Eddi Reader

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Eddi Reader

The acoustic pop memories of Fairground Attraction must seem like a lifetime ago for songwoman Eddi Reader. It was a touch over 25 years ago when the band released mega single ‘Perfect’. Since then, Reader has been a strong solo artist, releasing her tenth album, Vagabond, early this year.
Hey Eddi, thanks for taking the time to have a quick (email) chat with Forte Magazine. Where are you as we speak?
Hello! Thanks for talking to me about my new album. I am in my home in Glasgow, Scotland.
Briefly take us back to the start. Being from Glasgow, what role did music play in your upbringing?
Music made the evening happen. I come from a very lively partying bunch of aunties and uncles. I was brought up in Glasgow and house parties were a constant – birthdays, christenings, weddings, New Year, Christmas, emigration, returning. I can’t remember a month going by without some kind of sing-song night of revelry.
You travelled a lot, some would say you were a bit of a ‘Vagabond’, and you spent a lot of time in London before returning home. Can you tell us how your journey progressed in those early years?
When I was 17 I left school and ventured into my local folk music club. From there I met like-minded musicians who taught me more guitar and songs than I had learned at my family parties. I also had a cousin whose husband, Alan Stobo, played country rock music in bars for fun; he taught me tunings on the guitar when I was 11. But those strangers I met in the folk scene took me busking and in every situation there would be other ideas about where to go to play. Eventually four of us travelled to Paris and the South of France to busk.
We met LOADS of travelling musicians and street performers, so we formed a little collective. Ate together every evening after singing songs and entertaining crowds of tourists. It was a great apprenticeship for me as a musician – many adventures and different towns in Europe. I never had one bad experience. Songs got me my dinner, places to stay, lifelong friendships.
I came home one winter, after a year and a half away. I needed a bath.
I got a factory job but got bored so went to London where soon I was singing with Annie Lennox, The Gang of Four, The Waterboys etc. I am on a million singles from obscure bands in the eighties, all before I formed Fairground Attraction.
You have released many albums, including several live albums. What album release do you feel symbolises your rise to being a “well-known” artist? When do you feel that breakthrough came?
First off, A Million Kisses by my band Fairground Attraction was the first big selling album I was involved with. I had been looking for a style similar to Edith Piaf and some of the jazz country 1940s songs I was obsessive about. I was very honoured to have found Mark Nevin who played me some songs he had written after I played and translated all my Edith Piaf collection. He was in love with New Orleans and wanted similar things from music, so both of us embarked on an adventure as a band. It was successful.
In terms of style of music, you are obviously passionate about folk music. Where do you think your passion for storytelling in music came from?
I enjoy anything that allows a human to get lost in their mind a bit. It’s a great way to drop the constant ‘story’ in your head. If you have a musical ability or a poetic ability, you see the world as a movie – funny, sad, dramatic, full of love, full of sorrow. I enjoy unravelling the knots through playing and reliving the movie in my head.
You have worked with numerous artists over the years. Is there one who is particularly special to you?
All have taught me so much. Boo Hewerdine is special to me because he is very sympathetic to my mood. I meet new people all the time … Steve Hamilton on this album blew me away with his piano playing.
I love singing with my mum and aunties at parties best of all. The ones that are still with me in this short life still thrill me with the songs they sing.
You have recently released Vagabond. Can you tell us about the record – where was it recorded and how did it take shape after having a lay off from 2009?
I bought a piano for my husband John Douglas and I found I was sitting at it and making up stuff. I began to pull some ideas together and it became time to record. I was shocked to notice four years had gone by. Time and me are alien to each other.  I wouldn’t thank anyone for buying me a watch. Never liked them. Something about something owning you or dictating when you have to do anything annoys me, especially with music. That’s a diva that dances when it wants to.
You are coming to Australia soon and you will be passing through Forte country to do a few shows. Are you excited about coming Down Under?
Yes. I have a very particular experience with Australian audiences.  It’s like an old family party who’ve missed me for centuries. Singing to people who are five or sixteen generations away from coming from Scotland/England/Ireland/Wales feels like a reunion.
Is it your first time?
No, I have been playing in Australia now for 16 years I think.
The Anglesea Golf Club is known for its kangaroos. Have you ever played to 100 kangaroos before?
No, but they scare the shit out of me. Very charismatic animal … like horses standing on two legs.
What sort of setlist do you have in store for your fans out here?
Old, new, some I don’t know yet. I like to be spontaneous. I take requests on Twitter, although I might not sing them. It’s all about the atmosphere on the night – like those old Glasgow house parties, you never know what someone will sing next.
Anything you would like to add?
All the very best. It’s been a blessing to talk about the trip over. I’m getting more and more excited. Thank you. x
When&Where: Roo Twilights @ Anglesea Golf Club, Anglesea – June 21 & The Karingal Appeal @ GPAC – June 25