Arts

Eddi Reader: I live a quiet life but I really express myself through song

Though still happy to sing her huge 80s hit, there are many more strings to Eddi Reader's bow than Perfect

Eddi Reader – I know that the songs are good and they have held me up over the years

THANKFULLY, there is enough of Eddi Reader to go round. Or rather there are enough Eddi Readers.

There's Eddi the pop singer who had a huge hit with Perfect when she was with Fairground Attraction; there is the folk singer Eddi who is a champion of Scotland's national poet, Robbie Burns; there is the fervent advocate of Scottish independence and there is the twitter warrior, happy to get involved in a scrap over a number of issues she holds dear.

On stage, as those who saw her perform in Bellagy and Belfast found out last weekend, she always builds up a great rapport with her audiences. But that is just the public side of the singer who was brought up in working-class areas of Glasgow – Anderstown, Arden and Irvine.

Nowadays, Eddi is happy to live a quiet, domestic life – unless she is on tour.

“I've never been an attention grabber but certainly from a young age I liked to express myself through song,” she tells me. “I'm probably on the spectrum a little bit but when I am in a singing area or space then no-one else kind of exists really – it's just me singing.

“I'm kind of like that. I'm not particularly sociable all the time. I'm not an all-day party animal – although when I party, I party hard. Mostly these days, it's more recuperation and rest and quite a gentle existence until I go on tour and that's where I can express myself quite freely through my singing.”

Having said that, Eddi is no shrinking violet on stage.

“Well I think with singing and music, if I've got everything right, if I've got all the right people – and I always have – my husband John Douglas, Boo Hewardine, Alan Kelly, and Kevin Maguire (if I can get him over on a double bass) – I just feel very contented in their company. And when I'm contented I'm fearless and I can chat to anybody about anything," says Eddi.

“I know that the songs are good and they have held me up over the years."

Like many households, the Reader home was a place where people gathered to socialise and a major part of that was singing – parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and everyone with a voice was encouraged to sing – and that familial bonding seems to be part of who Eddi Reader as a singer is.

“For example, we were talking about Perfect and I relate it completely to my dad who was a welder. Most of them are from that generation didn't pass 60 and he was no different but it seems he's more alive with me on stage when I'm singing that song than he ever was when he was actually physically here because when I'm beginning to sing it I remember how he was so proud of me.

“Then on top of that, it was the first first single I made and, you know, going back to the council estate where we lived and it being such a big deal with being on Top of the Pops and all that stuff. When I'm singing it it becomes his song.

“I talk about how he'd be watching a football game and when the Celtic fans started signing start singing 'It's got to be-e-e-e-e-e – Celtic' to the tune of Perfect. I've ended up with the memory of my dad saying, 'Aye, ye finally made it, hen.'”

Eddi's career has been one that has combined two essential ingredients, talent and luck. She left home when she was very young, hoping to make a career in music come what may, a “nail-biting little Catholic lassie from the social experiment that was the council estates of early 1960s Glasgow” as she has described herself.

“I was open to whatever was going to happen and if I ended up being the person sitting in a penguin costume outside Woolworth's, then that's what I would been doing,” she says.

However, after days spent busking and playing with punk band Gang of Four, fate decided she would meet playwright John Byrne, who cast her as Jolene Jowett in the hit BBC country-and-western drama, Your Cheatin' Heart.

She has made nine albums since 1992 and another on is on the way, one that includes a version of the old Irish poem Pangur Bán.

“So many times, I get to the end of recording and I think 'Have I got anything?' It's like going in the wardrobe and wondering if your dresses still fit.

“What I've noticed is that because I leave everything to chance I can't imagine working in any other way. I don't have a set list when I go on stage so when I go into the studio I have the bare bones of a song or maybe one that we would have played a lot live or maybe a new one we've never tried before,” says Eddi.

There is no date as yet for the release of her 10h album but it is certainly one to look out for.

NA LEANAI ON TOUR

THERE will be no rest for local folk/fusion band Na Leanai this week. Just back from a week-long tour of Holland, Fra, Eimear Ryanne and Sorcha will be touring closer to home this week with folk royalty Alan Taylor.

The British-born singer-songwriter is one of the best known performers on the European folk scene.

Taylor met up with Na Leanai when they performed at the renowned Skagen Folk Festival in Denmark, where his songs, such as Roll On The Day have become anthems for two generations.

When the Co Down band, the second generation of the famous Sands Family, recorded a cover of that haunting song for their new album Branching Out Taylor was in no doubt who he wanted to play support on his Northern Ireland tour which kicked off last night at the The Market Place Theatre, Armagh.

The tour continues at The Old Court House, Antrim (028 9442 8331) tonight and The Duncairn, Belfast (028.9047 7114), tomorrow.

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