The Mancunion

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Interview: Eddi Reader

“Music just happens, like breathing.”

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With her beautiful and distinctive voice and enduring songs such as ‘Perfect’, ‘Patience of Angels’ and ‘Bell, Book and Candle,’ Eddi Reader has been an integral part of the British music scene for thirty years. Glasgow-born Eddi has proved incredibly versatile, performing solo and in various groups, live and in studio, and singing pop, folk and jazz.

I speak to Eddi just before her gig at RNCM Manchester, the first of a month-long tour of the UK which she is “looking forward to”. She likes Manchester and has visited many times. Eddi is best known to many as the lead singer of acoustic pop group Fairground Attraction. Having spent several years in apprenticeship, busking and doing live work, “in 85, 86 I was looking for a band to get a deal.” So Fairground Attraction was born and spawned a number one album, The First of a Million Kisses, and the iconic song she describes as “my hit”: ‘Perfect’, which reached number one in the UK, Australia and South Africa.

Sadly, the band only lasted several years, breaking up in 1990. Eddi describes it as, “Just one of those things – didn’t last too long, but we got an album’s worth of material or an album and a half’s worth,” – the latter referring to Ay Fond Kiss, an album recorded alongside their first and released after the band broke up. She values her time performing with Fairground Attraction as it meant she was “left with an audience” for her own material.

She released her first solo album, Mirmama, in 1992, and in 1994, her second solo album Eddi Reader reached number four in the UK. She received a BRIT for Best British Female in 1995. She has since released seven more studio albums and her next, Vagabond, will be released in February 2014.

I have found Eddi’s music dances between folk and pop, with a clear Celtic influence. When I ask what inspires her, she says much of her inspiration comes from the singing and dancing of “drunk people at New Year’s Parties” she attended when she was young. I ask if she feels music runs in her family and she thinks it certainly does, telling how she found out that her great grandfather sang Robert Burns songs as well as music from England, Ireland, Hungary and Russia.

Eddi herself recorded an album of Burns’ poems put to music. Not liking the school system in London, and not wanting her sons to be educated there, she moved back to Scotland in the early 2000s. “Home is home. I felt very distant in London.” It was around this time that she recorded Sings the Songs of Robert Burns, in celebration of Scotland’s Bard, which received much praise.

When it comes to collaborations, Eddi has worked with musicians such as Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet, and has had a long song writing relationship with Boo Herwerdine, who will play guitar with her on tour, who she sees as “a great guy and a great songwriter” and “a solid rock” for her musically. When asked who would be her dream collaborator, living or dead, she gives late American band leader Nelson Riddle, as she thinks they could achieve some interesting things together.

Eddi has no doubt achieved great things – three BRIT Awards, an MBE, and a number one single and album with Fairground Attraction. She cites her proudest achievements as managing to get through her sons’ teenage years and getting honorary degrees from four different universities.

I ask about her favourite song to perform, and she replies that it varies – at the moment she enjoys ‘Dragonflies’, ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘In Ma Ain Country’, and ‘Vagabond’, the latter is the title track of her next album.

My final question – why does she think human beings invented music? It isn’t essential to our survival, so why have we kept it all these centuries? Her response is very touching. “I don’t think we invented it; it just happens, like breathing. It’s the one instrument we all carry around: we slap our knees, we snap our fingers. We didn’t invent music – we may have invented how to make money from music, but music was given to us.”

It has been a true honour to interview such an incredible artist, and I wish her all the best for the rest of her tour, and for what promises to be a very bright future.