Eddi Reader interview ahead of Lancaster gig

Eddi Reader is heading to Lancaster
Eddi Reader is heading to Lancaster

Former Fairground Attraction vocalist Eddi Reader is bringing her silky tones and songwriting skills to Lancaster for a special gig at the Grand Theatre.

In terms of music, Eddi Reader should need no introduction, for she has been crooning to the masses for four decades.

But for those of you still puzzling over where you know that name from – she was the vocalist for Fairground Attraction.

You may remember their big hit of the 80s– Perfect – a UK number one and winner of the best single at the 1989 Brit Awards.

Eddi Reader is a Scottish singer/songwriter with immense talent who has topped the album and singles charts and is also the recipient of three Brit Awards during her long and illustrious career. For Eddi, singing was always in her blood. She explained: “I think I was just sort of genetically attracted to it and then it became a nice companion for me. Nothing else seemed to interest me. I was a little bit obsessed about it. Probably drove my parents daft - wanted to buy a guitar and all that. Everybody in my family liked music so I wasn’t set apart as something different from anybody else. In my own head I remember it as being me kind of keeping everybody apart because I had this little place that I could go and be musical and that became something that was a bit of a solid ally to me.”

As Eddi’s talent grew from childhood, she took herself busking, first in Glasgow, then in the early 1980s in London and around Europe, from which she has an enduring and favourite memory.

Eddi Reader live on stage

Eddi Reader live on stage

“I remember one day, I was about 19, I was somewhere in Germany and I was playing guitar in the street, and I only had a string on my guitar for a strap and these two little girls, who were probably my age, just sat at my feet and listened to the whole five hours that I was doing. And then they went off and brought me back lunch and brought me back a guitar strap. And I still have that guitar strap and it’s still hanging around the guitar.”

Having a hit like Perfect under her belt, you can’t help but wonder if Eddie ever gets sick of hearing it, or playing it. She said: “I don’t hear it often, but I do perform it. Like I don’t go and find it and put it on or anything, so there’s no place for me to hear it, unless it suddenly comes on a radio, or if I’m on holiday somewhere and it’s playing over the tannoy, or I’m in IKEA and it comes on. That’s maybe where I’d hear it.

“But my experience with it is a different experience now.

“You know ,I sing it because it’s a nice memory. It gave me a kind of ticket to further things and I could continue to record.

“People come to gigs to see me, and sometimes they don’t get it, but a lot of time these days they do. It has become more and more something that I will offer in the evening just because I’ve learned to love it again.

“When that band split up it was very traumatising because I’d put all my eggs in that basket, and I’d signed all the contracts, and then when the writer left I ended up not knowing what to do. I lost my confidence and so I didn’t tend to go near those songs because it was too heartbreaking.

“Now though, let’s say it’s a good 27 years later, there’s a revisiting that feels a little bit like looking after myself by representing it and saying, you know actually I co-created this, so I’m very glad to present it to people.

“And it’s also part of whoever’s listening’s memories as well. There’s a lot of that when I’m at gigs and I meet people who are my age who have been on the journey with me so it’s nice to just throw it in, especially after a few quieter numbers or maybe more dramatic heartbreaking ones, like Ae Fond Kiss or something. And then I’ll give you a bit of Perfect just to cheer you up. It’s the same role that it has always played in my set, in the choices that I would make to sing at any point. It has always been there to give us a bit of light relief.”

There are many influences around from where an artist can draw from, and Eddi readily admits that Scottish folk lore provides some of the direction for her songs.

She said: “I am a product of Scotland, so I think that whatever comes out of me will have whatever conditioning I’ve been exposed to. And yeah, I definitely love Scottish song.

“What I do enjoy doing is finding something that has been hidden for years in the dust of history and it feels a wee bit like I’m bringing it to life again sometimes.

“For example, there’s one song I found on a old bit of parchment with just the ‘doh, ray, me, fah, soh, la, te, doh’ explanation of the notes rather than the modern way of writing music. And I picked it out on the piano, and learned the tune.

“It’s about a refugee coming to Scotland and singing about how Scotland had saved them and was their sanctuary. It’s a folk myth, and at the end of the tale it doesn’t end well because the girl, who’s the refugee, gets stolen away by an old king who wants her himself, for her beauty and her youth. And he murders her and her lover.

“It’s just this song that I found and I looked it up online, I always go online to find them, and I think there’s a wax cylinder version from about 1902, and there’s another version from 1912 on record – a Scottish singer did it – but nobody I know and nobody that’s remembered.

“It’s interesting for me to do that because it is like finding gold in a mine of dark.

“You pull it out, polish it up. It’s that kind of diamond in the dark.”

Having been in the business for so long, it is nearly impossible for Eddi to remember each and every venue she has performed in, and her thoughts on Lancaster?

“I think I have played Lancaster before, because it’s a different kind of accent there. The thing is with me is when I walk through the door, I go - ‘Oh right, I remember this place.’

“Part of me hopes I haven’t done it because I love it when it’s a new place and new faces,” she says.

And she adds: “I look forward to seeing everyone who wants to come. And get your singing voice on because I might ask you to sing!”

* Eddi Reader is at Lancaster’s Grand Theatre on Saturday, May 19.

Doors open at 8pm and tickets costing £20, are available online at http://www.lancastergrand.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01524 64695.