Eddi Reader looks to create a special bond with Apex audiences
PUBLISHED: 18:30 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:30 10 November 2017
Scottish singer Eddi Reader loves performing live but she’s not keen on listening to herself. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to her on the eve of her Apex concert and discovers that a new ‘Best Of’ album has persuaded her to revisit her past
Like most creative artists, singer-songwriter Eddi Reader is more interested in looking ahead than revisiting the past. Although she performs songs from her long and varied career on stage every night, each time she performs them they appear fresh both for her and the audience.
She thinks of them as living, breathing entities which evolve and change over time, shaped by the audience, her mood and the interaction with the band. “A live performance is a wonderful shifting thing. No two nights are ever the same,” she says.
This love of performance and this spontaneous desire for continual reinvention means that Eddi has not used a set list in years and having a stable band means that they can summon up virtually any number from her extensive songbook seemingly on a whim.
“Sometimes if we haven’t played something for a while, parts can seem rather raw, but that’s part of the charm of a live performance.”
But, in recent months Eddi has had a chance to reacquaint herself with some of her most enduring recordings – both from her Fairground Attraction days and her subsequent solo career – and it’s not something she imagined she’d be doing.
“I don’t like listening to myself. It’s not something I spend any time doing. Once something is recorded and it’s been done to my satisfaction I like to move on. Once the album is out I don’t go back to it. The songs live on in a live setting but I don’t listen to the recording again.”
But, all this changed when her manager suggested that the time was ripe for a best of collection which would bring together Eddi’s best-loved songs from all phases of her career. “I think everyone was getting tired of waiting for the new album. It’s coming along, I’ve got plenty of new songs, but I’ve got to get back into the studio to finish off the album but things keep getting in the way.
“So, it was suggested that we pull together a best of which brings together material from 30 years of recording. I have to confess when it was first suggested I was not keen but they made a track selection, two albums worth of material, sent it to me, and I was pleasantly surprised. I hadn’t listened to some of these songs since I put them down and it was like coming to them afresh.
“Sometimes it takes an outside ear to help you reconnect with your past. They did a very good job in bringing all my different musical interests together in one package.”
This eclectic collection will undoubtedly have an impact on Eddi’s upcoming tour and will ensure that the song choices are even more surprising than normal.
“I love performing. For me that’s where the songs come alive. I love making that connection with the audience and working with the band. We know each other so well after 20-odd years playing together that we can push and respond to each other and shape the music in lots of interesting ways.
“And, the audiences play a huge part – the way they react and respond means that every night is unique. Even if we play the same song on consecutive nights, it will be different every time.”
One of the aspects of Eddi’s live show is her ability to turn even the largest venues into an intimate space – something akin to The Snug in a village pub. Her stories and at times humorously revealing introductions to songs allow her to make a connection to everyone in the room, no matter where they are sitting.
“I find that over the years, with the more gigs I do, I find myself relying more and more on my own instincts. They have served me well. I think that most of us have a need to feel connected and when I play before a group of people, and it doesn’t matter how many, you have an opportunity to connect, to make contact. It’s all about communication.
“I have an affinity with singing. It’s something I was born with. It’s outside my control. But, I developed a love of singing very early on and there are many unknown factors which shape the life of child but it seems I was destined to be a singer and it’s something I love. I love getting up before people and singing. It’s a great way to earn a living, bringing joy to countless people over many, many years. What an honour. What a way to spend your days. How fantastic is that?
“And not only to sing my songs but to have a chance to share the stage with other great singers and musicians, other great songwriters and to shine a light on my heroes, to bring the work of Robbie Burns to a whole new audience. It’s magical.”
Eddi Reader will be appearing at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, on Saturday November 11.