The effervescent Eddi Reader has a confession to make down the phone from London’s Cumberland Hotel., writes Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers.
This leading member of Scottish folk royalty may have sounded great on BBC Radio 2 last night, guesting on Kate Rusby in concert, but she pulled it off without quite finding the time to rehearse for this nationwide live broadcast.
“I was sitting next to Gregory Hemphill of Still Game and Chewin The Fat on the train coming down and we got on so well I didn’t have time to think about the show. I just couldn’t stop laughing.”
For any readers who may not have seen these hit Scottish TV sitcoms, it’s the equivalent of Adele getting derailed by Matt Lucas of Little Britain.
Not that the flame-haired Eddi had anything to worry about. Since this lively Scottish singer-songwriter with the extraordinary vocal range first rose to fame with the chart-topper Perfect more than 20 years ago, she has truly seen and done it all.
It’s something audiences at the Royal Hall in Harrogate where she is performing with her band on Tuesday, November 6 are about to discover.
If you’d like to be there for, there’s a chance to win a pait of tickets by tweeting @Harrogate Gigs the answer to the following question.
What was the name of Fairground Attraction’s biggest-selling album.
Closing date is Monday, November 5.
But I digress. Eddi was talking about her setlist for that Royal Show when I interrupted.
She said: “We always throw in some songs from The First of A Million Kisses album, as well as tracks from my more recent albums like Love is the Way. I’ve always believed that musicians have to play to their audience.”
Her huge success in the late 1980s with her band Fairground Attraction in partnership with Mark E Nevin led to three Brit Awards, an MBE, as well as acting roles in radio, TV and Hollywood films.
A long way from her early days busking on the streets of Glasgow or playing in dodgy dives in the industrial towns of Scotland’s central belt.
“I used to play in Grangemouth. I remember one night singing at a bar right near the docks as a slight 17-year-old. It was full of ladies of the night and sailors from all over the world. Some real bruisers. I was trying my best to sing, but the girls and their men liked having the jukebox on. Everyone was too scared to shut it off.”
By the time she appeared on Top of the Pops, she’d earned her spurs the hard way behind the scenes with many of the major names of the early 80s, from post-punk acts such as Gang of Four and Billy McKenzie to pop stars such as Alison Moyet and The Eurythmics.
“By the time I became successful I felt I’d already proved myself. There weren’t any successful acoustic acts in those days, it was all big shoulder pads and drums machines. ButI knew what I wanted Fairground Attraction to sound like. I wanted us to be all acoustic. “
Her singular vision paid off quickly but success brought its trials, too. The passionate and plain-speaking Eddi wasn’t ready for the compromises of stardom.
“I was such a purist. When people tried to get me to do something that wasn’t just for the music, I would get insulted. I felt like a performing monkey. Simon Cowell had just started at BMG when I was in Fairground Attraction and it’s even worse now. The business in London is a sausage factory.”
Although she continues to enjoy the glitz of cameo roles in Hollywood movies occasionally such as Me and Orson Welles which starred Zac Efron and Claire Danes, it’s the grit and honesty and sheer fun of playing folk music she’s leaned towards increasingly over the last decade.
The Eddi Reader Sings The Songs of Robert Burns album, recent guest roles on the Transatlantic Sessions tour, studio collaborations with the crème of the new generation of Scottish roots musicians, Eddi effortlessly links the contemporary to the traditional in a way few other artists can do.
An emotional performer with a purity of voice to match a purity of spirit, her open-hearted approach to life was set early.
“I’m the oldest of seven kids from the slums of Glasgow. My dad was a welder but I come from a childlike, silly, beautiful family. The gift they gave me was a joi de vivre.”
l Eddi Reader, Royal Hall, November 6.
To book tickets, call 01423 502116 or book online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk