.

One of the hitmakers from that decade has re-emerged with a new record. Ian Donaldson was frontman with H2O, who were riding high in 1983 with ‘I Dream to Sleep’. And the singer is as full of energy as he was 35 years ago.

“Since the early days I don’t think I’ve felt so strongly about music – it’s a real Duracell buzz!” he says.

Since follow-up ‘Just Outside Of Heaven’ hit the top 40, there have been near misses – ‘Blue Diamond’ just bypassed the chart, while a cover of ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More’ cropping up on Eastenders was Donaldson’s most recent brush with the mainstream.

However, talk of what might have been can’t dampen his enthusiasm.

“There’s no regrets as there’s no point,” he insists. “We had a ball and did Top of the Pops, things people can only dream of”.

Donaldson then moved behind the sound desk, running a studio for around 10 years as well as playing other people’s records as a club DJ, but the creative urge was deep. “I was saving up song ideas but didn’t do anything with them, and then decided I’d write a book,” he reveals.

However, it took the best part of 20 years to complete ‘A Rainbow in the Basement’. “A song lasts for four minutes, surely a book’s going to be like a really long song, I thought!” he laughs.

“I’d think I’d finished it and then I’d compare it to Ray Bradbury or Philip Roth and think ‘It’s not as good as that’.”

But that period meant that songs which formed the new album were getting written in between revisions of the novel.

He gathered together some old contemporaries – Andy Gillespie from Simple Minds as well as H2O‘s George Sinclair, to bring life to his half-formed ideas.

And old bandmate Alan McGee – who before discovering Oasis, helped form the first incarnation of H2O – has also chipped in. “Alan’s given a few pointers and helped with a few things.”

Invaluable advice, as the industry has changed somewhat. “It used to be there was plenty of money about to make records and videos, now it’s more of a cottage industry,” he says.

And while not looking backwards, there’s a throwback to the ’80s on ‘From Stars We Came’ – a new version of ‘I Dream To Sleep’, albeit more acoustic with harps replacing synths and guitars, and his daughter Emma on cello.

Donaldson is pragmatic about what he says is a “touchstone” for anyone rediscovering his music. “I’ve got to recognise that’ll be the one that’s remembered – people will tell me it’s their favourite song from the 80s, which puts things in perspective.

“Mission accomplished.”

‘From Stars We Came’ is out now and available on Spotify or Apple Music. More at

This article originally appeared in the Motherwell Times.

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